Mrs. Breedlove handled hers as an actor does a prop: for the articulation of character, for support of a role she frequently imagined was hers—martyrdom.
Here, the narrator describes how Mrs. Breedlove uses her own ugliness. Throughout the novel, Pauline feels humiliated by her broken tooth and lame leg and seems to consider these losses to be in service to something else. She enjoys seeing herself as a martyr, giving up her own happiness and beauty for her family and then resenting them for such a loss.
The tiny, undistinguished days that Mrs. Breedlove lived were identified, grouped, and classed by these quarrels. They gave substance to the minutes and hours otherwise dim and unrecalled. They relieved the tiresomeness of poverty, gave grandeur to the dead rooms.
As Cholly and Pauline begin to fight, the narrator explains that rather than trying to avoid these fights, Pauline actually looks forward to them. She sees herself as being stronger and more powerful than she actually is in her day-to-day life, and her ability to display this power to her family during these arguments adds a sense of excitement to her otherwise dreary life.
The little girl in pink started to cry. Mrs. Breedlove turned to her. “Hush, baby, hush. Come here. Oh, Lord, look at your dress. Don’t cry no more. Polly will change it.” She went to the sink and turned tap water on a fresh towel. Over her shoulder she spit out words to us like rotten pieces of apple. “Pick up that wash and get on out of here, so I can get this mess cleaned up.”
After Pecola accidentally knocks over the berry cobbler in Pauline’s employer’s kitchen, Pauline scolds Pecola and comforts the little white girl. Even though Pecola was burned and the girl was only stained, Pauline values the girl’s comfort and happiness over her own daughter’s. Just like Pecola and Frieda, Pauline values whiteness over her own family.
But to find out the truth about how dreams die, one should never take the word of the dreamer. The end of her lovely beginning was probably the cavity in one of her front teeth. She preferred, however, to think always of her foot.
Here, the narrator explains that Pauline may not provide a reliable point of view in analyzing the course of her own life. While she blames her lot in life on her injured leg, the narrator indicates that the blame lies with her tooth. Pauline would like to believe that she could have done nothing to change her fate. Such a statement indicates that if Pauline had not become obsessed with actresses in movies, she would not have broken her tooth and could have better self-esteem.
She was not only good at housekeeping, she enjoyed it. After her parents left for work and the other children were at school or in mines, the house was quiet. The stillness and isolation both calmed and energized her.
While growing up, Pauline left school in order to take care of the house while her brothers went to school and her parents went to work. While women were expected to clean the house at the time, Pauline cleaned because the work brought her a sense of peace, not because she had to. She could have lived a happy life as a homemaker, but her desire to make money to buy fancy clothes made that impossible.