Toni Morrisons novel, The Bluest Eye is a great read that reflects racism in a different way. Racism is usually understood as a class being oppressed or discriminated by another. However, in The Bluest Eye racism has been approached in a very unique way. The characters in this novel are subjected to internalize a set of values that are taught from their descendants and are fragmented. The black community in the novel has accepted white standards of beauty, judging Maureen’s light skin to be beautiful and Pecola’s dark skin to be ugly. Giving a rise to Pecola’s obsessive desire to have “the Bluest Eyes.”
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In this book “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, beauty seems to be necessary to have happiness. Especially when it comes to Pecola Breedlove, Pecola and her entire family was seen as ugly, in fact the exact wording from the book is relentlessly and aggressively ugly. Pecola’s unhappiness with her looks had her often wishing she could disappear.” Letting herself breathe easy now, Pecola covered her head with the quilt. The sick feeling, which she had tried to prevent by holding in her stomach, came quickly in spite of her precaution. There surged in her the desire to heave, but as always, she knew she would not. “Please, God,” she whispered into the palm of her hand. “Please make me disappear.” She squeezed her eyes shut. Little parts of her body faded away. Now slowly, now with a rush. Slowly again. Her fingers went, one by one; then her arms. disappeared all the way to the elbow. Her feet now. Yes, that was good. The legs all at once. It was hardest above the thighs. She had to be real still and pull. Her stomach would not go. But finally it, too, went away. Then her chest, her neck. The face was hard, too. Almost done, almost. Only her tight, tight eyes were left. They were always left. Try as she might, she could never get her eyes to disappear (pg 13).” This part of the story is very clear to me; there is a time in every child’s life when they wish they were invisible.
Society today as well as in the 1940’s has placed standards in which beauty is measured up to; a lot of people have a hard time separating themselves from society’s standards of beauty. Each person is beautiful in their own way: each person’s eye has its own idea of beauty. This story takes places in the 1940’s but the issues reflected in it still go on presently today.
In the beginning of the book the symbol of beauty is Shirley Temple, a girl with golden curls, blue eyes and a bright smile. Freda and Pecola love Shirley, yet Claudia on the other hand despises her. Claudia dislike for Shirley Temple is so strong that she dislikes anyone that remotely looks like her. While on the other hand Pecola loves Shirley Temple so much that she drank 3 pints of milk over a 24 hour period just to look at Shirley’s image on the cup. Claudia and Pecola are two little girls that are so much alike but so different. Claudia at her young age despises the image that Pecola considers beauty so much to a point where she destroys dolls which remind her of this “beauty”. Pecola is so intrigued with blue eyes and their concept of beauty, that she purchases Mary Jane candy with the blue-eyed blond girl on the outside. Pecola thinks that by selecting this candy she will feel closer to the little girl pictured on the candy. Throughout the book Pecola’s desire to have blue eyes sets her up on a path of destruction. Pecola longs for blue eyes, she thinks, “.if those eyes of her were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different “(46). Pecola in her mind believes that if she has blue eyes she will be considered beautiful, and will be liked. She is constantly praying to have blue eyes.
Most of us have felt the feelings that Pecola had, it may not be who has the bluest eye like in the 1940’s, but today we have our own set of beauty standards. In today society it’s all about who has the most money, or who is the skinniest, and if you are not rich, there is some program you can purchase to teach you how to become rich, and a doctor that can get you skinny instantly. In today’s society television is the main source of the misconception of beauty. In the 1940’s it was things as simple as a piece of candy or a doll. Pecola as a young girl fell victim to these misconceptions.
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In this book the Breedlove family was “outdoors”. Claudia indicates in the story that if a family is considered outdoors it was a real terror of life. The Breedloves were described as aggressively ugly. After reading this book, the Breedloves were not actually ugly in appearance. Their beliefs and actions are what made them ugly. The Breedloves became victims of their environment and all have some type of dysfunction. When a person hears or sees something long enough it becomes a reality. Everything around the Breedloves pointed out ugly in them. It began for Mrs. Breedlove at the movie theater, when she lost a tooth from then on she gave up on her outward appearance. Cholly Breedlove’s problems began when he was a child and was humiliated by the police while having relations with a female in the bushes. The humiliation he felt made him have a hate towards woman and himself which he expressed by drinking heavily, beating his wife, and raping his daughter. Each family member had a destructive attitude. Sammy expressed himself through bursts of murderous rage aimed at his father. Pecola stayed hidden.
Pecola’s desire to want blue eyes is more than a result of her story. It is from hundreds of years of racial tension. Pecola’s inability to deal with the real world brought on mental illness and caused her to create a false reality where she has “invented” a friend. Together they would walk the streets and vacant lots and discuss Pecola’s new blue eyes. Toni Morrison did a great job writing this book, this novel is very visual, at times I could smell the marigolds, or picture the Breedloves in battle. There is one thing that is very obvious from this novel, the tragedy known as Pecola’s life.
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