Tag: Minor Characters

Pecola: A Minor Character in Her Own Story

In The Bluest Eye, the plot is not centered around just one character, but two, both Claudia and Pecola. It is almost difficult to determine who is the minor character in the other person’s story. So when beginning to think about writing a post, I was surprised that I didn’t quite know which character was the main character. If you read the summary added by the publisher on the back of the book, it makes it quite clear that Pecola is the main character, the primary person of interest. No other character is mentioned. But when we read the actual novel, we find that we get none of Pecola’s interiority or internal thoughts, only her outward behaviors and actions. At the same time, we get all of Claudia’s internal thoughts. We can track Claudia’s development on a personal level, but we are always somewhat removed from Pecola. We never hear her internal voice. She is a minor character in her own story.

In the Forward, Morrison writes that, “Begun as a bleak narrative of psychological murder, the main character could not stand alone since her passivity made her a narrative void. So I invented friends, classmates …” (x). How is our understanding of Pecola affected by this status as a ‘minor’ main character? Does it limit the reader’s ability to connect with her? Does it inform the reader’s understanding of her relegated position in society?

It is also interesting to think about the strange things the narration must do in order to have Pecola’s story told by Claudia. There are some instances where Claudia is very clearly the narrator, and where she is talking about thoughts and experiences in first person, many of which have nothing to do with Pecola, like when she is narrating her interactions with her mother or her thoughts about Maureen Peal. However, there are other sections of the story where Claudia is absent, and the story is centered just on Pecola, like the scene with Junior and the cat or the time Pecola goes to buy Mary Janes. These are all narrated in third person. Are we supposed to understand Claudia, perhaps an older Claudia, narrating these stories, or are we supposed to understand them as coming from an outside, third person narrative voice?

Fun Home: Who’s the Real Protagonist?

“I’d been upstaged, demoted from protagonist in my own drama to comic relief in my parent’s tragedy” (58).

Last class, we discussed the possibility of minor character’s stories overshadowing that of the protagonist in relation to Woloch’s idea of the reader’s “double-vision,” or awareness of both the story being told and all the other stories that are implied, but not told. Thinking about this in relation to Fun Home, it brings forth the question of who is the real protagonist. In the other two books we’ve read so far, Invisible Man and The Crying of Lot 49, the protagonist was distinctly clear. None of the minor characters came close to overshadowing the invisible man or Oedipa, and all of them existed in the novels to solely to help the character development and self-realizations of the respective protagonists. However, the situation is different with Fun Home. The story of Alison’s parents, particularly that of her father, overshadows, and as she writes “upstages” her own story. She is finding herself again and again relegated to the role of minor character. Her discovery of her sexual identity, clearly a huge moment in the story of her own life, takes a backseat to the events surrounding her parents. We first learn of her sexual realization as part of the story about her father’s death. She jumps over it so briefly as her father’s story overpowers her own, that she has to go back and retell it again a few pages later, this time remembering to add details about herself.

So, again, there is the question, who is the protagonist? Alison or her father? Because while his story often overpowers hers, him and his story are instrumental to Alison’s development and self-realization. In that function, he is a minor character, adding to the protagonist’s growth over the course of the story.