Summary and Analysis
Section 1 - I have only to break . . .
Claudia recounts some of the things she associates with one particular summer: strawberries, sudden thunderstorms, and gossip about her friend Pecola. Through fragments of gossip, Claudia and Frieda learn that Pecola is pregnant and that the baby's father is Pecola's own father. According to gossip, only a miracle can save the baby.
Claudia and Frieda believe they must do more than just pray for the health and safe delivery of Pecola's baby because it will be the antithesis of the white baby dolls that Claudia has always despised. However, a miracle of this magnitude requires that they sacrifice their money and bury it near Pecola's house, sacrifice their dreams of a new bicycle, promise God they will be good for a whole month, and plant marigold seeds in the backyard. When the seeds come up, the girls will know that everything is all right.
Claudia and Frieda want Pecola's baby to live in order to validate their own blackness and to counteract the universal love for white baby dolls, Shirley Temple look-alikes, and the black community's flawed-but-Anglicized beauty, Maureen Peel. The principle they want to reverse is the so-called mulatto aesthetic, which dictates that those blacks who are considered the most beautiful are those who most closely resemble whites. Throughout their own black community, the two girls hear whisperings about Pecola's "ugliness," Cholly's "ugliness," and the seemingly inevitable, monstrous "ugliness" of Pecola's baby. The key word here, of course, is "ugly," a word describing anyone who has pronounced black facial features that Morrison describes as a head covered with great O's of wool, two clean black eyes like nickels, a flared nose, kissing-thick lips, "and the living, breathing silk of black skin" — all positive, beautiful, admirable features.