Blame in The Bluest Eye

January 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Toni Morrison’s graphic portrayal of racism and psychological distress, The Bluest Eye, young Pecola Breedlove faces challenges much too large for anyone her age to be able to handle. Her constant internal battles with racism and personal hatred take a large toll on her fragile childhood. Contrary to what one would initially believe, Pecola’s parents seem to perpetuate these feelings instead of alleviating them. Morrison, through chapters solely dedicated to the past lives of Pauline and Cholly Breedlove, allows the reader to get an in-depth look at the situations and difficulties Pecola’s parents faced growing up; in this way, it is clear to see that the domestic violence and social issues that plague the Breedloves are completely cyclic. Because of these problems, it is inevitable that Pecola must in turn deal with not only her own societal issues, but also the continuous issues of her parents.To fully understand the problems that relentlessly lash out at Pecola, one must first look into the life and times of her parents. Her mother, Pauline, had a far-from-perfect childhood as well. When she was a child, Pauline impaled her foot on a nail, causing her a great deal of pain both physically and psychologically. The incident “saved her [Pauline] from total anonymity”. It is said that “The wound left her with a crooked, archless foot that flopped when she walked…” (Morrison 110). Through her impediment, Pauline learned interesting ways to keep herself occupied and somewhat secluded from the outside world; one could potentially see these actions as a coping mechanism of sorts. One of these methods included immaculate organization of objects by color, size, shape, and an array of other attributes. By doing this, Pauline unknowingly relays a message to the reader about her life: she is longing for order and structure to make right the unusual circumstances she must deal with. The unfortunate occurrence she dealt with as a child actually drives her as an adult as well. It is interesting to note that her adult career deals with cleaning and keeping things in order. As a housekeeper, it is her job to maintain the homes of families. When she is working in the white families’ homes, Pauline is actually at her most comfortable state. She makes sure everything in the house is as perfect as can be: “Mrs. Breedlove’s skin glowed like taffeta in the reflection of white porcelain, white woodwork, polished cabinets, and brilliant copperware” (107). The incident involving the cobbler is a prime example of the abuse and neglect Pecola must struggle with daily: “In one gallop she (Pauline) was on Pecola, and with the back of her hand knocked her to the floor” (109). It is clear to see from the maternal side of Pecola’s parental equation that problems were sure to arise in her life.The paternal portion of this equation is just as troubling as the maternal, if not more so. The tale of Cholly Breedlove’s younger years is one of abandonment, misfortune, humiliation, and utter emotional chaos. As a baby, “his mother wrapped him in two blankets and one newspaper and placed him on a junk heap by the railroad” (132). After this incident, Cholly was raised by his Aunt Jimmy, whom he both loved and hated. Cholly was very much affected by Aunt Jimmy’s death. Much like Pauline, his sense of organization and structure was skewed after this tragedy. It is also through the funeral of his aunt that Cholly begins to develop his problems with the opposite sex. Here, he meets Darlene, who plays an all-too-important role in Cholly’s emotional downfall. The two of them venture off into the woods together in what is to become one of the most pivotal scenes of emotional trauma that Cholly will face in his life. While the teens are sharing an intimate moment in what they feel is a private setting, Darlene and Cholly become frozen with fright when, over Cholly’s shoulder, “There stood two white men. One with a spirit lamp, the other with a flashlight…The men had long guns” (147). The two men force Cholly to have sex with Darlene. Through this humiliating act, Cholly begins to hate Darlene, not the white men; he feels that it is pointless to hate them because he has no power or status in white society, so his hate towards them would be futile under any circumstances. Cholly’s views of love and intimacy are forever scarred from this incident, and this is reflected in his treatment of his wife and eventually Pecola.After hearing the difficulties Pecola’s parents had to deal with during their younger years, one could potentially feel the urge to forgive the senseless and misguided treatment of their daughter. However, there is no excuse for them to treat their own offspring in the manner they do throughout the novel. In the case of Pauline, there is a major difference in using physical means to punish Pecola and beating her to the point of domestic violence for something as small as knocking a cobbler on the floor. As for Cholly, there is absolutely no way to excuse the scars he leaves on Pecola after he rapes her. This act of sexual abuse is what finally brings Pecola to her lowest point: a complete psychological breakdown. Because of the graphic and disturbing nature of the scenes in The Bluest Eye, one cannot avoid feeling sympathetic for Pecola. She is ridiculed on a daily basis and has no one to turn to, not even her parents. The two of them perpetuate her problems due to their own psychological stressors. Sympathy can be felt towards Pauline and Cholly, but forgiveness for their actions would be preposterous. Clearly, there is much more to the story of Pecola Breedlove’s psychological distress than a simple blame game.

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