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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Beauty is said to be in the eyes of the beholder, but what if the image of beauty is forced into the minds of many? The beauty of a person could be expressed in many different ways, as far as looks and personality goes, but the novel The Bluest Eye begs to differ. It contradicts the principle, because beauty is no longer just a person’s opinion but beauty has been made into an unwritten rule, a standard made by society for society. The most important rule is that in order to be beautiful, girls have to look just like a white doll, with blue eyes, light pink skin, and have blond hair. And if they’re not, they are not beautiful. Pecola, one of community’s ugly children, lives life each day wanting to be accepted. “The wider community also fails Pecola. Having absorbed the idea that she is ugly and knowing that she is unloved, Pecola desperately wants the blue eyes that she understands will make a child lovable in American society”(Kubitschek 35). In The Bluest Eye, Morrison argues that the black females in society have been forced to accept the blond hair blue eyed image as the only beauty that exists.
Little girls in Lorain had it set in their heads that they should all grow up owning a blond haired and blue-eyed doll, also known as Shirley Temple. These images were placed in their minds, making them feel as if they had to live up to the expectations by going with the crowd, and letting their surroundings influence them. “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs- all the world had agreed that a blue-eye, yellow haired, pink-skinned doll was every girl child’s treasure” (Morrison 20). Society sees Shirley Temple as the angelic picture perfect child, and anything that’s not Shirley Temple, they are considered to be ugly. The Shirley Temple face is the cause of Pecola being hypnotized and it’s the reason for her to drink three whole quarts of milk. It isn’t because she is lacking milk or due to sheer greediness, it is because “ …she was fond of the Shirley Temple cup and took every opportunity to drink milk out of it just to see and handle sweet Shirley’s face”(Morrison 23). Another blond beauty that girls look up to and imitate is Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s face is on the wrapper of each piece of candy, the ones that Pecola bought for three pieces a penny. When Pecola goes to buy the Mary Jane candy, she doesn’t see just a piece of candy that would end her cravings, but she sees an image of someone she admires, adores and someone she wants to be. She realizes that her problems are not as important because in her hand, she holds nine pieces of Mary Jane candy. The Mary Jane candy seems to be making every disappointment in life become something more attractive, something better. “A picture of little Mary Jane, for whom the candy is named. Smiling white face. Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue eyes looking at her out of a world of clean comfort…She eats the candy, and its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane” (Morrison 50). Pecola is more than obsessed with these full- blown artificial images, making it obvious that she is unstable about her appearances; therefore, wanting to replace it with something that she believes is better (Weever 3/5). All over town, there are many little girls just like Pecola, buying into the products of Shirley Temples and Mary Jane.
Although there are many different characters in this novel that are affected by the great advertisement of the beauty of a female in society, Pecola is the one to end up being insane due to the images- the image that she couldn’t possibly attain. Pecola grew up believing that she was born into an ugly family, making her ugly also. The ugliness wasn’t just from the window signs and newspapers; it was from her family and her neighbors. Therefore, she seeks the next best thing in her life, to have those blue eyes of a white girl, thinking that it would make her life exceptional. “ The desire for blue eyes is part of the inverted quality of her world; in wanting blue eyes, Pecola wants in fact to be white”(Weever 3/5). With the blue eyes, Pecola wants to stand out; she wants to be beautiful and white rather than being black and ugly. She longs for a pair of beauteous blue eyes that would separate her from the ugly blacks. Even though Pecola wishes to walk away from her people, she also wants to be accepted by her people. She wants the best of both worlds; the blue eyes so she could be “beautiful” and the acceptance of her black friends, Claudia and Frieda. She constantly tries to be on Claudia and Frieda’s good side, by being their friend. Pecola is torn between the two cultures, her own and the one she dreams of joining. Her life is something that she wants to change, badly.
Instead of improving from Pecola’s life, her alcoholic father, Cholly, ruins her life. One day Cholly comes home to find that his daughter is doing the dishes, seeing his daughter he visualizes something more of her and so he rapes her. The second time that he raped her, he got her pregnant. When rumors went around town that she was pregnant they said that she shouldn’t have the baby. They figured that there was no use in having it since it was going to be as ugly as she was. When Claudia and Frieda went around selling marigold seeds they overheard some neighbors saying “she be lucky if it don’t live. Bound to be the ugliest thing walking”, “Can’t help but be. Ought to be a law, two ugly people doubling up like that to make more ugly. Be better off in the ground” (Morrison 191-92). Claudia and Frieda along with the townspeople also bought into the image of white beauty. They believed that being black was ugly and that was a good enough reason for an innocent unborn baby to die. Without the support of her friends or family, Pecola turns once again to the blue eyes for comfort and support. Hoping that there is a slight chance that someday she could have blue eyes is the only thing that gives her the motivation to move along in life.

With her goal of getting blue eyes in mind, Pecola runs to Soaphead, a religious hypocrite hoping that he could have helped her get her blue eyes. He tricked her into believing that he would be able to give her the blue eyes that she had been yearning for for so long. Pecola wanted to believe her eyes had turned blue so she found a new friend, an imaginary friend, the only one besides Pecola that saw and appreciated the blue eyes that have been given to her. “At the end of the novel, Pecola believes she has been given these blue eyes, but her belief merely indicates her insanity” (Kubitschek 38). The life of Pecola Breedlove, an ugly black girl who suffers the cruel world of white and blacks where blacks wishes that they were white finally got what she wished for although insanity was the outcome.
In the novel, Morrison makes every black person be considered ugly except for the light-skinned blacks; they are considered to be acceptable because they are closer to being white. Being black is the reason the blacks are treated as if they were ugly and as such are considered second-class citizens, and it was as if they lost some human rights because they are black. Even family members treat each other differently due to their “ugliness”. The first thing that Pauline, Pecola’s mother, had to say when she gave birth to Pecola was “But I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly” (Morrison 126). Pecola’s own blood mother didn’t even want to accept her because she was ugly, denying her at birth then neglecting her when she grows older. For instance, when Pecola spilled a steaming hot pie and was burned, all Pauline did was yell at her and make sure that she cleaned it up. At the time that this happened a little white girl begins to whine and cry, Pauline disregards Pecola being hurt and runs to the white girl to comfort her. Pauline showed “No tenderness for her own black child but tenderness for the white one” (Weever 3/5). The Breedloves neglected their loved ones, in favor of white people, “the Breedlove breed not only love but disgust in each other” (Weever 3/5), not any member of the Breedlove family had pride in which they were.
Lazarescu called this lack of self-worth: internal racism. “The infiltration of internalized racism through white beauty and the desires to the black society of Lorain to acquire this beauty” affected not only the black society but more significantly the Breedloves (Lazarescu 5/7). The Breedlove felt they were ugly, and all of Lorain’s society told them they were ugly from the start and it was believed that they had what they had because they were ugly and they deserved everything bad that happened to them. “The community senses the Breedlove’s self-hatred and encourages it by agreeing that the Breedloves are ugly” (Kubitschek 34). They grew to dislike them but also accepted them because it gave them someone to hate and feel superior to. The Breedloves also accepted their insults, “It was though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had accepted it without a question” from generation to generation and they came to believe that it was true (Morrison 39).
In the novel, Morrison wants to emphasize the de facto segregation, where they segregate themselves rather than be separated by the government. They place themselves in two groups: the white the beautiful and the blacks the ugly. “…This illness, this belief that white sets the standards for beauty…” is the basis for the beginning of the hatred and demoralization of the Breedloves (Lazarescu 5/7). They’ve been separated even from the other blacks so therefore one feels as if the other is greater in life. The white people portrayed their image as being the only beautiful that exists and made “…little black girls yearn for the blue eyes of a little white girl...” (Morrison 204). The blacks in this novel have it all set in their minds that “if you have one life to live, live it as a blond” and this belief is what tore Pecola’s life apart (Weever 1/5).

Kubitschek, Missy Dehn: Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion 27- 46
Westport: Greenwood,1998.

Lazarescu, Lisa R: Copyright 2003, Oregon College, 10 June 2014 Morrison, Toni: The Bluest Eye. New York: Penguin Group, 1994.

Weever, Jacqueline de: The Inverted World of Toni Morrison's The Bluest
Eye and Sula CLA Journal, Vol. XXII, No. 4, June, 1979, pp. 402-14.…...

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