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Bluest Eye

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Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye reveals the trauma of an eleven-year-old African-American girl named Pecola Breedlove. This story takes place in the town of Lorain, Ohio during the 1940’s. It is told from the perspective of a young girl named Claudia MacTeer. She and her sister, Frieda, become witness to the terrible path that Pecola is forced to endure because she is not considered beautiful by society. Pecola chooses to hide from life behind her clouded dream of having the bluest of eyes so that those around her will view her as beautiful as the light skinned, blond haired, blue eyed girls that got so much favoritism. The Breedlove’s constant bickering and ever growing poverty contributes to the emotional downfall of this little girl. Pecola’s misery and insecurity is caused by her father’s hand and the community’s struggle with racial separation, anger, and ignorance. “Characters in the black community accept their status as the Other, which has been imposed upon them by the white community. In turn, blacks assign the status of Other to individuals like Pecola within the black community (Toni Morrison).” Her innocence is harshly ripped from her grasp as her father rapes her. The community’s anger with it’s own insecurities is taken out on this poor, ugly, black, non-ideal young girl. She shields herself from this sorrow behind her obsessive plea for blue eyes. Her eyes do not replace the pain of carrying her fleeing father’s baby, nor do they protect her from the sideways glances of her neighbors. Though this book discuses negative and disturbing situations, it teaches a very positive lesson about the importance of self respect and positive thinking.

The Bluest Eye explores how outside influences affect one’s own sense of beauty and how it is harmful to consider yourself ugly. This theme seems to follow the conclusion of Brown v. Board of Education, that when a society presents the idea of beauty in certain way, those who do not fit into that image are “susceptible to low self esteem, hatred of their own racial lineage, and preferences towards whites (Tushnet).” Toni Morrison shows this through each of her characters in this novel. For example, when Claudia, Frieda, Pecola, and Maureen Peal, a white snob, are walking home from school the girls begin to bicker. Their conversation ends with Maureen stomping away and establishing the fact that she is indeed “cute,” implying that they most definitely are not. Claudia then thinks to herself, “If she was cute--and if anything could be believed, she was--then we were not… We were lesser. Nicer, brighter, but still lesser… The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us (Morrison).” Claudia and Frieda are engulfed by the expectation of this picture perfect girl all the parents and friends pay attention to. They allow this incident to not only let Maureen rise above them with her power of snobbish beauty, but shrink their self-esteem into what Maureen has decided it should be. This early schoolgirl talk may seem harsh, but pales in comparison to the racism and the discrimination that will face some of them as they grow older.

Pauline, Pecola’s self-centered mother, has also been caught up in what society says is beauty. She is constantly depending on the movies to decree the characteristics of beauty. “She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen (Morrison).” Pauline relies on the movies to dictate to her who was beautiful and who was not. This forces Pauline to immediately decide whom she would care for and whom she would ignore. Since her daughter, Pecola, is black, and therefore non-ideal, she chooses to love a little

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