Morrison describes what happens to Pecola as a “collapse” in the Foreword. In the last section of the novel, Pecola’s collapse, the result of her destruction, is revealed through the first and last instance of first person narration from Pecola’s point of view. Collapse means falling down or in. On one level, Pecola collapses into herself, she lives within herself, only conversing with another voice in her head (a split in herself, indicating the destructive aspect of collapse) . However, this collapse has a darker implication, when we take into account how Pecola was constructed as a character before in the novel. (The voice of her friend is a manifestation of the part of her that has internalized the exterior which hates her).
In class, we had briefly touched upon the space Pecola occupies in the narrative. For a major character, readers never see her interior from a first person perspective, until the end when her first person has become a “two” first person. Throughout the story, the narration is constantly drawn back to Pecola, especially in the Summer portion where Mrs. Breedlove/ Pauline, Cholly, and Soaphead Church’s stories end with their interaction with Pecola (and with their backstories, we gain some insight into why they (terrible) act the way they do).
Pecola is constantly defined through those that surround her, and damagingly so, as she internalises the messages of the racist society she lives/exists within. And through this relation with a hostile and toxic external, Pecola is destroyed, and thus her selfhood collapses. The darker implication I suggested earlier, is that during her collapse, she internalised what she loves (the blue eyes) but what she loves hates her (as mentioned in class last time). During her collapse, what collapses in with her is the external too, the voice of society, manifested through the voice of her “friend” (italics).
Pecola is separated from the external world/ society on the physical level (limited interaction on that plane) BUT she is constantly interacting with the external world internally. What happened to Pecola was not a peaceful retreat from society, but a continued internal torture where the internal now contains the external.
The clearest evidence to the external following into her internal is Pecola’s constant fixation upon her possession of blue eyes, which represent the poisonous external standard of beauty and her internalised self-hatred. It dominates the conversation she has with her “friend.” Her psyche constantly cycles around this thing that hates her, but that she loves, and it tears her further apart.
The dark side of her “friend” is seen in how she (or really a side of Pecola that hates Pecola) brings into doubt whether she will have blue eyes forever (“You scared they might go away?“) which feeds Pecola’s fixation and then bolsters it by reassuring her about the blue eyes again. Most tellingly that the “friend” takes on the voice of society is when she asks “Really? The second time too?” in reference to whether Pecola found her rape horrible. This mirrors the conversations Claudia overhears when selling Marigold’s when adults question whether Pecola might have some of the “blame” (189).
The part I see Pecola rejecting the external is in “So there’s no use talking about it. I mean them” (201) them being Cholly and Sammy, and her limited interaction with others. She has rejected the external, but while that may brought peace, the peace is disrupted by the external incorporated into her internal (as discussed so far).
Also of interest, is how Pecola rejects the traditional form of narration, the readers too. Her portion of narration is not really narration, Pecola isn’t telling a story like Claudia does in her portion of first person narration. It’s not a story meant for anyone but Pecola herself, a direct record of her interior. There is no concern for plot, or coherent development of one.
My final thoughts on this passage: when the friend “leaves” she promises “I’ll be back. Right before your very eyes“. The “your” seems menacing, when placed in reference to eyes. Pecola’s actual own eyes, or the eyes she believes she has taken on/ the eyes that hate her? If I continue my reading of the text, it is referring to her “blue eyes”. Pecola begs her “friend” not to leave her, and asks if she will come back if she gets the “bluest eyes”, to which her “friend” responds with the quote before. Although her conversations with her friend has an undercurrent of torment, Pecola clings to this friendship, because while it is tearing her apart, it feels comforting. In this friendship, she has blue eyes, what she has always wanted, and (seemingly) has detached from the painful external world. However, the “friend”/ the Pecola-hating-Pecola’s last words “I’ll be back. Right before your very eyes” reminds the readers of the reality: that this friendship/ this “friend” exists only “before”/in the “bluest eyes” in the hateful society that has been incorporated into her self and dominates.