Dualistic Relationship Between Concept of Jealousy and Envy in The Bluest Eyes
In The Bluest Eye, the author Toni Morrison illustrates the difference between jealousy and envy. Morrison thinks jealousy is a feeling of hatred of another. Jealousy is felt when you feel hatred towards someone else because they have something you want and do not have. The feeling makes one either desire it, or wish that the one obtaining it, lacks it.On the other hand, Morrison thinks envy is a feeling of self hatred because of something you do not have. In my life, I often feel jealously but rarely feel the self hatred that Morrison defines as envy.
To Maureen, jealousy is a desire to have something another has, while envy is what her jealousy escalated to when she couldn’t stand it anymore. Jealousy is the first level of envy. One can be upset when someone possesses something that individual does not have. The individual is frustrated with the possessor. Maureen thinks jealousy is “natural- a desire to have what someone else had” (Morrison, 74). Maureen felt that this was a healthy and normal feeling. When Maureen felt envious, she had “such intense hatred” for herself and was afraid of the new feelings(Morrison, 74).The feeling of envy is often felt when one is no longer upset with another’s possessions but upset with themselves.Maureen has envious feelings and is scared of the feeling because it is new and she has not felt it before.
My experience with jealousy is similar to Maureen’s. I have been very jealous of my classmates’ possessions. As new technologies are created and new devices are created, people want the best and purchase it. I have been jealous of peers of mine that purchase new equipment that can do more than mine can. After having these feelings, my natural instinct is to try and get it too. In reality, I cannot get every piece of equipment each of my friends has, so I need to cope with the fact that some people have more or better possessions than I do. I have not had a negative feeling towards them because of their possessions. At Francis Parker, more than one person normally has the popular possession. I am not jealous of the person, but rather, the object they possess. Since so many people have these things, it is irrational to get upset with everyone for having them.
Envy is a feeling that is more serious and can be dangerous. It is normal for me to occasionally feel jealous, although envy normally leads to depression. The closest I have felt to envy is when I was younger and learning to read. In lower school, I was a much slower reader than my peers. To help me keep up, I worked with tutors and therapists every week. Most of my friends at school were progressing without the extra help while I was struggling. I felt like I was spending a lot more time practicing but my reading speed and comprehension was worse. I was not upset with my peers because they were doing what the teacher wanted and were all progressing. I felt upset with myself because I spent a lot more time practicing and didn’t see the same results. I don’t think I was fully envious because I don’t feel self hatred but I am unhappy with my reading level.
In the book, Maureen is jealous of the beauty the other girls have. She will do anything for these qualities. Then, her jealousy turns into envy when she realizes that she cannot have their qualities and must live with what she has. The envy I feel is not as intense, but I still am jealous of others’ possessions, although I am jealous of the possession and not the person. I am not envious of others reading abilities anymore because I don’t hate myself for it, despite not reading as well as most of my peers.
The issue of accepting ones inner beauty in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pecola was an eleven year old black girl who feels as if being white is the true meaning of beauty to society and to herself. The Title of this novel is ‘The Bluest Eye’ written by Toni Morrison in the African American Literature. The novel’s focus, however, was on a young girl named Pecola Breedlove. And Pecola, as we are told in Chapter 11, will be raped by her father around the novel’s end.
The beginning states the story so that the reader can know about Pecola’s story ending tragic. The Breedloves were unhappy, and poor. Their story had seemed in many ways to be settled, as they were often the victims of events of which they have no control over. Their situation was a huge contrast to the MacTeers, who were of the slender means but had a really strong family force, The MacTeers were never really passive victims as in the way that the Breedloves were in this novel.
The use of descriptive imagery in this story is used in a way such as Pecola describing on how both the media and the public were looking up to women with “Blue eyes, Yellow hair and White skin” for being the most beautiful and that being the only way that beauty was to be seen as. Other than Women of color being used to promote beauty in the media like a white woman/girl could have been at the time, Shirley Temple was an example of the way that beauty was being represented through her time and it made Pecola feel as if she was not seen as beautiful.
Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was not at all any different from other little girls. She wanted to be beautiful, And though America had already set the standards for being beautiful a woman that must have ” blue eyes, blonde hair, and white skin” lead Pecola to nothing but insanity because just when society couldn’t accept an ugly little black girl neither could both she and those around her do so. Pecola wasn’t like the other children, she did not involve herself in any of the teasing, She was so used to all of the criticism she got because she is not only black but “ugly” too. And on Second thought, there was also Maureen Peal. Who also is not white but light- skinned which lead to her being accepted by everyone like the black boys wouldn’t trip her, the white girls didn’t suck their teeth at her as they did to Pecola, the white boys would stone her,and the black girls would step aside for her whenever she wanted to use the sink.
None of the treatment that Maureen had gotten from people was ever given to Pecola and this is part of what Pecola was explaining because of Maureen have lighter skin, she was seen as beautiful, she was given what Pecola wished she could have ever had and happiness…Happiness, Is what she wanted that so is the reason why She believed that being white could have given her, the Privilege of her having the slightest of Possibility to not having to go through what she has. She seen them smiling and she wanted that, Pecola wanted the beauty and the happiness. The Physical appearance of one lead to an alter in another’s psychological condition. “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes…were different,that it is to say,beautiful,she herself would be different.” Voiced by Claudia MacTeer and she was showing how Pecola felt strongly towards the fact that she was physically seen was “ugly” and she didn’t accept her for any of it whether she or others criticized her over how she was and This connects really strongly towards my thesis on how Pecola felt as if she were only seen as an “ugly” little black girl to the society around her who believed being white was the only beauty.
American culture had promoted the idea of whiteness that should be desired, and Pecola is along with society that being white was having beauty, she quoted that “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers window signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every child treasured.” This supports the claim being Beautiful, Happy and Accepted in society was about being white. To be happy was to know happy, Pecola did not know how to be happy, she didn’t know to accept that to be black is to be “ugly” in the society, and as Maureen pointed out to Pecola for being like a character who “hates her mother because she is black and ugly” and Maureen had been different because she has accepted the American Standards and Pecola didn’t not know how to accept it because all she has ever known about beauty was for being white and having blue eyes was always the right thing in American culture.
A person cannot be happy without knowing happiness, Pecola could have never been happy because she has never known happiness, From the beginning when her own mother wouldn’t see her as anything but “ugly” the person who is supposed to love her regardless the appearance she had, Pecola wanted to be happy, she wanted to be like the blue eyed white girls, the society that made blue eyed white girls the meaning of beauty was not able to become something that Pecola could have done, and without Accepting Ones Inner Beauty was to face the American Standards in her Society.
An Analysis of Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison as Examples of Intersectionality
“Intersectionality” is term coined by the academic scholar Kimberle Crenshaw to recognize the dimensions of identity when classifying an individual by gender, race, class, or sexuality. Each group holds a space of distinctive experiences that allows them to identify with unique struggles. Two written works that are examples of intersectionality are Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Both works give unique experiences that intersect the identities of race, gender, and sexuality through the journey of Black females in America.
Identifying the unique experiences of the main characters in both works presents a common theme about the effect of discovering identity within the aspect of intersecting categories while living in an ultimately racist and sexist environment. Understanding women and their identity is significant in order to recognize the unique experiences that occur because of intersectionality. This paper will explore the Black female experience in America by identifying intersectionality of the significant characters in the works of Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, and determining how having multiple identities effects their everyday lives. It will also support the claim that individuals with intersecting identities experience unique and different struggles.
The first written work being analyzed through intersectionality is the novel Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, a biomythtography, or a form of biographical storytelling with the unification of fact and fiction. In the novel, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, the author Audre Lorde uses this opportunity to take a reflective account of journey growing up as a Black, lesbian, woman in 1960’s America, a time of Jim Crow, sexism, and homophobia. A critical perspective of Zami: A New Spelling of My Name demonstrates a journey of a young woman navigating her way through issues such as identifying her sexuality, and confronting racial oppression and poverty. Through the figurative journey of Lorde’s search for herself, her multiple oppressed identities are not separated. All in all, she is impacted the effect of discovering her identity within the aspects of the intersecting categories of race, gender, and sexuality.
In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Lorde faces the racially oppressed system otherwise known as the Jim Crow era. At a young age, she finds a hard time comprehending the “rules of racism” as her mother was a light skinned woman who could pass as white, while her father was undeniably Black. She took her trait from her father and experienced racism first hand while growing up in New York. Lorde shows the readers how she experienced racism even as a young age. “She had divided the class into two groups, the Fairies and the Brownies. In this day of heightened sensitivity to racism and color usage, I don’t have to tell you which we the good students and which were the baddies…” (Lorde 36). This quote is an example of the environment of Lorde’s childhood. Essentially, during this time period, light was seen as good while dark was seen as bad. This is also a point in the beginning of the novel and her life in which she is confronted with racism. As Lorde grows up she begins to identify the racism that affects her life. She realizes the racial oppression of society. “But in high school… my teachers were racists; and my friends were that color I was never supposed to trust.” (Lorde 81). By the time she is in high school, she experienced racism through her teachers and peers, and recognizes what her own struggle will be as an African American.
In part, the reason for Lorde’s struggle in comprehending the “rules of racism” while growing up is because her mother often tried to keep her ignorant to the oppression of racism. The impact of Lorde’s relationship with her mother, in result, closed her off to the struggles she may later on face as an African American. “They [Lorde’s parents]… believed that they could best protect their children from the realities of race in America and the fact of American racism by never giving them name, much less discussing their nature.” (Lorde 85). Lorde had to discover through her own experiences with racism the effect and oppressive nature of racial discrimination. These examples of racism in the novel helps the reader identify racism as a factor of the unique experience of the author. Racism effected the way she grew up and how she reacted to her environment. After realizing that the effects of racism are more complex for her and other African-Americans than society makes it out to be, it begins to influence her views on what makes her journey different from the other women she meets. Altogether, racism even affects how she lives and encounters her environment and surroundings. Lorde’s experiences with racism from the ignorant eye of those expressing racist ideology against her shows that society overlooked the plight of racism and discrimination on African-Americans.
Understanding the plight of racism on African-Americans can guide the identification of the unique experiences that people face while living in America. In “Invisibility Syndrome: A Clinical Model of the Effects of Racism on African-American Males” the author states that, “…adaptive behavior and psychological well-being of African-Americans can be affected by personal experiences of perceived prejudice and discrimination. Encountering repeated racial slights can create within the individual a feeling of not being seen as a person of worth. This subjective sense of psychological invisibility takes the form of a struggle with inner feelings and beliefs that personal talents, abilities, and character are not acknowledged or valued by others, nor by the larger society, because of racial prejudice.” (Franklin 33). From this information, the racist culture in America ultimately effects African-Americans psychologically and socially. This disparity is unique to the identity of being African American. The result of years of racial discrimination and prejudice makes the recognition of racism significant to identity of being Black in America.
Using the same context, Lorde experiences gender oppression or sexism, at a young age. The gender oppression that Lorde faces growing up is another unique quality that society overlooked. Lorde, a feminism advocate and activist, was also involved in the Civil Rights movement, which accomplished many goals for the African-American community during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, being published in 1982, is criticizing the lack of women recognition in regards to the Civil Rights movement. In “Invisible Southern Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement: The Triple Constraints of Gender, Race, and Class”, Barnett states that “…women (such as Septima Poinsette Clark, McCree Harris, Shirley Sherrod, Diane Nash, Johnnie Carr, Thelma Glass, Georgia Gilmore, and JoAnn Robinson) remain a category of invisible, unsung heroes and leaders. Utilizing archival data and a subsample of personal interviews conducted with civil rights leaders, this article… offers explanations for the lack of recognition and non-inclusion of Black women in the recognized leadership cadre of the civil rights movement… most illustrative of how the interlocking systems of gender, race, and class structure Black women’s movement leadership and participation.” (Barnett 162). The media often portrayed men at the forefront of the movement and didn’t recognize the contributions of women. However, women were in as many positions of leadership as men. Lorde’s identity as a woman gives her a unique position within the movement that isn’t recognized by society because the movement took place during a time period when men still appeared to dominate in every aspect. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is an example on why identifying the different identities of a person’s struggle impacts the understanding of the unique challenges they face. Lorde’s criticism of the Civil Rights movement questions the rights given to African-Americans because of the movement’s lack of recognition of women within the movement and misunderstanding of the plight and struggles of the Black woman. In the novel, Lorde states “The first rude awakening came when she announced that the boy chosen would be president, but the girl would only be vice president. Why not the other way around?” (Lorde 77). Lorde was confronted by sexism when she was denied the right to be class president because she was a girl. She questions this action for the moment but accepts it as the way things are. This is an example of the way male-dominated patriarchal views shaped this country in aspects of everyday life.
Lorde also interlocks the struggle of racism to relate to the feminist movement, which was dedicated to exposing the inequality between men and women as a result of living in a patriarchal society. By the time Zami: A New Spelling of My Name was published, it was well after the height of the feminist movement. As stated in “Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism”, “Since the late 1960s, U.S. women of color have taken issue with unitary theories of gender…the wide spread concern about the exclusion of women of color from feminist scholarship and the misinterpretation of our experiences… Speaking simultaneously from “within and against” both women’s liberation and aintracist movements… as women whose lives are affected by our location in multiple hierarchies.” (Zinn 321). Lorde was using the impact of racism on her experience to criticize a flaw in the feminist movement that didn’t identify with African-American women or other women of color.
In another light, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name portrays sexism through sexual assault. Lorde, at a young age, is raped by a boy. “…because a boy from school much bigger than me had invited me up to the roof on my way home from library and then threatened to break my glasses if I didn’t let him stick his “thing” between my legs” (Lorde 92). She also befriends a girl named Gennie, who is discovered by Lorde to have been molested by her father. These reoccurrences of sexual assault toward women by men in the novel are acts of violence by way of sexism that Lorde faces throughout her journey. In Kimberle Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” she states that, “…battering and rape, once seen as private and aberrational (errant sexual aggression), are now largely recognized as part of a broad-scale system of domination that affects women as a class.” (Crenshaw 1241). Recognizing that women as a class face sexual assault as part of a larger system of domination, shows that this form of sexism they face is unique to their experience. Lorde expresses how her identity as a woman makes her journey unique. She used examples of sexism and gender oppression that she experienced while growing up to let her audience know that identifying as a woman makes your experiences different from that of a man; and your experience is even more unique if you are a woman of color.
Through Lorde’s journey she is also confronted with the issue of understanding her own sexuality as lesbian. This is the final piece in understanding Lorde’s identity in society. Lorde is trying to criticize society’s lack of recognition of those in the LGBTQ community. People in the LGBTQ community have a unique identity and face oppression in America, but this identity is often unacknowledged as it is a topic of taboo for the conservative thought and mindset of society. An excerpt from Michele J. Eliason’s “Identity Formation for Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Persons: Beyond a ‘Minoritizing’ View” states that, “The very concept of homosexuality is a social one, and one cannot understand the homosexual experience without recognizing the extent to which we have developed a certain identity and behavior derived from social norms.” (Eliason 36). Lorde, in her novel, explains how discovering and developing her sexuality as a part of her identity made her struggles and experiences growing up different from those of a straight, African-American woman.
In the prologue of the novel, Lorde states “I have always wanted to be both man and woman, to incorporate the strongest and richest parts of my mother and father within/into me… I would like to enter a woman the way any man can, and to be entered…” (Lorde 15). This prologue gives the reader insight on the sexuality that Lorde identifies herself with. In the duration of Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Lorde shares her experiences on discovering this identity. The beginning of Lorde’s desire for female companionship was when she met a little white girl while waiting on the steps for her mother to get dressed. She and the girl arrange to play and Lorde began to undress her out of curiosity. Her curiosity fills her with excitement but her mother interferes without discovering her true intentions. Another instance when Lorde is trying to come to terms with her sexuality is when she gets her first boyfriend and doesn’t enjoy the sex. Though her friends try to convince her that she’ll “get used to it”, she never does. Lorde, later in her journey, drops out of college and essentially begins to label herself as a lesbian. “That summer I decided that I was definitely going to have an affair with a woman…” (Lorde 140). She then shares her experiences with women as sexual partners and companions.
Even during 1982, LGBTQ identity was a taboo topic to discuss. However, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name criticizes society’s lack of recognition of the struggle of those who identify as LGBTQ. Lorde’s experiences in discovering her sexuality, identifying it as a part of her identity, and living in an environment of homophobia, that refuses to acknowledge this part of her identity, has impacted her life as an African American woman. Understanding that this is a unique experience to her journey will help to expose the homophobia and unwavering opinion of society in regards to what is believed to be morally correct.
These examples of race, gender, and sexuality present themselves within the novel Zami: A New Spelling of My Name to identify with struggles of the narrator, Audre Lorde. Although these examples are presented in categories, her oppressed identities of being a Black lesbian woman are all synonymous. Recognizing her multiple oppressed identities helps to better understand her challenges growing up and living in a white patriarchal society. Lorde experiences her life challenges in all the dimensions of her identity and not each dimension separately. Therefore, she confronts and reacts to these challenges in her own unique way.
Later in the novel, Lorde discovers this intersectionality between her identities. “It was hard enough to be Black, to be Black and female, to be Black, female, and gay in a white environment…” (Lorde 260). She begins to identify with her distinct and diverse experiences as they differ from those of her white lesbian friends, and she realizes that her white lesbian friends cannot identify with some of her struggles as a Black lesbian woman because of the specific dimension of race that separates their experiences. The quote, “Those who embrace multiplicity of social identity dimensions and explore how they intersect also posit that uneven power distribution in a society complicates situated identities by more firmly entrenching some people at the center and others in the margins.” (Pompper 45) as stated in the article International Perspectives on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is referring to the lack of acknowledgment that one can have multiple identities. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a written illustration that exemplifies the effects of discovering one’s own intersectionality.
Acknowledging one’s own intersectionality criticizes society and the norms taken towards social justice and equality. Discovering how multiple identities intersect will essentially further the understanding of the inequality and injustice that many people face in America. Identifying the dimensions of intersectionality can help society recognize what needs to be done in order to achieve equality and justice for all. “The author’s dream of a community of women free from sexism, racism and classism falls to pieces as soon as she begins to frequent lesbian circles in New York. Lorde criticizes Black women’s homophobia and white lesbians’ racism. She is conscious that women’s inability to cope with their differences and the response of silence produce a simplification of women’s oppressions, which is a mistake because the variety of differences require diverse responses.” (Sanchez Calle 165). These “diverse responses” are steps toward receiving social justice for those with intersecting identities. Lorde, in writing Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, wanted to express why the understanding of intersecting identities is needed in order to achieve social justice. She used her own life as an example to why identifying all parts of her struggle and experiences made her journey unique. Thus, the idea of intersectionality is present within the novel in order to emphasize change or social justice in society.
Similarly, to encourage change and social justice, specifically within the Black community, Toni Morrison wrote The Bluest Eye in the 1960’s during the “Black is Beautiful” movement. With her novel she wanted to reclaim African-American beauty by exposing how internalized racism and societal norms can have negative impacts on young Black girls. Her inspiration to write the novel came from her recollection of a time when a black girl she knew told her how desperately she wanted blue eyes. The novel also takes place in her birth place of Lorain, Ohio during the Great Depression in which she herself grew up.
This coming of age tragedy places the reader in a journey that portrays the specific struggles of young Black girls while they encounter experiences of racism, gender expectations, and sexual exploitation. These aspects of struggle place significance on understanding the unique identity of Black females in America. The novel gives insight on the impact of a society that places importance on standards of beauty for women, particularly Black women, and how this affects young Black girls.
In The Bluest Eye the impact of racism and racial disparities is powerful in the lives of each of the characters. The characters in the novel experience a system of internalized racism encouraged by the concept of white supremacy. “Whiteness” is essentially the standard of beauty. This in itself takes a large toll on the lives of the young Black girls and adult women. The characters are somewhat obsessed with the ideas of acceptance, beauty, and purity which “whiteness” represents for them. For example, “Frieda and she had a long conversation about how cute Shirley Temple was. I couldn’t join them in their admiration because I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles… giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels.” (Morrison 17). This quote from the novel is expressing how the idealization of white women and European standards of beauty affects young Black girls. “Lighter skin color was positively related to higher levels of racial identity attitudes (immersion/emersion); the more satisfied darker skinned individuals were with their skin color, the lower their self-esteem, and gender differences existed in perceptions of others’ preferences for skin color. Implications of this study for providing therapeutic clinical services and fostering the healthy psychological development of African American men, women, and children…” (Coard 2256). Internalized racism or colorism within the Black community led people to place favoritism on those with lighter complexion because they resembled European standards of beauty more than those with a darker complexion.
The adult women play a huge role in this internalized racism and idealization of white standards of beauty toward their Black daughters. In essence, the adult women build a hatred of their Blackness and take this out on their daughters. In the novel, Mrs. Breedlove tells her own daughter, Pecola, that she is unattractive because of her blackness, which Mrs. Breedlove believes for herself as well. There is even a time where Mrs. Breedlove places preference of the little white girl she works for over her own daughter. “The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and Black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly.” (Morrison 31). The “Breedlove” surname is ironic for this family because they essentially represent self-hatred and don’t actually “breed love”. This is significant because, Pecola is one of characters who suffers the impacts of internalized racism the most. She begins to believe that if she had blue eyes she would be loved and that the tragic experiences she faced would have never occurred.
The novel at this point is saying that this desire to fulfill white standards of beauty can lead to madness. This is seen by the end of the novel when Pecola is labeled as a crazy woman because of her obsession with obtaining blue eyes. “She spent her days, her tendril, sap-green days, walking up and down, up and down, her head jerking to the beat of a drummer so distant only she could hear. Elbows bent, hands on shoulders, she flailed her arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly. Beating the air, a winged but grounded bird, intent on the blue void it could not reach—could not even see—but which filled the valleys of the mind.” (Morrison 204). The obsessive need to fulfill white standards of beauty caused an intense case of racial self-loathing. Knowing the novel’s aspects of internalized racism, these experiences can be related to the uniqueness of the identity of Black females in America. Black women are affected by a standard of society that idealizes “whiteness”. Black girls grow up learning that European standards of beauty are right which can ultimately lead to racial self-loathing.
Understanding this unique experience that Black women face can allow the understanding of racial self-loathing and other aspects of internalized racism. Acknowledging these challenges and struggles that specifically impact Black women can have a positive effect on Black communities as a whole. Understanding the plight on the shoulders of Black women can stop the degrading of Black women in the media and the lead to the respect of Black women as people in society.
The Bluest Eye’s context surrounds the experience of Black women during this time period. The general life course for women of color were either working for white families or becoming prostitutes. The culture of women throughout the novel appears as Morrison describes the idealization and obsession with beauty magazines and celebrities. Throughout the novel, Black women are consistently placed into boxes of expectations. Overall, the narrator, Claudia, has a negative attitude toward gender restrictions and often responds to the expectations that other women have of her with a loathing. When she received a white baby doll, “To hold it was no more rewarding. The starched gauze or lace on the cotton dress irritated any embrace. I had only one desire: to dismember it…but apparently only me…all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.” (Morrison 18). Other girls did not understand Claudia’s feelings toward the doll because they believed the doll was beautiful. Her parents figured it was something all little black girls wanted.
That was just one example of an anti-feminist tone within “women culture” taking place in the novel. Women were expected to idolize celebrities, gossip, and correlate their acceptance in society to the standards of beauty. In this specific setting, Black women were expected to idolize white celebrities, gossip, and correlate their acceptance in society to the standards of white beauty. This is anti-feminist because the women are only to have a restrictive lifestyle. As stated before, Black women were either mother working for white families or prostitutes. These restrictive options impacted the way women saw each other and influenced self-hatred. This type of culture essentially brought uneasiness between women who didn’t fit into these boxes and allowed women to conform to this oppression by objectifying the women that live different a lifestyle. The respect of women came from whether the women conformed to society’s expectations what women should look like or become. Claudia’s experience with the doll baby led her to be ostracized for being different. Acknowledging this restrictive culture that women, specifically women of color, face helps in understanding the unique experiences that Black women face in America. Revealing this voice of women of color challenges the restrictions that society sets for women and criticizes the oppressive nature of a patriarchal society.
The sexual exploitation of Black women is also present in The Bluest Eye. The women characters most often face violent acts of rape and sexual abuse by the men characters in the novel. The younger Black girls that are usually the main victims of these violent acts of rape and sexual abuse. The sexual exploitation of young Black girls influences them in believing they are sexually and socially powerless. The young Black girls in the novel are essentially deprived the opportunity to discover their own sexuality for it is used to make the men that abuse them more powerful.
An example of this power dynamic between Black males and females would be, “He would rather die than take his thing out of me. Not until he has let go of all he has, and give it to me… when he does I feel a power.” (Morrison 91). Sex in the novel is associated with the empowerment of men. Morrison presents a controversial point of view in the novel that this empowerment that men get from the sexual acts of violence taken against women somewhat plays a role in the justification of the acts of violence. Pecola is also raped by her father. “What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out Black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn’t she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How?” (Morrison 112). This is an attempt to justify her rape because of his (her father’s) inability to express his feelings toward her. However, this concept is similar to today in rape culture and sexual abuse. Women are victims of such violence believing that there is some justification for these acts of violence taken against women. Morrison showing how this concept of justifying and contextualizing sexual abuse can have negative impacts on the mental health and confidence of Black women. As a result of this, the women and girls in the novel are seen as powerless as well as embodying large amounts of self-hatred. Understanding this power dynamic that Black women encounter through acts of violence, such as rape, can lead to identifying reforms that need to be put into place in order to prevent them. The Black female experience in The Bluest Eye is a unique one because the women are affected by the negative impacts of their multiple identities. They face specific disparities because of their intersecting identities.
The common theme between Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is the effect of discovering identity within the aspect of intersecting categories while living in an ultimately racist and sexist environment. Black women hold a space of distinctive experiences that allows them to identify with unique struggles. Society must recognize these different dimensions of a Black woman’s identity in order to create and develop law practices that help Black women and to ultimately encourage American culture to acknowledge their struggles as human beings. This idea of recognizing the dimensions of one’s identity for legal or social reform is called The Critical Race Theory.
The Critical Race Theory is a development in legal studies by many progressive intellectuals of color whom believe that “the historical centrality and complicity of law in upholding white supremacy (and concomitant hierarchies of gender, class, and sexual orientation)” (Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement) exists in American society. The laws and practices that are fundamental to American society were developed through the eyes of white supremacy and patriarchy. It shows how law plays a role in maintaining “social domination and subordination”. The Critical Race Theory explains “the way in which race and racial power are constructed and represented in American legal culture and, more generally, in American society as a whole” (Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement). The theory explains the extent in which racial power is practiced both legally, through law practices, and ideologically, through social norms, within American culture.
More specifically, in Kimberle Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” she states that “the embrace of identity politics, however, has been in tension with dominant concepts of social justice. Race, gender, and other identity categories are most often treated in mainstream liberal discourse as vestiges of bias or domination – that is, as intrinsically negative frameworks in which social power works to exclude or marginalize those who are different” (Crenshaw 1242). Identity politics is a legal theory dedicated to the recognition of the social and systemic struggles of people of color and LGBTQ. Crenshaw is saying that the issue with identity politics is identifying the struggles of categories within the larger scope. For example, in examining the violence against women, in order to fully understand the violence against women one must recognize and acknowledge the violence women face shaped by the multiple dimensions of their identities, including race and class. “Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices” (Crenshaw 1242). Black women are therefore marginalized within both practices of feminism and antiracism because of the lack of recognition of their intersectional identity as both Black and female.
In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde acknowledges this intersectionality through her own life example as a Black woman. Not only was her experience unique because she was a Black woman, but her sexuality gave her another dimension to her identity. Lorde’s used her own life as an example to show how knowing these different dimensions of a person’s identity can impact how their journey is seen and how their struggle is understood. As shown in previous examples, Lorde faced many issues within her race that identify with her struggle as a woman and coming to terms with her own sexuality. All in all, this journey made her who she was. Understanding that her multiple dimensions made her who she was, allowed her to acknowledge her struggle and confront the issues she faced, living in a white supremacist patriarchy.
In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Morrison uses her characters to examine of lives of Black people in America during the Great Depression. She specifically focuses on the issues that Black women and young Black girls face in their own communities as a result of a racist and sexist culture. She compares the experiences of Black men and women and their roles in society. Then, Morrison emphasizes on the disregard of the space and identity that Black women and girls have within the overall struggle of Black people living in America. Morrison uses, like in Kimberle Crenshaw’s article, the violence against women to help express how unique the struggle is for Black women. In this particular novel, Morrison showed how not acknowledging the ident
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye: The Stylistic Analysis of Metaphor
The Bluest Eye: Tough Love at the Core of Color
We as humans strive for many things- comfort, success, money, beauty, but among everything, our core revolves around love. A child is born and is innocent, and as that child grows through their experiences, love fuels the way they survive. How do we as humans deal with survival? In addition, how does a powerless black girl survive in an era that doesn’t deem her important or beautiful? Understanding that survival is a skill set and that love comes in many different forms, protrudes from within the characters in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Called in these instances are “tough love” moments, where emotional survival mixes with perceptive qualities that the little girls in this book possess.
In all chapters there are underlying metaphoric references to the seasons. In “autumn”, we are first introduced to the girls, Claudia and Frieda. They are given the impression that they are somehow different from other little girls on a constant basis. From the start is a scene where a white neighbor, Rosemary, is making fun of Frieda and Claudia from their Buick. Morrison makes it very clear in this instance that there is an automatic sense of entitlement, this representing the decade and white privilege. The girls, recognize this arrogance, and imagine in their heads how they would treat Rosemary if she were to get out of the car. This shows the reader that we can assume Claudia and her family are poor and “different” from other little girls, so much different, that they are being made fun of. It is not yet mentioned, but this moment in particular paves the way for the rest of the novel regarding the standard of white beauty and white privilege. This scenario also tells that the reader is reading from a little black girl’s perspective and sets the pace in a beautifully tragic story (Morrison 9).
The first example of “tough love” in the book is when Claudia gets ill from collecting coal in the cold. Her mother is seemingly angry with her because she is sick, although Claudia does not initially understand that she is not upset with her, but her sickness. Claudia feels guilty for being sick, like it’s her fault, and begins to cry. Her mother, regardless of her blameful nature, tends to Claudia, and Frieda, Claudia’s sister, sings her to sleep. “So when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die (Morrison 12).”
These words are true to the meaning of tough love from mother to daughter. Mrs. MacTeer is inconvenienced by Claudia’s sickness, but her maternal instincts are to care for her immediately by wrapping blankets around her and placing her in bed. This is why Claudia understands that her mother does not want her to die and that her sister is there in a time of need as well. The strength and importance in family is emphasized throughout the novel (“The LitCharts”).
Pecola Breedlove is a little black girl introduced to the MacTeer’s household as well. Forced from her home, Pecola, is naturally drawn to befriend Claudia and Frieda. One morning, Mrs. MacTeer assumes that the girls are “playing nasty” as Rosemary describes, and beats Frieda, under the impression that they are exploring their bodies inappropriately. This moment is important. Pecola has started her period and the girls have some idea of what it is but they are fearful of what Mrs. MacTeer (or anyone else for that matter) will do if they are seen. Pecola’s moment of starting her period is a physical and literal metaphor for coming into womanhood. The thought of something as large of a deal as getting her period is impacting enough, but the fact that Pecola is a young, black girl, makes it an even more fearful and daunting experience. Morrison highlights this moment clearly by putting the reader in Pecola’s shoes. Frightened, Frieda explains her definition of what Pecola is going through as “ministratin’” (menstruating), and offers to help by taking her around the corner and tasking Claudia to clean Pecola’s blood off the steps that dripped from under her dress. Once Mrs. MacTeer realizes what was really happening, Morrison writes, “Her eyes were sorry” (Morrison 31).
These moments in autumn signify concerns that revolve around certain individual reactions. The reader can tell that not only is Frieda trying to help Pecola by taking her off the front steps, but she is trying to protect her from fear of how her mother will react. Mrs. MacTeer initially assumes that what Rosemary is saying is true, and once she realizes that her assumption was wrong, she doesn’t apologize, but speaks with her eyes that she is sorry for the misunderstanding. There’s a continued and subtle sense of empathy throughout the novel that implies that many characters are sorry, but they don’t know how to relay that message by just saying so, and there are also times where “sorry” isn’t enough.
When “winter” appears, the reader is introduced to a new type of character. Maureen is a light skinned girl who comes from a rich family. After school, Pecola is being teased and fights with a group of boys who are discriminating her for her “blackness”. Upon arrival, Claudia and Frieda attempt to help Pecola, but the boys continue to scuffle with the girls until Maureen appears. Maureen helps Pecola up and the boys leave the group alone because they don’t want to fight around Maureen. This is because the boys view Maureen as exotic and beautiful. Because Maureen is light skinned and comes from money, she is automatically considered accomplished and pretty. Although Claudia hates Maureen mostly because of her skin, the girls have a moment of unity in helping Pecola out of the fight before they get in an argument with each other. It is important to note this moment as tough love, because it is not a traditional act of love, but the girls recognize Maureen to be humane enough to help Pecola up and not give into continuously taunting her like the boys. There is a small moment of pity and reflection upon Pecola in this instance, where Maureen recognizes that she in some ways is just like Pecola, in that she is a little black girl as well. Maureen then offers to go get some ice cream which sort of breaks the silence of the situation (Morrison 68).
In previous chapters the reader has experienced Pecola’s mother, Mrs. Breedlove (aka Pauline), as cold, strict, and turned away from her own daughter. In “spring” the reader experiences Mrs. Breedlove’s back story, where she herself as a child was ignored and neglected. She was taught in her adolescence that she was ugly because she had a slight limp from impaling her foot on a nail when she was a two-year old. Throughout her back story, as Pauline moves on in life, her family continues to neglect her and she is left to her own devices to maintain her sanity. She fantasizes of a god or a lover to come fulfill her empty gaps in life, and eventually finds Cholly. Initially, they are happy together, but once Pauline becomes pregnant with Pecola (their second child), her and Cholly’s relationship evolves into an abusive rollercoaster. Morrison illustrates Pauline’s past so that the reader can understand where she came from and why she is the way that she is. Later, after the birth of Pecola, Pauline describes how smart her baby is and how she likes to watch her figure out the world with her “…greedy sounds. Eyes all soft and wet.” Pauline continues on to say how ugly Pecola is (Morrison 126).
Although the tough love during Pauline’s pregnancy is not apparent at first, it comes more to life during her relationship with Cholly. It isn’t mentioned, but their relationship was based off trying to fix themselves by having another person in their life that they thought would fill the empty gap in their hearts, with love. Their fighting and then staying together is a tell tale sign that they were once crazy about each other and possibly afraid to leave each other at the same time. Although they exist in an ongoing abusive relationship, maybe Cholly feels like no one will love him again, so he must stay with Pauline to prove that he needs her, and vice versa. There is a sense of wanting their marriage to end up like the movies that Pauline goes to…but of course it is emphasized that because she is a black woman in that decade, that it will never be like the movies for her. Pauline, always fantasizing about a life she’ll never have, describes a sort of tough love for herself. By taking that time for her to be happy and soak in that fantasy world, she is showing some self strength and perseverance, even though her reality is nothing like the movies she sees, she knows when to not take a moment like this for granted (Morrison 123).
The final season of the book, “summer”, dawns a lot of emotions for the reader to feel. Here, we not only witness Pecola’s breaking point in sanity, but we also hear more about how her father, Cholly, has in most ways been the primary contributor to her downfall. The girls, Claudia and Frieda, have an extreme amount of pity for Pecola and attempt to save her baby, which was a result from her own father. Like Pauline’s back story, the reader is reminded that Cholly is the way he is because of his own past traumas (“Summer: Chapter 11”).
There are a lot of directions and themes that are contained in this book, but Cholly is depicted as a human who doesn’t know any better, so he feels he is showing his tough love by raping his daughter. Although his past does not justify Cholly’s actions, his back story helps the reader understand that there’s a humanizing effect to him, and that “good people can do bad things”.
This book is showcasing black characters that deal primarily with their own personal struggles and view Pecola as a reflection of themselves. All of their reactions are different, but Pecola is the centerpiece that either helps or hurts others realize who they are and why they are the way they are. Their struggles are personal and their survival is based off “black girls in a white world”. Tough love is present and also subtle in many instances, but tough love’s strongest character is through its emotional, little “survivor”, Pecola Breedlove.
The Bluest Eye and Beloved
Power is the ability to overcome and influence the behavior towards an internal personal struggle. Stereotypes are the oversimplified idea of a specific gender, class, or race. A demonstration of the aspect of power in the female protagonists can be found in Toni Morrison’s novels, The Bluest Eye, and Beloved. The Bluest Eye is set in the early 1940’s in the state of Ohio, before the American Civil War, where Claudia MacTeer narrates the fight of the black community’s idealization of white beauty standards. Cholly rapes his 13-year-old daughter Pecola which forces Pauline, the mother, to make the choice of a husband or her daughter. Beloved takes place just after the American Civil War and is inspired by the escape of Margaret Garner, a slave from Kentucky. The main character Sethe devotes her life to her kids; first by escaping slavery, and then keeping her two daughters and two sons safe which causes her to kill her youngest daughter to avoid being recaptured by the slave owner. The female protagonists obtain power by overcoming the negative stereotypes of women in the 1940’s and 1960’s, through the external resolution of conflict, the positive family values of the main female characters, and the negative portrayal of the emotional traits of the women.
The Bluest Eye and Beloved shows the female protagonists obtaining power by overcoming the negative stereotypes of the women in the 1940’s and 1960’s; because of the way the Mothers resolve the external conflict of being enslaved by power-hungry males. In The Bluest Eye, after Cholly rapes his daughter, it forces conflict on Pauline by making her choose between her husband or her daughter, “The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her… trying to connect the pain between her legs with the face of her mother looming over her” (Morrison 163). Cholly’s failure to control his behavior forces his wife, Pauline, to choose a side. Pauline goes against the stereotype of women by choosing to believe her daughter’s word instead of going with the man that supports her financially.
In Shubhankar Kochar’s essay “Chapter 2: Treatment of violence in The Bluest Eye” discusses how the men belittle the women which makes women search for power to overcome the negative stereotype the men have of them: The novel also unfolds how a few individuals direct their anger and frustration at others who are below them in status and power because they cannot raise their voice against their exploiters who are in any case superior to them. (Kochar 4) This demonstrates the power of the females because when they are facing conflict it forces them to stand up and gain power over the males that are socially above them. Similarly, in Beloved Sethe brings freedom to her family by escaping slavery and Sethe thinks to herself, “I did it. I got us all out. Without Halle too. Up until then it was the only thing I ever did on my own”(Morrison 190).
Sethe fights the conflict of going against the men enslaving her and her family, but, when the men track her down and are threatening her family, she makes the harsh decision to send herself to jail and her kids to child care by slitting the throat of her youngest daughter. In both cases, the mother’s overcome the external conflict of the males that are controlling their lives by Pauline disowning her husband for his negative actions, and by Sethe escaping the slavery to the white men, by doing this they also overcome the negative stereotype of women being weak. The female protagonists positive family values help to defeat the negative stereotype of women because they choose their family over a house and income. The positive values the main female protagonists have for their families help them obtain the power to overcome the negative stereotype of women. When the children are in danger it forces the mothers in Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye and Beloved to act at the moment which breaks the stereotype. In The Bluest Eye Pauline beats her children whenever they are acting out, however, when it comes to someone else abusing her children she stands up for them as proven through her value of loyalty. The narrator describes Pauline’s love as odd, however, she stays loyal to the ones she does love, “She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit”(Morrison 44).
In the 1940s women are supposed to be loyal to their spouses but in this case, she is more loyal to her offspring and kicks Cholly out of the house. Comparably, in Beloved Sethe forces her way out of slavery by running away from Sweet Home with her family. Sethe gets into an argument with Stamp Paid after he says: “‘Your love is too thick, they then go on to say’ ‘ Too thick? Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.’ ‘Yeah. it didn’t work did it… Your boys went you don’t know where. One girl dead, the other won’t leave the yard. How did it work?’ ‘They ain’t at Sweet Home. Schoolteacher ain’t got em.’” (Morrison 194)Sethe breaks the stereotype of the females in the 1960s by bringing her family to freedom and leaving her slave owner.
In Kochar’s critical essay Chapter 4: Conclusion he says: In fact, [violence] presents a series of cause and effect that creates a nice chain of interrelated incidents. For example, it presents how the families are disintegrated when violence is unleashed on its members. In The Bluest Eye, one comes across the Breedlove family that is disintegrated because of the violence that Cholly, the head of the family, directs on his own family members. Similarly, in Beloved, one comes across not one but many families that get disintegrated because of the cruel treatment of the white. The members of black families were auctioned away from each other for lucrative gains. For example, seven children of Baby Suggs were taken away from her. (Kochar para. 4)Throughout both novels, families disintegrate, however, the mothers of both families made difficult decisions that end up benefiting the children more than anyone else. Motherly instinct is what keeps both of the female protagonists loyal to their children and help them obtain the strength to overcome the negative stereotype of women. The undisciplined emotional traits help the female protagonists to obtain the power to overcome the negative stereotypes of women in the late 1900s by absorbing the negative abuse from the males that are above them in society until a point and then punishing them. In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Cholly directs his hate for the white men that watched him have sex for his first time towards his wife Pauline. Morrison writes, “He hated her. He almost wished he could do it – hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much.” (3.8.52). Pauline allows Cholly to abuse her and their children until Cholly rapes their daughter which causes Pauline’s undisciplined traits to beat him and kick him out of the house.
A Look at the Idea of Confusion As Depicted By Morrison in His Book, The Bluest Eye, And I Want to Be Miss America by Alvarez
Identity crisis defined as a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. The Identity crisis influences the way woman of color view beauty by making them act differently and trying to assimilate. The Bluest Eye publicized by Toni Morrison uses character Pecola who is African American, and other people of color to expose the identity crisis as well as I want to be Miss America publicized by Julia Alvarez uses a young Dominican girl to expose it. Pecola and the Dominican girl both are stuck in the identity crisis and fail to come out that period.
Morrison uses her character “Pecola” to represent the identity crisis as she states “Long hours she sat looking in the mirror trying to discover the secret of ugliness” (45); Pecola has not yet to recognize her beauty or her purpose because she was told “you are ugly people” (39) and society has put this label on her that she fails to come out of. Jenkins corresponds that society traps her “The body is surrounded by an atmosphere of uncertainty” (423), Pecola being uncertain of what her beauty is, and how she can only bring in negative energy to herself made by society and can’t break out. Pecola “Each night without fail she prayed for blue eyes” (Morrison 46), Morrison’s Miltonian style displays that Pecola is trapped and is blinded of her beauty because it’s not the perfect known as “White beauty” and she prays ignorantly knowing that can’t happen. Jenkins states, “We have millions of people degrading their own physical characteristics and chasing the ethereal form of whiteness” (423), Pecola degrades herself because she does not have white characteristics clearly to the point she makes a prayer. Antagonist used to expose identity crisis of black woman in the novel The Bluest Eye, although they are minor characters. Morrison’s paradox “That they themselves were black… It was their contempt for their own blackness…, their exquisitely learned self-hatred”(65), the sole purpose of it is to show that people of color will degrade others because their own self-hatred, because they are hurting as well inside suffering the identity crisis.” Jenkins indicates” In the white world, the man of color encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema'(423), makes note on Morrison paradox because the black man fails to see that he is suffering an identity crisis while degrading someone of his own color.
Dominican girl of I want to be Miss America Julia Alvarez struggles with the cultural identity crisis, Alvarez Includes “As young teenagers in our new country, my three sisters and I searched for clues on how to look as if we belonged here …Where we discovered the Miss America contest” (91) The Dominican girl neglects her culture, because it’s not seen as beauty in America. Fong agrees “They may pursue social interactions with cultural and ethnic groups they identify with cultural and ethnic groups… (20)”, explaining that the Dominican girl wants to interact with the American beauty culture, while neglecting her. Fong explains the minority person wants to feel accepted rather than rejected… (21),thus they’ll do anything to be accepted even rejecting their cultural identity ,”This is what the Americans wear we would argue back”,(Alvarez 93) the Dominican girl without doubt wants to fit in with the dominate group to achieve that American beauty once more. Fong states if a minority person does not have exposure to his or her people and culture or does not have a support system, it will prolong the person’s identity struggle.(21), Alvarez agrees including ‘ I always felt let down” (95)and ‘ will never be the beauty queen’(96) as well as “Miss America… she never wears my face”(96). The Dominican girl clearly struggles to find her cultural identity and is affected by the crisis because American beauty of blonde hair and blue eyes wires her brain to think that the only type of beauty and fails to break out of her crisis. The Dominican girl was never given a support system because her culture is not how Americans view beauty.
The Identity crisis affects the way how women of color view beauty including Pecola from The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and the Dominican girl in I want to be Miss America by Julia Alvarez. This motif of American beauty including blonde her and blue eyes affect the way women of color view beauty to the extent where they struggle in the identity crisis and have a negative view on how they view themselves and fail to grow as a character. The Identity crisis impacts women of color to a great extent, which they are stuck and fail to come out of this problem.
Self and Other Identification in Cortazar’s “Axolotl” and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye Essay
The theme of self versus other was pervasive throughout both Julio Cortazar’s “Axolotl” and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In comparison, both protagonists have poor, confused concepts of self, and both measure themselves against unusual norms, which they cannot really compete with, and thus, set themselves up for a certain type of non-orthodox identification.
Ultimately, it could be argued, they really are not able to be true to themselves, in any healthy way. Thus, they are attempting to identify with “others” who are seen in their respective worlds, as being more dissimilar. However, there are differences in how both the characters acquire this, and the varying narrative techniques of the two authors help in this respect.
First, differences in author technique impact the themes in both stories. Toni Morrison has written a detailed novel, told from another’s viewpoint. Morrison thus delves further, in more detail, into the thought processes, of both her main character and others in the tale.
However, in contrast,. “Axolotl” is a short story by Cortazar and as such, doesn’t provide such variety in thought and action by the main character. As the saga is also recounted in the third person, although a very dramatic event, it’s thereby presented in a more straight forward factor, although also more mystical.
First, Pecola Breedlove, is never even loved by her own parents. This young girl’s life in 1940’s Ohio is told through the eyes of another young, black girl named Claudia. It quickly becomes clear to the narrator that Pecola’s circumstances are worse than her own, in white America. For the
Breedlove family is poorer, and Pauline, mother of Pecola, is most unkind to her own family as they do not compare favorably with the white family for whom Pauline works as a maid.
In addition, Pecola’s father is neither supportive nor caring, really, although she never gives up trying to win his affections.. In fact, he is a drunkard, and eventually rapes his own daughter. Pecola actually gives birth to his child, who dies soon after birth. Nevertheless, Pecola had always tried to create identity and seek love from Cholly, her father, despite the futility there. She says, “We loved him. Even after what came later, there was no bitterness in our memory of him.” (Morrison 16)
Next, it becomes apparent that Pecola thinks that if she could only be beautiful, she would have a better life. Like her mother, Pecola longs to be pretty, although her mother is seen to be quite attractive, for a black woman. In order to acquire the desired pulchritude, Pecola actually wishes for blue eyes, like some other whites, and like the popular child star, Shirley Temple.
Then, following attendance at the local Soaphead Church, a preacher there tells the young girl he has the power to turn her eyes blue. Pecola then actually begins to think that this has happened, and now she will be loved by all, because of it. However, because she experiences no caring from neither family nor schoolmates, and she is lied to, regarding her eye color, she experiences a mental breakdown. She has truly become a victim of her very own world, unlike Claudia, who is still loved by her family, despite her race.
As Pecola seeks beauty, identity and love, she finds it in a different form, upon viewing dandelions, and then finding herself an identity as an angry person. As Pecola attempts to find beauty in her perceived ugly world, she also finds disappointment here. She walks down the street and finds a clump of dandelions, which she initially finds lovely.
She speaks, fondly. “Dandelions”. (Morrison 50) However, since they fail to look at her and don’t return her affection, the girl is then disappointed and bitter. She thinks, ‘They are ugly. They are weeds.” (Morrison 50) As she is dwelling on these feelings
of distress, she trips herself on the sidewalk. Her rage is now fierce. Toni Morrison describes how Pecola finds self-validity in this ire. The author writes that Pecola is now feeling that “.There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth.” (Morrison 50) Hence, the only shred of self identity she is able to claim for herself now, is one of a sad and destructive anger.
Thus, a true theme of perception and isolation is present in The Bluest Eye. One who is not loved perceives this and cannot return love to others. This is her identity, or lack of it, which began with her very parents’ perception and lack of caring for her. This type of family neglect is not brought out in Julio Cortazar’s tale of “Axolotl”.
Next, Julio Cortazar’s short story “Axolotl”, is told by a man who has been turned into an axolotl, a type of salamander, after spending much time looking at axolotls in an aquarium. There is no mention of a dearth of love from others as with Pecola, but he too, as a Latino, is part of a minority, as is Morrison’s young girl. Living in Paris, he may feel somewhat of an outcast, as Pecola felt, in her locale.
However, Pecola does not identify herself really with any other human or being, yet the unnamed man in Cortazar’s short story makes this connection. He sees the salamanders as living beings, just as he is. So, then he suddenly and fantastically finds himself looking out of the glass at himself, through the eyes of a lizard. Yet he doesn’t completely break down, as Pecola did, although it can be argued that he possibly had a break with reality. However, he is still feeling better about things, unlike Pecola, through this association.
Even as an axolotl, the man still observes the being he was, and hopes the human will pen a tale of the individual who becomes an axolotl. In contrast to Pecola’s story, the man feels some communication and unity. However, like the Morrison tale, Cortazar wants his audience to comprehend that reality is truly experienced through another’s eyes, to some degree.
Self identity and identification with others are the story’s primary emphasis. Thus, the man as observer notes initially that he self-identifies with the larvae, on his first look at the aquarium. He actually felt a secret connection, although he couldn’t come up with a rational explanation for this.
He does note that the animals possess hands, and some other features, as humans do, though not nearly as evolved. Here, one could wonder whether or not, if perhaps, as a Modern Latin American man, he feels that his identity is lacking, is lost, and is not authentic, just as the character in the Morrison story.
Yet, the reader is left not sure whether or not the unbelievable has occurred. So, is he now ensconced within the body of the axolotl? Has he turned into the animal, or have they merged? He tries to figure this out, and states the following:
those eyes of gold without iris, without pupil. I saw my
face against the glass, I saw it on the outside of the
tank, I saw it on the other side of the glass. Then my
face drew back and I understood. (Cortazar 8)
Lastly, the visitor indicates that he has less future need now, to return as often to the aquarium, because of this inexplicable relationship. He takes comfort in the idea that maybe the “man” will tell their stories. He actually believes that they have communicated with one another.
And in this final solitude to which he no longer
comes, I console myself by thinking that perhaps he is
going to write a story about us, that, believing he’s
making up a story, he’s going to write all this about
axolotls. (Cortazar 9)
Therefore, it should be clear to readers that the theme of self versus other was indeed prevalent in both Julio Cortazar’s “Axolotl” and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. For since both characters are confused regarding their own identifies, and they both relate to impossible, seeming implausible norms, they may be ensuring that their individual self identities will not be anything usual or normal.
Some may see Pecola as being more tragic in this instance. However, surely, they are not really able to grasp a true and healthy reality. Both individuals have self identified with beings and worlds very unlike themselves and their own realities. This sometimes actually happens, and sometimes it’s different in each individual.
Nevertheless, the reading of these two works reminds the reader how truly vital to human happiness are the abilities to both self-identify and to also relate to others, and how they may or may not be interrelated with one another. Thus, both authors have effectively presented through their characters, the need for humans to focus on the search for identity of and with self and others..
Cortazar, Julio. Blow-Up and Other Stories. New York: Pantheon, 1967.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Random House, 1970.
The Black Culture’s White Culture Shock Essay
In the history of the world, the most oppressed person has largely been the black. From the ages of slavery to the modern times, the black person has continually received indifferent treatment extending to exploitation, as well as oppression. In her work, Toni Morrison draws on this complex relationship set between the black person and the rest of the world which apparently is the white person.
This relationship has left the black people on the losing end from the political to the economic aspects. As a result, the black culture has faced serious challenges from the societal point of view in terms of socialization due to the economic factor. Toni Morrison in The Bluest Eye traces the history of the black people in the most prolific and unique manner that traces their position and lives in the society. As a black writer, she makes a revealing statement that observes that the black people subjective consciousness is a product of the crumbling nature of the white culture.
As the story begins, Morrison powerfully draws the reader to the historical oppression of the black people’s lives. In their living, the Breedloves are depicted to have the most deplorable life conditions which are a contrast to white’s. The black people lost their own position in the social in order to be the first. The Breedlove’s live in an “old, cold and green house” where at “night a kerosene lamp lights one large room” while the “others are braced in darkness, peopled by roaches and mice” (Morrison, 10).
The dominant white social reality has pushed the black’s living to the margins of society. The economic and the political oppression have for a long time kept the black person in dark silence.
This is well captured in the line, “evening we go to the railroad tracks where we fill burlap sacks with tiny pieces of coal lying about” (Morrison, 10). Morrison’s line is like a commentary that the black culture is crumbled into small pieces by the apparent dominant white culture. This is represented by the coal and the railroad respectively.
This means that the black abandoned their culture and values under the impact of the white culture. In effect, the black people have accepted and desired the white culture as presented by Pecola’s affection of the white silhouette of Shirley Temple and her loving gift of the blue eyed baby doll (Morrison, 19). This is a symbol of the white culture that has pushed the black person almost to paths that lead to self hate.
This in effect translates to the next phase, that of depravity, humiliation and a sense of defeat. Morrison illustrates this in the story by observing that Cholly feels deeply insulted at two white men who disturb his romance scene by flashing lights at them. It is most intense since there is nothing he can do and thus the observation that he lives in the shadows of the white man.
The author describes the psychology of Cholly “even a half-remembrance of this episode, along with myriad other humiliations, defeats, and emasculations, could stir him into flights of depravity that surprised himself—but only himself” (Morrison, 42). This way, Cholly reflects the black face. Accordingly, the black’s main consciousness and social status has been lost.
Furthermore, the black people also forgot their responsibility in the family. The novel The Bluest Eye describes the Breedlove’s family members as influenced by the white culture through different ways to pursue their self-value. For example, Cholly is abandoned by parents, insulted by whites and the pain of finding a father make his spirit distorted.
This begets violence as depicted when he batters his wife. The raw nature human depravity is at its highest when Cholly, in his drunken stupor, rapes his daughter. Therefore, the reader questions the pillars of ethics in the black person (Long and Collier, 32).
In the novel, he is disgusted and has contempt for the whites’ a treatment. In the same way, Pecola’s mother Polly also attempts to alienate her family. When she gets a job in white Fisher’s Home, she is proud of the work and so she spends all day shuttling between the white families. As a result, her husband and daughter become more and more neglected.
It is clearly evident when Pecola knocks the hot jam accidentally in Fisher’s home, that her mother, “Mrs. Breedlove yanks her up by the arm, slaps her again, and in a voice thin with anger, abuses Pecola directly” (Morrison, 109). This is in deep contrast to the utmost care she gives the hosts family’s little girl. Her behaviour shows that her personality is alienated, and she has lost her responsibility and position in the family. As a family, people should love, trust and tolerate each other. In Breedlove’s family, things are opposite since they all aspire to become whites hence losing the strong holds of a family. This almost suggested by the name where love breeds in pain.
As if the black people recognize this, they each in unique ways try to change their destinies and positions though in a faulty manner hence end up doomed. Morrison strongly makes a comment that, despite their efforts, the black people cannot choose their color and eyes. However, it may be easy to abandon their culture. The Bluest Eye not only introduces readers to a black tragic life and existence, but also wants the black people to adhere to their own culture and self value under the impact of the white culture (Gupta, 14).
As a fact, it is clear that there was no difference between the two cultures and race whether good or bad. It is only through contrast in political and economic strength that made the white culture stronger than the black culture. The long-term oppression has translated to demoralized spirit of the black people such as Pecola.
The black people were unable to fight under the heavy hand of a dominant culture, and thus they cold not realize their identities. This led to forsaking of their culture and their traditional values, choosing instead to accept and respect the white culture. Their main concern was to appreciation the beauty of the whites as the peak performance of their desperate need to be like them.
In this act, the belief was that the white skin, brown hair and blue eyes, are the standards of beauty, while the black color is a dirty and ugly symbol. Such are like Polly, who wants to have blue eyes. Influenced by the white culture, the black community has thus lost self consciousness spiraling to abdicate family responsibilities (Page, 24).
The awakening of a nation always starts from an ideology which can also lead to perishing of a culture. For a nation that has lost its social position, there is a need to adhere and develop own national culture. Without any distinction, every nation is equal and free. Therefore, the black race should also be respected. The black children should be happy and lead a normal life full of beautiful dreams, lively songs, self worth and social recognition.
Gupta, Monika. Women Writers in the Twentieth Century Literature. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2000. Print.
Long, Richard A, and Eugenia W. Collier. Afro-American Writing: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985. Print.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print.
Page, Philip. Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison’s Novels. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1995. Print.
The Bluest Eye by Morrison: Characters, Themes, Personal Opinion Essay
Toni Morrison wrote her first and famous novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970. The author tells the story about the tragic fate and death of Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl whose mother knew that her dark-skinned child would grow up ugly. The Bluest Eye “portrays the tragedy, which results when African Americans have no resources with which to fight the standards presented to them by the white culture.”1 The novel was banned in many American schools because of vulgar and obscene language, as well as sexually explicit descriptions. Nevertheless, this book addresses some crucial issues, such as appearance stereotypes, racism, and femininity, and depicts complex relationships between the main characters.
Summary of the Book
The story begins in 1940, it is told on behalf of nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer, Pecola’s only friend, who is younger than the main character for two years. Pecola Breedlove, a dark-skinned girl, lives in a world owned by whites. She believes that her life would be better and easier if she were white, too. Blue eyes are a symbol of whiteness for the little girl. She watches her father, Cholly Breedlove, who becomes increasingly violent and frustrated as his dreams are shattered. Moreover, he suffers constant humiliation because of the color of his skin. Her mother, Pauline, fends off the problems by an orderly life, continuous cleaning, and working as a maid in a white family.
One spring evening, Pecola is raped by his drunken father. She gets pregnant after he rapes her a second time.2 The traumatized girl loses touch with reality and goes to the priest and swindler Elihue Micah Whitcomb, nicknamed Soaphead Church, with a request to make her eyes blue. He claims that he can help, but in exchange for a favor. Soaphead Church wants to get rid of the old, sick dog and gives Pecola the poisoned meat, saying that only feeding the dog will show if her wish comes true. When the dog starts gagging and limping, Pecola believes she will get her blue eyes.
The rape and the incident with the dog drive Pecola crazy. More than that, her baby dies, which finally leads to destroying her connection with reality. The girl believes that her eyes have turned blue, and she invents an imaginary friend who is always there and tells her that her eyes are the bluest in the world. Pecola Breedlove, who could not see herself figuratively before, has solved the problem. Now she literally sees herself in the most perverted and tragic form.
The protagonist of The Bluest Eye is a young dark-skinned and poor girl growing up in the early 1940s. Almost all people repeatedly call her ugly, from other pupils to her mother. This continuous bullying and criticism, that Pecola has to suffer, lead her to seek escape from her misery. That is why she begins to dream of becoming more beautiful and possessing blue eyes. This false belief becomes entirely destructive for the little girl, consuming her life, and creating critical mental problems. At the end of the novel, Pecola becomes convinced that everyone looks at her strangely because she eventually got blue eyes. Furthermore, she imagines a friend whom she frequently talks to about her dream come true.
The primary narrator of the novel is a curious, emotional young girl who is brought up in a loving family. Besides, she represents a rebel character throughout the book as, unlike Pecola, she tries to resist appearance stereotypes and beauty icons. This position can be exemplified by the way she treats the protagonist. Claudia is kind to Pecola Breedlove, loves her, and even sincerely feels guilty about Pecola’s tragic fate. What is more, she and Frieda sacrifice their money, which they save to buy a bicycle as a payment to God, as they hope that it will help Pecola’s baby to survive.
Pauline is Pecola’s mother, and her character allows readers to see how appearance stereotypes and beauty perception can determine the person’s behavior and relationships with others. Like her daughter Pecola, Pauline imagines her elaborate world, which entirely consumes her. For example, she believes that in the household where she works as a servant, the kitchen is her kitchen; the money she is given to buy food for the employer’s family is her money. Furthermore, she pretends even that their little daughter is her daughter.
Soaphead is a very controversial character as he is the most religious man in the novel, but, at the same time, he is one of the most immoral people. His real name is Elihue Micah Whitcomb, and he got his nickname for his hair and profession. He considers himself to be “a Reader, Adviser, and Interpreter of Dreams.”3 That is why he tries to help people solve their problems. When Pecola Breedlove asks him to give her blue eyes, he tells her to feed his landlord’s dog, and then, her dream will come true.4 However, he poisons the meat, and the dog dies, which results in Pecola’s losing her mins and believing that she now has blue eyes.
Main Themes of the Book
One of the central issues addressed in The Bluest Eye is racism. The main characters of the novel associate white skin and blue eyes with beauty and innocence. For example, the psychological traumas of Pecola’s father, who was humiliated by white men, resulting in his rape of his daughter. Besides, Soaphead Church is obsessed with genetic and racial cleanness. As for the protagonist, she seeks to have these features of beauty throughout the story, which, eventually, turn into the loss of her mind. Another critical theme of the book is femininity, as the author describes the life of African-American women in the 1940s. At those times, they could only get married, have children, and work for white families.5 Otherwise, dark-skinned women and girls inevitably become prostitutes and socially excluded people.
Toni Morrison managed to depict wisely the horrible effects that racism, poverty, and imposed stereotypes might have not only on adults but on children as well. The Bluest Eye makes readers reconsider their principles and values as everyone has his or her vision for beauty. More than that, nowadays, the media and fashion industry enforce their rules, and people often forget that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison discusses an unusual point of view in American historical fiction. She purposefully wrote this story focusing on the realities of African-American women’s lives in the 1940s. Due to addressing some controversial topics, such as racism, humiliation, and child molestation, there were numerous attempts to prohibit the novel in schools and libraries. Nevertheless, this book is thought-provoking and remains relevant even in the 21st century. That is why The Bluest Eye is still popular among readers across the world.
Hunt, Michelle. “Women as Commodities in Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.” Pennsylvania Literary Journal 8, no. 2 (2016): 120-149.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York City, NY: Random House, 2014.
Sarkar, Sajal, and Jahan Moshref. “A Comparative Study of Pecola and Gyanoda: Sex, Violence and Beauty in the Bluest Eye and Arakshaniya”. American International Journal of Social Science Research 3, no. 1 (2018): 22-26. https://www.cribfb.com/journal/index.php/aijssr/article/view/140.
Study Guide for Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
- Study Guide for Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015), 2.
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (New York City, NY: Random House, 2014), 3.
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (New York City, NY: Random House, 2014),
- Sajal Sarkar, and Jahan Moshref, “A Comparative Study of Pecola and Gyanoda: Sex, Violence and Beauty in the Bluest Eye and Arakshaniya,” American International Journal of Social Science Research 3, no. 1 (2018): 23.
- Michelle Hunt, “Women as Commodities in Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye,” Pennsylvania Literary Journal 8, no. 2 (2016): 120.
The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison Essay
The portrayal of racism and its destructive consequences in literature serves the purpose of emphasizing the need to transform our society and respect the diversity of cultures. Tony Morrison is the author of the novel titled The Bluest Eye, which presents an overview of an African-American girl’s life and the challenges she encountered. This paper aims to summarize this novel, provide an assent of central themes and characters described by Morrison, and present a personal view of the topic discussed in this work.
The events described by Morrison occur during the Great Depression, which affected all states of the country equally. The main focus is on a family living in Ohio that had two daughters and a temporary foster child. This child, Pecola, suffers from bullying in her neighborhood since people around tell her that she is not beautiful. As a result, the girl desires to have one thing she associates with beauty – blue eyes. Morrison (1990, 18) describes this issue in the following manner – “it had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes…were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.” Perhaps such influence on her emerged as a result of seeing dolls with white skin and blue eyes that were considered beautiful by children around Pecola.
The girl is living with foster parents because her father burned down their house. In general, the depiction of Pecola’s family suggests that the girl encountered many difficulties while growing up. Her parents were always fighting, and her father suffered from fits of anger as a result of his alcoholism. Moreover, Cholly, who is Pecola’s father, raped the gird and ran away, leaving her pregnant. At this point, the commune’s perception of Pecola changed because of these events. At the end of the novel, Pecola’s child dies, and she becomes insane due to the difficulties and traumatizing experiences she went through. The final reflection of Pecola’s foster-sister Claudia provides insight into the main themes that Morrison aimed to highlight in his novel.
Main Characters and Themes
The title of the novel provides some insight into the theme that the author aims to describe. As was evident from the summary provided in the previous paragraph, Morrison seeks to depict the destructive consequences of the perceptions of African-American prevalent in society during the Great Depression. The fact that a young girl suffered from an inferiority complex is terrible on its own, but the implications of such events are frightening. It is because the main character of the book, Pecola, believed that she was not pretty, and to become more beautiful, she needed to have blue eyes. The idea that the girl had was fostered by her perception of white skin and other attributes associated with it. Hence, the primary theme that Morrison aims to disclose is the adverse impact that society’s stereotypes regarding race and appearance.
The beauty standard that Pecola chooses based on the appearance of her fair-skinned and blue-eyed doll is another theme, which is relevant to contemporary society as well. Although currently, manufacturers of popular child toys aim to improve the diversity of their products and depict people of different races, Rice et al. (2016) argue that these dolls still harm a child’s perception of beauty. Therefore, Morrison’s novel serves as an essential example of hurtful consequences that can affect a child’s perception of self-image.
When reflection upon Pecola’s life and the events that occurred throughout the novel, Claudia mentioned the innocence as a wrong approach. The girl states that “our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair” (Morrison 1990, 60). Hence, the idea that the author aims to convey here is that innocence with which these African-Americans approached discrimination did not produce a good result.
As was mentioned, the main character of this novel is Pecola, a young African-American girl who suffers from self-loathing and misery because of the perception of one’s appearance. Rosenbaum (2017) argues that the central theme of this work is the interception of race, gender, and personal identity, which is discussed using the example of Pecola. The race is an essential aspect of this novel because the author shares the experience of growing up as an African-American in a predominantly white community. While there are many examples of improper treatment of African-Americans due to their skin color and appearance in general, the author stresses the impact that such attitudes have on one’s mental health. This is especially hurtful for women as, according to Rosenbaum (2017), the intersection of race and gender and society’s perceptions of beauty subject African-American women to discrimination. Hence, Morrison’s work serves as a representation of difficulties and issues prevalent in the African-American community and allows us to emphasize the need for changing attitudes towards race.
The main characters of the novel are Pecola, her father Cholly, and her mother, Pauline. Throughout the majority of the timeframe depicted by Morrison, Pecola lives with her foster parents, who also accommodate Claudia and Freida, two African-American girls. Other vital characters that affect the events discussed by the author are the Fisher family, who employ Pecola’s mother as a servant, and Geraldine, who is an upper-class African-American woman. Morisson also describes Pecola’s other relatives, such as her brother Sam or grandfather Samson. Out of the people that bullied the girl and contributed to her faulty perception of herself, one should mention Louis Junior and Mr. Yacobowski.
The themes of violence and self-perception of African-American women, discussed in The Bluest Eye provide an understanding of many difficulties that arise as part of the inability to accept diversity. One can argue that the novel can be challenging to read since the author depicts events such as bullying or rape. However, being able to understand that these issues exist will allow society to focus on improving the attitudes towards African-Americans. As Abdullah (2019) states, Pecola serves as an example of the distrustfulness caused by a community, cautioning people from making similar mistakes. Therefore, from a personal perspective, the novel allows one to reevaluate opinions regarding beauty and the impact of other people’s opinions, which is essential for maintaining a healthy self-image.
Overall, Morrison’s novel provides an essential insight into the issues of discrimination that are experienced by many African-Americans. The example of a young gird and the depiction of the hurtful consequences of the community’s views regarding African-American body image affect Pecola’s mental health. Despite many changes, modern society is still subjected to these damaging effects of beauty perception, one example being the impact of dolls on children’s self-esteem.
Abdullah, Nibras Ahmed. 2019. “Theme of Gender in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Sula.” Journal of Al-Frahedis Arts, 37 (1): 493-509.
Morrison, Toni. 1990. The Bluest Eye. London: Pan Books.
Rice Karly, Ivanka Prichard, and Marika Tiggemann. 2019. “Exposure to Barbie: Effects on Thin-Ideal Internalisation, Body Esteem, and Body Dissatisfaction among Young Girls.” Body Image, no. 19: 142-149. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.09.005.
Rosenbaum, Kathrin. 2015. Race and Gender in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Munich: GRIN.