Pecola is the eleven-year-old black girl around whom the story revolves. She is abused by almost everyone in the novel and eventually suffers two traumatic rapes. Pecola's experiences, however, are not typical of all black girls who also have to grow up in a hostile society.
Except for Claudia and Frieda, Pecola has no friends. She is ridiculed by most of the other children and is insulted and tormented by black schoolboys because of her dark skin and coarse features. She realizes that no one — except Claudia and Frieda — will play with her, socialize with her, or be seen with her. She is raped by her drunken father and self-deceived into believing that God has miraculously given her the blue eyes that she prayed for. She loses her baby, and shortly afterward she loses her sanity.
All little black girls try to grow up into healthy women with positive self-images — despite the fact that white society seems to value and love only little girls with blue eyes, yellow hair, and pink skin. Today, most black girls survive the onslaught of white media messages, but even today, some fail. Pecola, a little black girl in the 1940s, does not survive. She is the "broken-winged bird that cannot fly."
Tormented and even tortured by almost everyone with whom she comes into contact, Pecola never fights back. If she had had the inner strength of Claudia and Frieda, she would have been able to counter the meanness of others toward her by assuming a meanness of her own. She does not. She is always the victim, always the object of others' wrath. Pauline abuses Pecola when she accidentally spills the cobbler all over the floor of the Fishers' kitchen, Junior tricks her into his house for the sole purpose of tormenting her, Geraldine hurts Pecola's feelings when she throws Pecola out of her house and calls her "black," as if to insult her, and Mr. Yacobowski degrades her by refusing to touch her hand to take her money. The school-boys torment Pecola about her ugly blackness, Maureen buys her an ice cream cone in order to "get into her business," and she is psychologically abused by the degrading conditions under which she and her brother, Sammy, live as they watch their parents abuse one another.
Pecola has never had proper clothing or food, and she is eventually put out of her own home because her father starts a fire in one of his drunken stupors and burns down the house. Soaphead Church uses her to kill a dog that he doesn't have the courage or resolve to kill himself. Cholly abuses Pecola in the most dramatically obscene way possible — and never once does Pecola fight back. She might have yelled back at the boys who tormented her after school the way Frieda did; she might have thrown her money at Mr. Yacobowski when he refused to touch her hand; she might have started a fight with Maureen when Maureen began questioning her about her father's nakedness. Had Pecola taken the ugliness that society defined for her and turned it outward, she would not have become society's victim.