The Bluest eye by Toni Morrison depicts the tragic life of a young black girl, Pecola Breedlove (Bloom). The little girl wants to be appreciated by people surrounding her at home and school. She believes that she suffers because of her skin color. At school, the teachers ignore her and children use her as a trash can. Her classmates and others perceive her as an easy target.
The novel explores how western standards of beauty are created and propagated within and among the black community. Toni recognizes the diminished sense of value by the blacks since whiteness is considered as the standard for beauty. In demonstrating pride in being black, Toni does not simply pottery positive images of blackness. Rather, the writer focuses on the black women characters who suffer in a racist society (Morrison). For example, one day, on her way to home from school, her black male classmates taunt Pecola, the boys have learned to hate their skin color and release their frustrations on her. They mouth the same insulting words and phrases that they most likely have heard others say about them.
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As a result, Pecola longs for affections from the society and desires to have blue eyes. She mirrors herself as ugly and so do the other characters in the story. The white child actress, Shirley Temple, who has the desired blue eyes, represent the standard of beauty that her peers subscribe. The novel starts with the description of ideal white family. Dick, Jane and their parents live in a nice, comfortable house with a cat and a dog. They form a perfect, playful, happy, white family. Jane wears a red dress, has a dog and a beautiful white house (Gillespie).
Pauline Breedlove, Geraldine, Maureen Peal, and Pecola are black characters trying to conform to ideals of the feminist. Their worlds are nothing like that of Dick and Jane. They are all absorbed in icons they believe to portray beauty. For instance, Pauline Breedlove learns about beauty from the movies (Duvall). The black women characters in the story hate their race, which in turn leads to self-hatred. They worship the white beauty and they mirror themselves through the eyes of the white people. Being well-educated and having adopted a western lifestyle, Geraldine draws the line between colored and black. She tells her son that “colored people were clean and quiet; blacks were dirty and loud” (Morrison).
Metaphor language has been used when Pecola compares herself to ugly dandelions after the clerk at the candy-store makes her feel ashamed of herself. To keep herself from crying, she eats one of Mary Jones candies (Morrison). Eating it is like eating Mary Jane and her eyes. Pecola is bombarded with images whereby she learns that as long as she is black, she is not entitled to be beautiful, to be loved, or to get out of poverty.
Finally, having been surrounded by negative energy, the little girl longs to have blue eyes. She believes that this will end her misery of being mistreated. She associates blue eyes with a better life where adults would not look at her with a detached look and children would not mock her. Pecola’s family struggles to have any sense of love life in their home. Her parents are physically abusive and her father sexually harasses Pecola. She shows her desire to have her family become the epitome of the “Dick and Jane” family one day.
After her father is jailed for committing another crime, Pecola goes to the MacTeers’ home where she becomes almost like a sister to the MacTeer girls, Frieda and Claudia. Eventually, her far-fetched wish to have blue eyes gets the best of her and she loses her mind. Rather than deal with the horrible things that have been part of her life, she decides to retreat into another world. In that world she is lovable and has the blue eyes she has been yearning for.
She walks around town with a mirror looking at her own eyes. People are looking away from her. Because she does not have blue eyes, people are not able to see them so she concludes that they are jealous. She creates a new friend in her mind in order to keep up the illusion that she has blue eyes. A conversation between her and her friend shows that she has completely lost her mind (Morrison).
Pecola’s ugliness is critical because she believes it is the fault of all her problems while the solution is the blue eyes (Bloom). Her father rapes her once when she is only eleven, in the kitchen filled with broken dishes. The broken dishes symbolize her ruined state of being. She gets pregnant after the rape, something that completely changes her life. However, as she does not have blue eyes, the ultimate symbol of beauty, she is not anywhere to the ideal of white beauty.
The settings in the novel moves around and are symbolizes the situation the characters are in. Through the character of Pecola and Pauline Breedlove readers come to understand the devastating effects that accompany the failure to succeed achieving white standards of beauty. She shows that habits are learned primarily during adolescence, the stage crucial in developing a strong sense of self and pride (Duvall).
The Bluest eyes also uses symbolism to show the dangers of consumerism. The media encourage people to consume what is being portrayed, even if the information is situated in unreality and subjugates the consumers. In the novel, material goods, such as baby dolls, candies, and movies serve as discourses of whiteness (Duvall). The products serve to uphold the social order by implicitly teaching black consumers that only whiteness is valued and revered. Not only do these products instruct black consumers to despise themselves, they encourage decadence. For example, the baby dolls are used to socialize little girls to become mothers, but inadvertently they also cause self-hatred.
Claudia says that even though she hated receiving the blue-eyed baby dolls for Christmas, she knew what was expected of her. The implicit message received from the dolls is that the dolls are more precious than their owners are, because they are white and pretty. She declares that the recipients of the dolls have to prove to their guardians that they are worthy of getting the dolls. They demand that children prove their worthiness is a proof of how pervasive Western norms have infiltrated the black community. Because the givers of the dolls do not love themselves, they pass this feeling onto their children (Gillespie).
Even girls like Claudia, who are critical, will learn to worship the blue-eyed, blond-haired, pink-skinned doll. This has led to erosion of communal values because a mother’s role in the black community is to teach love and self-acceptance to her children. Claudia is the only person who understands why the people of Lorain are so cruel. She realizes that those who hurt Pecola are looking for a distraction from their own shortcomings. She mentions how every member of Lorain is able to make themselves feel better at Pecola’s expense. She is angered at the fact that she had to struggle through a tough childhood. No child should endure the burden that comes with injustice.
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