The Bluest Eye | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Spring, Chapter 1

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Spring, Chapter 1 of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye.

The Bluest Eye | Spring, Chapter 1 | Summary



One day Claudia comes home and finds Frieda sobbing in the bedroom. Frieda says Mr. Henry touched her breasts. Claudia is curious about how it felt, but Frieda is upset by the whole thing. Frieda told her parents, and they threw Mr. Henry out of the house. Their father hit Mr. Henry and tried to shoot him. Now Frieda is crying because someone told their mother Frieda might be "ruined." They associate "ruined" with being a prostitute and assume it means Frieda will get fat. Frieda and Claudia conclude drinking whiskey will save Frieda, so they set off to find Pecola because her father drinks whiskey.

Pecola is not at home, but the Maginot Line—the one Pecola calls Miss Marie—is there. She tells them Pecola went to Mrs. Breedlove's job. They find Pecola there, and Pecola's mom invites them inside for a moment while she gathers laundry for Pecola to carry home. While they wait, a little blond girl comes in looking for "Polly." Pecola accidentally spills a berry cobbler on the floor, making a mess and burning herself. The little girl gets upset. Mrs. Breedlove smacks Pecola for making a mess but soothes the blond girl.


This small town has a number of pedophiles: three, to be precise. Frieda's experience, while deeply upsetting, is not as severe as what happens to Pecola. Morrison is preparing the reader for what is to come.

The unnamed Mr. MacTeer is rarely mentioned, except in this chapter. He violently defends his daughter from her molester, and the reader understands his anger. The reader remembers it later when confronted with Cholly's attitude toward fatherhood.

Morrison brings in a needed note of humor as the girls demonstrate their total lack of knowledge about sex. The adults are afraid Mr. Henry raped her, but Frieda thinks "ruined" is about getting fat. Morrison may use the fear of "being ruined" as a way to drive Claudia and Frieda to search for Pecola. For the second time in as many chapters, Pecola experiences pain and embarrassment inside a "nice" home, implying she does not belong in such surroundings. Mrs. Breedlove is more attuned to the needs of her employer's family than to her own child's pain. She sends Pecola away so she can comfort her employer's child—a girl younger than Pecola and who calls Mrs. Breedlove "Polly."

Claudia is offended by such familiarity, which was common in this era. African American employees were often addressed by their first names, although they would be expected to address their employers as "Mr." or "Mrs." Claudia seems less puzzled by Mrs. Breedlove's harsh reaction to the spilled pie since her own mother might react in a similar way. Once again, though, Claudia, Pecola, and Frieda see a blond girl treated with a reverence and respect they never receive.

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