Claudia   Leave a comment

In this first chapter, we are introduced to Claudia. Right now, she is sick. She and her sister Frieda are supposed to go outside and collect the coal that falls off of the trains that are delivering it, so that they can warm their house in the cold. Claudia, apparently, didn’t cover her head well enough, and she caught a pretty nasty cold. There is a nice detailed description of her puke, but the main idea is Freida and her mother take care of Claudia, covering her with blankets and Vicks. Claudia doesn’t understand why her mother is mad at her, but she guesses she is mad at weakness, “for letting the sickness ‘take holt.'” She remembers her sister visiting her, “her eyes full of sorrow,” and singing to her. Claudia says she remembers love seeping into the room as thick as syrup, and she also remembers someone hearing her cough and coming into the room to recover her and check her fever. She says “when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die.”

The MacTeers are also welcoming a boarder, Henry Washington. The kids immediately take to him because he teases them a plays a magic trick. Pecola Breedlove is also joining the household, because her father burned her house down and she is in county custody. There is a healthy dose of drama that day as Pecola starts “ministraitin” and drinks too much milk for Mrs. MacTeers liking.

Claudia could be seen as powerless here, since she’s a sick, poor, female, black child in the 40’s, but the way she interacts with adults kind of contradicts this. She doesn’t really talk to them much, and she sees them as basically big people who need to be handled carefully in order to maximize safety for one’s self. Whether or not this view of adults is healthy or correct doesn’t matter much to me, because it is definitely a perspective which isn’t typical of a young child. She doesn’t think adults truly understand her, shown when she says that what she really wanted for christmas instead a doll was to sit in ‘Big Mamas’ kitchen with flowers in her lap while she listens to ‘Big Papa’ play violin.

Racism isn’t horrific in the book thus far, but the two older girls think Claudia is insane when she says Jane Withers is cuter than Shirley Temple. Claudia hates Shirley because her life is presumably perfect, and the two older girls have already either gotten over their jealousy or have accepted a somewhat racist attitude towards beauty, that being pale skin, yellow hair, and bright blue eyes. Claudia hates Shirley Temple, white dolls, and white girls. She hates the way adults rant about their cuteness, but not about Claudia herself. She hates the way grown black women act toward the white girls. She is terrified though, of how she acts toward white girls. She acts somewhat violently, like she does to the dolls, but she does so with indifference, which is the terrifying part. She is indifferent, then repulsed, then ashamed, so she seeks refuge, and she says the best place for that is love. I’m not sure what she means when she says “Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love.” She does say that she ‘learned’ to love Shirley Temple, but not until much later. She pretty much calls out her community for worshiping white images given to them, labeled as the standard of beautiful.

Pecola asked: “How do you get somebody to love you?” Frieda was asleep, and Claudia didn’t know the answer. The girls think that the only way to have a baby is for someone to love them, so this may help Pecola later on, when she is carrying her fathers baby. Maybe she will think her father loves her even though he burned down her house.

 

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Posted March, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

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