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.
The Main Characters and Themes of The Bluest Eye Essay
At the heart of The Bluest Eye lies a personal tragedy of an eleven-year-old African-American girl, Pecola Breedlaw. Living in the world owned by whites, the protagonist believes that her life would be more comfortable if she looked unique: blue eyes become a symbol of the desired appearance. After experiencing several terrifying incidents, such as incest, bullying, death of the unborn child, Pecola becomes mentally ill and makes herself believe her eyes changed to the color of the sky. The Blue Eyes not only expounds the cruelty and violence in the life of little Pecola but also explains why it happens. This essay discovers the child’s view of the problems of racism, poverty, incest, and the inability to love.
The Main Characters and Themes
Pecola vs. Claudia: The Girls’ Views on Beauty
Pecola and Claudia are both young black ladies and best friends, yet they possess strikingly contrasting opinions about beauty. For instance, at the beginning of the novel, Claudia destroys her light-skinned dolls out of internalized contempt for white individuals. The girl clarifies that she is courageous since she has not learned self-hatred yet, what is a problem of numerous grown-ups within the Afro-American community.
On the contrary, the protagonist reliably acts on her craving to realize American excellence benchmarks and aspires to attain the bluest eye. According to Morrison (2014), “Thrown, in this way, into the binding conviction that only a miracle could relieve her, she would never know her beauty” (58). In other words, Pecola possesses low self-esteem and does not embrace the features of her appearance. Thus, even though both of the girls share the same skin color and community they live in, their reaction to social stigmas differs.
Proper Family Upbringing as the Foundation for Raising Strong Personalities
Claudia and Pecola possess different family backgrounds, which undeniably impacted their behavior in society. Claudia, as Pecola, suffers from social pressure and beauty stereotypes, but she is growing up in an adoring and caring family, which makes all the difference for her. The protagonist, however, is facing challenges in relationships with parents, such as incest and humiliation. Consequently, in critical situations, Claudia presents herself as a fighter, whereas Pecola behaves passively and vulnerably. For instance, according to Morrison (2014), when Claudia watches a bunch of boys teasing Pecola, she assaults them. Thus, a caring family is a solid foundation for bringing up an individual who can withstand social pressure.
Unhealthy Family Relationships as the Cause of Psychological Damages
The protagonist grew up in a poverty-stricken abusive family and has consistently observed her parents fighting. The girl’s mother disgracefully calls her daughter “little black bitch” and convinces her that she is ugly. Furthermore, Pecola’s father, Cholly, not only sexually assaulted the girl twice but impregnated her. Consequently, a healthy individual cannot be raised in such a toxic environment, inflicting numerous psychological traumas on a delicate child’s mind. The rape produced traumatizing psychic experience, destroying her connection with reality. Therefore, the young lady starts to blame her brown eyes, which she considers gruesome, for not finding freedom and later becomes convinced her eyes have turned blue. This is an appeal to the invisible forces to find admiration and approval of others, which she failed to receive from people who are usually the closest ones – the parents.
Cholly’s Projection of Pain
Cholly is the father of the Breedlaw family and the one who took advantage of his underage daughter. The man is depicted not so ugly outwardly as morally, the result of despair, laxity, and dissatisfaction in his own life. He represents a “little” person trying to control everyone by spreading his power and ugliness on the members of his family. Cholly did not rape Pecola out of lust, but the mixed feelings of sadness, hatred, and care. Drunk, he observed his daughter, scratching a leg while washing dishes. This picture reminded him of his past, the first meeting with his lame wife, Pauline. Consequently, with guilt and nostalgia, nothing other came to his head then, except for sexually assaulting his offspring (Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015). Such Cholly’s depravity illustrates projecting his pain on Pecola, trying to return a sense of freedom.
Racial Self-Hatred as the Fundamental Part of Growing up
The Bluest Eye gives an amplified delineation of how internalized white superiority measures misshape the lives of Afro-American girls and women. Verifiable messages that whiteness is predominant can be found throughout the novel, including the idealization of light-skinned Maureen and Pauline Breedlove’s inclination to her daughter (Gayathri, Balachandran, and Sreenath Muraleedharan 2018). As stated by Abbasi and Bhatti (2017), “racial inequalities and poverty paved ways to the reduction of blacks’ self-image, self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem with no courage and valor” (137). Consequently, adult black ladies, having learned to loathe the darkness of their bodies, take this contempt out on their children. Thus, self-hatred was not only a challenge for the Breedlaw family but all-female representatives of the black community after the Great Depression.
There is no shortage of debates on whether the mental illness of the protagonist serves as a particular psychological technique for disclosure of social problems or not. As far as I am concerned, the craziness of Pecola Breedlove is filled with psychologism and meaning, as it gives an example of how society impacts a child’s worldview. The author makes evident to the reader the reasons for the young lady’s mental disorder: low self-esteem due to social pressure, molesting, pregnancy and death of a child, racial hostility, dreams of blue eyes – they are all distorted in her consciousness. However, this craziness is not clinical as Pecola accepted herself “renewed” with pleasure and sincerely wanted to believe she measures up to expectations of a beautiful individual. Moreover, proof of her sanity is found on the last pages of a novel where a girl was talking to herself, simultaneously admiring the blue eyes (Morrison 2014). From my perspective, she became a kind of the impetus for others, who launched the evaluation mechanism, thanks to which the readers can stop and re-think their behavior.
The Bluest Eye is about what poverty, ignorance, and inability to love do to humans. Pecola, the protagonist, became the embodiment of ugliness for people, including her parents and classmates. However, they could not imagine that beauty that was found inside this young lady, as she finally succeeded at finding her beauty, even though by owning imaginable pair of eyes. If Pecola was not in the novel, the plot could have been described as follows: Black families whose children go to school, domestic affairs, family disputes. However, here, with the young Mrs. Breedlove, everything changes dramatically. It is undeniable that Pecola is the one who contributed to a greater understanding of howling problems of pedophilia, family, and moral values. Moreover, precisely the madness of eleven-year-old Pecola reminds others about their own “non-normality. ”
Abbasi, Muhammad Ismail, and Shaheena Ayub Bhatti. 2017. “White Linguistic Violence and Black Americans: A Textual Analysis of The Bluest Eye.” Journal of Research in Social Sciences 5 (1): 135—143.
Gale, Cengage Learning. 2015. A Study Guide for Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’. Farmington Hills: Gale, Cengage Learning.
Gayathri, A. R., Devika Balachandran, and K. Sreenath Muraleedharan. 2018. “Objectification of African American Women in The Bluest Eye.” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics 119 (12): 2769—2777.
Morrison, Toni. 2014. The Bluest Eye. New York: Random House.
The Shaping of Character of Pecola Through Her Family and Her Society
The Bluest eyes is the work of Toni Morrison. In this novel we can see that there are many characters that are very interesting to analyze it. Because the characters are very characteristic. We can see at the main character of the bluest eyes, Pecola. Pecola has psychological problem that is very interesting to analyze. So in here I want to analyze the character of Pecola that is shaped from her family and her society. In here the big question for analyze the changing of Pecola’s character: What make Pecola want to have blue eyes and get it until she seems crazy?
And for this question, I use close reading and Psychoanalysis for know about the changing of Pecola’s Character and what the psychology problem in herself.
Psychoanalysis Psychoanalysis studies the often times skewed ways in which the mind expresses feelings. Those feelings range from anxiety and fear to hostility and sexual desire, and they can originate in a range of sources, from the traumas of personal history to the instincts of the body.
Psychoanalysis is also concerned with the dynamics of interpersonal relations with the way the self is formed through interactions with its familial and sociocultural environment.
Depending on the school of psychoanalysis one heeds, the study of mind’s operation in literature should be concerned either with the unconscious and the instincts or with the family, personal history, and the social world that shapes the self. Several reading strategies emerge from these psychoanalytic theories. A text might be read for the way unconscious material manifests itself through indirect means- images or descriptions that evoke psychological issues. The relation between characters might be studied for what they disclose about family dynamics and the way such dynamics shape selves.
A psychoanalysis reading might also attend to such themes or issues as separation, loss, boundaries, fusion with others, and the struggle to form a coherent and functioning self out a damaging context or traumatic personal history. Finally, language itself can be studied as a means of instantiating unconscious processes and working through some of the issues an emerging self faces as it struggles for adult existence or as it seeks to come to terms with disturbing unconscious material. Pecola, her family and her society Pecola is a girl who eleven years old.
Her father is Cholly Breedlove and her mother is Pauline Breedlove and her brother is Sammy. They are a poor family. In the beginning story have been described they have ugliness and describing of their ugliness is very clear. “Mrs. Breedlove, Sammy Breedlove, and Pecola Breedlove–wore their ugliness, put it on, so to speak, although it did not belong to them. The eyes, the small eyes set closely together under narrow foreheads. The low, irregular hairlines, which seemed even more irregular in contrast to the straight, heavy eyebrows which nearly met. Keen but crooked noses, with insolent nostrils.
They had high cheekbones, and their ears turned forward. Shapely lips which called attention not to themselves but to the rest of the face. You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. ” (Morrison: 30) Pauline has bad character. She is a mother but she does not like a mother. Even she is more love to her boss’ daughter than her daughter. She feels disgusted to her daughter. She does her daughter like Pecola is not her daughter. She always treat Pecola and through ill treatment makes Pecola hate herself. Cholly, he is worst father.
He is a drinker and he hate her daughter, Pecola. Even he rape Pecola. You can imagine that if there is a father rape her daughter? It shows to us he is worst father in the world. There are some characters that effect Pecola’s character. There are Frieda and Claudia who always love and keep Pecola from enable dangerous from their society. For example when Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Buddy Wilson, Junie Bug tried to mock Pecola, Frieda actually helped Pecola and made the black boys go away from them. Since that menstruation… Pecola was in Claudia’s house because she had no house.
Frieda and Claudia are very kind to her. They always play together. At one moment, when Frieda, Claudia and Pecola discussed about what they must do. The first proposal from Frieda to Pecola was go to Mr. Henry’s house to see girlie magazine. Suddenly in middle their discussion, blood was running down in her legs. Claudia was very panic and Frieda suddenly knew what they have to do. “Frieda said, “Oh. Lordy! I know. I know what that is! ” “What? ” Pecola’s fingers went to her mouth.
“That’s ministratin’. ” “What’s that? ” “You know. ” “Am I going to die? she asked. “Noooo. You won’t die. It just means you can have a baby! ” (21) And her mother came and helped Frieda that is helping Pecola. After that happen, in the night they lay down in the bed and Frieda and Claudia awe and respect to Pecola because it means that Pecola is now grown up. There is a question from Pecola “Is it true that I can have a baby now? ” and that question was answered by Frieda and said that “sure”. And Pecola asked again to Frieda “but…how? ” and “”Oh,” said Frieda, “somebody has to love you. ” . and Pecola asked again “How do you do that?
I mean, how do you get somebody to love you? ” but that question was not answered by Frieda because she had been asleep. Somebody has to love you? “Somebody has to love you. ” That is the answer for Pecola where when the maturity that is signed by menstruation and based on the answer of Frieda how Pecola can have a baby. I think that statement “somebody has to love you” make Pecola think about how the way someone loves her. But the fact, there is no one love her include her family. That evidences are her mother didn’t like her, her father and her friends too.
They hate her very much because of her ugliness. From at that time she thought to how the way somebody loves her and actually she has no her own standard of beauty based the standard of beauty generally in America. That is has white skin and has blue eyes. Her mind has been suggested by that standard of beauty. So she wants to have a pair of blue eyes. If she had a pair of blue eyes and can fulfill the standard of beauty, there’s somebody love her. But actually and true fact she did not have blue eyes and can’t fulfill the standard of beauty.
Contrast to Pecola’s longing who want to fulfill the standard of beauty and everyone loves her. She even accept cruel treatment form her society especially from her family. Like I said before, her father and her mother did not like her very much. One day, when Frieda and Claudia visited to Pecola’s house, there is something happen that make Pauline was very anger. “Mrs. Breedlove yanked her up by the arm, slapped her again, and in a voice thin with anger, abused Pecola directly and Frieda and me by implication. “Crazy fool… my floor, mess … look what you … ork get on out now out crazy … my floor, my floor … my floor. “
Her words were hotter and darker than the smoking berries, and we backed away in dread. The little girl in pink started to cry. Mrs. Breedlove turned to her. “Hush’ baby, hush. Come here. Oh, Lord, look at your dress. Don’t cry no more. Polly will change it. ”(85) That borned out that Pauline did not love Pecola very much and she prefer that baby than her daughter, Pecola. Her father is very cruel. He raped her own daughter and this made Pecola thought that her life is very bad and make her frustration.
She thought that if she had a white skin and beautiful girl maybe her mother and her father did not do bad thing to her. So do her friends. Her friends did bad thing to Pecola too. She was ever mocked by black boys (Bay Boy,Woodrow Cain, BuddyWilson, Junie Bug ), “Black e mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepsnekked. Black e mo black e mo ya dadd sleeps nekked. Black e mo … ” and Maureen did too “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute! ”. Everything her friends and her family did to Pecola made Pecola hated herself. Her face was very ugly and her body was black skin.
The ugliness from herself have made her think about herself. One day, she has ever seen in front of the mirror and thought that she was really ugly and everyone did not want she is there. “Long hours she sat looking in the mirror, trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at school, by teachers and classmates alike. She was the only member of her class who sat alone at a double desk. The first letter of her last name forced her to sit in the front of the room always. But what about Marie Appolonaire? Marie was in front of her, but she shared a desk with Luke Angelino.
Her teachers had always treated her this way. They tried never to glance at her, and called on her only when everyone was required to respond. ”(Morrison, 37) She thought that how beautiful she is if she has blue eyes. Yeah she wanted to have blue eyes. So their friend like and love her and did not something make her be anger and hate at herself. “Why, look at pretty-eyed Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty eyes. ” Pretty eyes. Pretty blue eyes. Big blue pretty eyes. Run, Jip, run. Jip runs, Alice runs. Alice has blue eyes. Jerry has blue eyes. Jerry runs. Alice runs.
They run with their blue eyes. Four blue eyes. Four pretty blue eyes. Blue-sky eyes. ”(Morrison, 37) For reach her purpose to get blue eyes, she went to meet Soaphead who work in church. “Do what for you? ” “I can’t go to school no more. And I thought maybe you could help me. ” “Help you how? Tell me. Don’t be frightened. ” “My eyes. ” “What about your eyes? ” “I want them blue. “(Morrison, 146) But Soaphead lies Pecola. He made something that did not make sense. He tried to lie with reaction of the dog. If the dog had strange behavior, it meant that her purpose had been acceded.
She had blue eyes. But the dog behaves strangely and made Pecola thought that she has had blue eyes. In the end, she seemed crazy because she always talk with her own self. She felt she have had a pair blue eyes. The bluest eyes she had than Alice and Jerry in storybooks, bluer than Joanna’s, bluer than Michelena’s. pecola had the bluest eyes than her friends. Pecola and Psychological Problem Psychoanalysis discuss psychological problem in character. Character that loss identity and happen struggle at self to be interesting discussion in The Bluest Eyes novel. The main character is Pecola.
In the beginning story there’s no happen in Pecola’s mind but after she always get ill treatment from her mother, her father and her friends, her character has changed. Her society makes herself change. Pecola does not thank to God upon her body’s condition. Even she hates herself and want to be the other that have blue eyes. Everything she has done include goes to Church to meet Soaphead that she believe can accede her dream want to have a pair of blue eyes. Unfortunately, she is just eleven years old girl and does not know that her condition can’t change because that is nature form birth.
Soaphead is easier to lie her and make her seem crazy because she feel she have had blue eyes and in the end story she seems talk to herself and proud to have blue eyes. How sad she is. “The Bluest Eye portrays in poignant terms the tragic condition of the blacks in racist America. It examines how the ideologies perpetuated by the dominant groups and adopted by the marginalgroups influence the identity of the black women. Bombarded by image of white beauty, Morrison’s characters lose themselves to selfhatred and their only aim in life is to be white.
They try to erase their heritage, and eventually like Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist,who yearns for blue eyes, have no recourse except madness. ”(Bharati, Joshi, 39) Conclusion The bluest eyes is a novel that tell about the tragic condition of the black in racist America. Pecola that have black skin and does not fulfill the standard of beauty feel suffer and do everything to do fulfill that standard although in the end of the story she seems crazy because she has hallucination have a pair of bluest eyes. It show psychological problem at herself. Her family and her society that make her become to want the standard of beauty.
The Bluest Eye
Contrasting Images: How Comparing Two Ideas Helps Emphasize Theme in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison uses the classic Dick and Jane primers to contrast the unusual relationships that are established within the novel between family members or loved ones. The primers are helpful in doing so because they represent what is considered to be the ideal version of the perfect family, and therefore emphasize the dysfunctional relationships that exist within the Breedlove family.
This introduces the novel’s main point that although the characters in the novel may blame their unhappiness on their race, it is their lack of successful, loving relationships with others that are keeping them from being truly happy.
Morrison is using these ideas to prompt readers to question how the lack of having supportive relationships affects the members of the Breedlove family. In this essay I will argue that the contrast between the Dick and Jane primer and the Breedlove family can be used to show the unhappiness of the Breedloves.
This can be seen by evaluating the relationships formed within the Breedlove family, between Pecola Breedlove and animals, and between Cholly Breedlove and his sexual partners. On the first page of the novel, before Morrison introduces the main characters of The Bluest Eye, she repeats a Dick and Jane children’s primer three times. The first time with perfect punctuation, then with no punctuation, then finally with no punctuation and no spaces between words.
The article “Transgression as Poesis in The Bluest Eye” by Shelley Wong suggests that the first time the primer is stated it is used to represent the ideal “American family typified in the novel by the white Fisher family… The second version is then associated with the family of…Claudia MacTeer, a family admitting of some disorder… The final run-on version is said to depict the utter breakdown of order among the Breedloves” (472). This idea is significant because it introduces the idea of classifying the families in order of superiority by race, which is how the members of the Breedlove family also classify themselves.
However, it is evident that the Dick and Jane family is kind and loving to one another, and perhaps this is the reason they are happier, not due to their race. By further exploring some specific sections of the novel one is able to better evaluate the significance of contrasting the Breedlove’s with the Dick and Jane story. One of the first chapters of the text uses the primer to introduce the idea of the perfect family, which is immediately contrasted by the Breedlove family. An example of this is Pauline’s reaction to her daughter, Pecola, accidently spilling the berry cobbler.
Pauline does not care if Pecola is hurt and even though “the burn must have been painful, for [Pecola] cried out and began hopping about just as Mrs. Breedlove entered… and with the back of [Mrs. Breedlove’s] hand knocked [Pecola] to the floor” (Morrison 109). This image is disturbing because in a caring family, such as the one represented in the Dick and Jane story, a mother never hits her daughter. This shows Pecola’s unhappiness as she lives in fear of disappointing her mother and is always afraid of making the slightest mistake.
Another example of how their relationship is unhealthy is Pauline’s reaction to Pecola saying that her father had raped her. When Pecola is asked “why didn’t you tell Mrs. Breedlove… I don’t mean about the first time. I mean about the second time, when you were sleeping on the couch”, Pecola responds, “She didn’t even believe me when I told her… She wouldn’t have believed me then either” (Morrison 200). It a supportive family, like in the Dick and Jane story, a daughter should be able to talk to her mother about things without feeling judged.
The fact that Pauline does not even believe Pecola about something as serious as rape shows how this relationship is so dysfunctional. This quotation is also significant because the voice that is asking Pecola about her mother is actually her imaginary friend. This proves that Pecola is unhappy because she feels so isolated from her own family that she must imagine she has someone in her life that does care about her. Therefore, it is evident that the contrast between the Dick and Jane story and the relationships between the members of the Breedlove family can help to emphasize the unhappiness of the family.
Two family members that the Breedloves are missing that the Dick and Jane story does mention are the family pets, the cat and the dog. While the Breedlove’s do not have their own pets, Pecola does form short-lived relationships with one of each animal within the novel. In one part of the novel Pecola goes to Louis Junior’s house, and once she is inside he throws his cat at her face. Pecola tries to comfort the cat, but Junior grabs it and begins spinning it around his head.
Pecola’s effort to stop this causes them both to fall, and “in falling, Junior let go the cat, which… was thrown full force against the window. It slithered down and fell on he radiator behind the sofa” (Morrison 91). This is significant because it shows the difference between the relationship that Pecola has with the cat and the typical relationship one would have with a family cat. In trying to save the animal, Pecola ends up contributing to its death. Another example of a destructive relationship is between Pecola and Bob, the dog of Soaphead Church’s landlady.
Soaphead hates Bob because of his uncleanness, so when Pecola approaches him for help about a prayer, he takes advantage of her innocence and gives her a piece of poisoned meat and says, “‘Take this food and give it to the creature sleeping on the porch. Make sure he eats it. And mark well how he behaves… If the animal behaves strangely, your wish will be granted’” (Morrison 175). Pecola’s interaction with Bob contrasts the Dick and Jane story because the perfect family would have a dog that the children could always play with, but Pecola ends up killing the dog.
As Debra Werrein says in her article, “The Bluest Eye explores the contrast between oppressed local culture and innocent national ideal through the friction that erupts between Pecola’s life and 1940s models of childhood” (56). This is significant because it is through this distinction between the children’s relationships with animals represented in the primer and Pecola’s experience with the animals in the novel that prove how she is unhappy due to her lack of loving relationships.
The final kind of loving relationship that is represented in the novel are the relationships formed between sexual partners. Since a primer is designed for children, there is no mention of sexual partners in these stories. However, it can be assumed that this perfect version of a family that is being represented in the primer would have parents that are entirely faithful and devoted to one another. This can be contrasted by looking at the unhealthy sexual relationship between Pauline and Cholly.
Pauline discusses her disinterest in making love to her husband, and the text reads, “[Pauline] stiffens when she feels one of her paper curlers coming undone from the activity of love; imprints in her mind which one it is that is coming loose so she can quickly secure it once he is through” (Morrison 84). This quotation is important because it strongly contradicts the image that society has associated with the perfect marriage. It is evident that Pauline is discontent with her relationship with her husband as she is more concerned with her own image than with the act of love.
An additional sexual relationship that is disturbing in the novel is when Cholly rapes Pecola. Pecola tries to fight him off but ends up passing out from the shock of the situation. The text then states, “when the child regained consciousness, she was lying on the kitchen floor under a heavy quit, trying to connect the pain between her legs with the face of her mother looming over her” (Morrison 163). The quotation is worthy of attention because it shows the confusion and fear that Pecola feels from such an act against her will.
Also, it shows Cholly’s shame, as he is too uncomfortable to even make sure she gets to bed all right, which would be an appropriate action for a father to help his daughter with. Therefore, it can be seen how the members of the Breedlove family are unable to be truly happy by evaluating the effects that these inappropriate sexual relationships have on them. In conclusion, it is through the contrast between the Dick and Jane story and the characters of the Breedlove family that one is able to see the unhappiness of the family members.
The inclusion of the primer in the text may at first suggest that the Breedloves are unhappy due to their race. However, by examining the relationships between the family members and one another, animals, and sexual partners, it is evident that their lives are unfulfilled because of the lack of people they have that support and care for them. Therefore, Morrison proves that although one may initially believe that having what is considered an attractive outward appearance is key to living a fulfilling life, it is having successful, loving relationships with others that make one truly happy.
Literary elements in the bluest eye
In 1970, Toni Morrison published an intense novel, The Bluest Eye, to show the world the effects that internal racism had on African American families during the 1940s. The novel begins during the month of autumn, a time of confusion, contempt, and corruption in the life of the young narrator, Claudia. In the course of this portion of the story, Morrison eloquently portrays the potential effectiveness of literature through her master use of literary elements. Setting, mood, tone, and imagery are among the most prominent elements used to convey the harshness of the character’s lives in this rather contentious plot.
During the course of autumn, Morrison takes the reader through the numerous settings in the lives of the novel’s characters, including the McTeer home, the Breedlove Apartment, and the whorehouse directly above the apartment. All of which are located in Lorain, Ohio. The McTeer house, home to Mr. and Mrs. McTeer, Claudia, Frieda, and, for some time, Pecola, is conveyed to be a somewhat adequate living space for the family; however, it is by no means comfortable.
Claudia describes the space as being old, cold, green, peopled by roaches and mice; yet, this dwelling was a white man’s mansion compared to the retched condition of the Breedlove apartment. Hidden in the frame of an abandoned store, resided the equally abandoned bodies of Pecola, Pauline, and Cholly Breedlove. The building was a mirror of the very lives of its occupants; both were virtually invisible to the outside world, bland in adornment, and scarred by the effects of their pasts.
Seemingly out of place, directly above the Breedlove apartment lies the livelier home of the neighborhood whores, China, Poland, and Mrs. Marie. This location was Pecola’s escape, the one place she could forget her life in the apartment and enjoy the companionship of people who cared about her. The settings of the characters as described in the beginning of Morrison’s novel are essential to understanding their fundamental nature as human beings.
In addition to the severe descriptions of her novel’s setting, Morrison reveals the character’s innermost beings with an evident mood of embitterment within the first portion of, The Bluest Eye. It is a mood most powerfully conveyed through Pecola’s utter contempt toward the white race. It first made apparent to the reader when Pecola arrives to the McTeer home and drinks milk from the Shirley Temple cup. Drinking all three quarts of the family’s supply of milk, Pecola cannot seem to get enough of to drink.
Or, is it that she continues to drink the white goodness in hopes of changing her chocolate skin into the beautiful fair complexion of the young child star featured on the cup? Claudia reveals her resentment toward little Temple when she sneeringly drifts into jealous thoughts about the golden-locked girl dancing with her dearest Bojangles. The reader encounters this same attitude in Claudia as she dismembers a toy doll in an effort to figure out what the blue-eyed beauty attained that made it so loveable.
During autumn, Morrison portrays a corrupting mood of pure bitterness toward the white population through the attitudes of the novel’s characters. Along with a revelation of the characters’ dispositions through the setting and mood of her novel, Toni Morrison enables the reader to gain a better grasp on the true meaning of her work by the colloquial and cynical tone of the plot. Morrison often uses vernacular that is common to the characters in the novel, so that the reader can relate to the novel’s situations on a more personal level, which gives the story an idiomatic tone.
The novel reflects a cynical tone by the way that the characters, most especially the Breedloves, adopt the world’s opinion of their inherent ugliness onto themselves. When Pecola looks at herself in the mirror, she can see her dark deep-set eyes and bushy eyebrows; yet, she fails to notice her high cheekbones and voluptuous lips. Marked by this cynical assumption, the characters lives are eternally condemned to carry the burdens of a self-imposed conjecture.
Morrison gives the plot a colloquial and cynical tone, with the intention of conveying the true essence of the novel. Imagery is another enlightening literary device implemented by Morrison. Claudia’s puking incident in the opening of the novel is the first crude picture the reader is given of the realities of the McTeer’s lives. Though it is quite the gruesome portrait, Morrison successfully gets the message of the family’s harsh situation across early in the novel. Imagery can also be found in the repetitive descriptions of the blonde haired, blue-eyed white population.
Morrison’s exaggerated reflections of Pecola’s appearance shows the reader that the characters were so consumed with their lack of self-worth that they are blinded from the truth. The use of imagery in the novel shows the extent to which the African American race suffers with internal racism during the course of autumn. The Bluest Eye draws a horrific, yet realistic picture of the mark that internal racism left on America in the 1940s. Morrison effectively portrays this portrait by the use of various literary elements. The most frequently and prominently used in her novel are setting, mood, tone, and imagery.
The Bluest Eye is a novel written by Toni Morrison an
The Bluest Eye is a novel written by Toni Morrison, an African-American novelist and a Nobel Prize winner. The novel is set in the 1940s during which the African-American women were under great pressure to conform and satisfy the beauty standards that were put, that were; the ideal blond hair, blue eyes and white skin. The novel focuses on many different themes such as sexuality, race, beauty, and family. One of the major themes is social class. Social status plays a big role throughout the novel and it can be seen through different characters.
The focus in this essay will mainly be on the Breedloves. A dark skinned family, that are portrayed in a quite different manner than the other families.The Breedloves is a family of four; Cholly, the father. Pauline the mother and their son and daughter named Sammy and Pecola. The Breedloves are represented as an unstable poor family that seem to face problems leading from accepting themselves physically to being financially stable.
They are the unluckiest family shown in the novel, suffering from being accepted in the community. Every family member having their own internal battle in order to be loved and accepted. Morrison portrays them in a unique way, displaying how the judgement of the society, the social classes and self hatred leads to self destruction. Home and family being one of the main themes also illustrates the idea of self-worthiness. Being dark skinned was already a disadvantage during that period, therefore having a home created a sense of value. The Breedloves are portrayed as socially lowest class in the novel. Not owning a proper home they are automatically considered the most inferior ones. As quoted in the novel, [The Breedloves] lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed because they believed they were ugly.’ This also refers back to the theme of beauty and ugliness. Showing that the Breedloves never thought of them as self worthy and always referred to themselves as ugly. Furthermore in the novel it also mentions how the father happened to be one of the reasons why the Breedloves didn’t have a stable home.The MacTeer, another black family in the novel, are characterised quite oppositely to the Breedloves.Quoted in the novel, There is a difference between being put out and being putThe distinction was subtle but final….Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership.'(ch1) This quote illustrating how the MacTeers were seeking for the ownership and the racial independence, while the Breedloves were destroying their home. Another contrast between the two families is the presence of love. Although the mother of Frieda and Claudia MacTeer is shown as a strict uncaring woman, but in reality she cares and loves her daughters. And this is not shown in the Breedloves family. Pecola is constantly called ugly by her own mother and is abused and raped by her father. Which also leads to the fact that although the Breedloves and The MacTeers happen to be the same race there’s a huge difference between their lives.Not only does Morrison display the Breedloves different from the rest of the black families, but she also includes how every member of the Breedlove family is suffering physically and internally. Cholly for instance is shown as an alcoholic who beats and abuses his wife and daughter due to his past experience and hatred towards women that are seen as socially and legally less powerful. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, and helpless.'(ch8)This quote illustrating Cholly’s belief toward the white men that had humiliated him. Mentioning how the white were more superior than the black and how he felt emasculated. The self hatred is what leads to his attitude towards his family and their destruction. Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist of the novel, suffers from abuse. She, as stated before, is considered ugly. When she was born her own mother found her unpleasing. All through we can see that Pecola desires one thing that is to be loved. How do you do that? I mean how do you get someone to love you?'(Ch1) This shows that pecola is deprived of one thing that a family should or at least is expected to have. Which is slightly ironic because of the fact that they are called the Breedloves’ yet there is no love between them. Another black female character in the novel, Claudia MacTeer is presented as the opposite of Pecola. Where Pecola wishes for white beauty, Claudia despises the idea. Pecola desires for blue eyes, that are seen as a symbol of beauty, in hopes of being noticed. This shows how Morrison uses the idea of beauty to differentiate between the two.Pauline Breedlove, Pecola’s mom wishes she had the perfect life as shown in the movies. Living in a fantasy world, she tries to avoid her own family. Neglecting the children and constantly fighting her husband. She despises her marriage and the only way she feels better for herself is by working as a housemaid for a white family. And just like Pecola she constantly wishes for that white beauty. While Claudia’s mother is shown the opposite. She works hard, trying to earn enough for her family and loves her daughters.Moreover, Morrison continues stressing the fact that not only was race the reason for the Breedloves breakdown, but also the psychological issues and self-hatred greatly impacted too, as quoted, The Breedloves did not live in a storefront… they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly’. (ch1)In conclusion, using themes such as dreams,beauty and social class Toni Morrison portrays the Breedloves as the poorest in the novel. Showing how the pressure from the society, one’s internal love and self-worthiness can lead to destructions. And these destructions not only affecting the one person but the whole family as well causing them to become an outcast.
Communities shape the way people think about themselves and the people around
Communities shape the way people think about themselves and the people around. There reflect the ideas, beliefs and socio-economic realities that people share as a collective whole. Who interact with and how they react can foster a sense of belonging or lead to rejection and isolation. Culture, society, environment seem to play an important role in the shaping identities. Sometimes different things that shape identity range from a wide variety of values and belief to experiences. In novels The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Good People by David Foster Wallace, The Swimmer by John Cheever, and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, writers use similar conflics for their protagonists.
They create a tragedy where the protagonist must struggle between the ideal standard of life set by the prevailing culture and their real one to decide what the character’s desire. The mainstream culture spreads among people and it affects their self-definition. In these works of literature above show that characters want to fill an emotional or personal void by the importance of identity, the formation of self, and the influence of the environment and society acceptation.
In The Bluest Eye the perception of beauty is based on skin color and can affect one’s identity if someone does not fit society’s expectation. A community affected by poverty, institutionalized racism, sexual abuse has an influence on a little girl named Pecola Breedlove. It shapes her own self-image, as she is constantly reinforced with negative messages about herself and her family. This eventually leads her to believe that there is something inherently wrong with her appearance. The only way that it can be fixed, so she can be accepted by anyone, is to have blue eyes: Adult, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs ” all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured (Page 20). Pecola has been affected by society’s racism and feels worthless to everyone around her because of the abuse she receives from her father, mother, strangers, and other children. The standard of beauty is being a pretty white girl. Not being white, she is therefore labeled as ugly. In Pecola’s view on society, ugly people do not get attention, they do not deserve attention. Society rejects acknowledging her as a human being. She internalizes society’s racism and accepts this weakened perception of herself, and her low self-esteem disables any ability for Pecola to form a sense of self. Since she is unable to form mature relationships and have positive experiences to integrate and accumulate over her short lifetime, she is forced to create a second identity to satisfy her need for human interaction and acceptance.Similarly, in the novel Good People represents the nervousness of making an extremely difficult decision to belong in that society. This is a story of a young Christian couple, Lane A Dean, Jt., and Sheri Fisher, who deal with the hardships of an unplanned pregnancy and the decisions involved in young parenthood. Lane and Sheri must consider their moral values and religious beliefs before deciding on what to do. Religion is a global phenomenon, present across all cultures, and as such, each one colors those cultures differently and even creates subcultures with modified values from the general population. This cultural divide between the religious and the nonreligious can often obvious itself within a single individual when he is forced into a situation in which his religious values oppose his secular wisdom. Faced with a complex moral situation that seems to demand a grimmer outlook: Something in him, though, some terrible weakness or lack of values, could not tell her. It felt like a muscle he did not have. He didn’t know why; he just could not do it, or even pray to do it. They both seem to be struggling against what their beliefs and values are telling them is right, though they cannot identify or name what it is inside them that are struggling. While the religious references greatly help with establishing the characters’ personalities, it is the style in which the characters’ thought processes are presented illustrate best. In the case of Lane and Sheri have to make the decision whether or not to have an abortion. Ultimately, his right of passage is the fact that he is faced with such a difficult choice. There are many variables and competing desires, and yet he can find a sense of comfort in ideas like love and trust his heart. This reflects an individualistic cultural aspect that is more likely due to his background than his religious beliefs.Moreover, in the novel The Swimmer represents the emptiness of modern American society and the meaningless and lying of the society in the middle and upper classes. The story is about a man named Neddy who decides to go home by swimming from one neighbors’ pool to the other. As he goes through each pool, the landscape around Neddy changes as he changes. As Neddy encounters different friends, he starts to realize that he has forgotten different facts and dismisses all doubt from his mind about his forgetfulness and continues in his journey. The main theme for this story is accepting the passing of time will lead to a better life rather than denying its passing and the problems that come along with it. Neddy denies the passing of time throughout the story to keep his seemingly perfect life, even though he has many problems occurring throughout his life. When he sees that his house is dark and unkempt, Neddy considers several different explanations – all based on remembering a successful life. He wonders if his daughters have all gone to bed and if his wife had stayed for supper at the neighbor’s. He is surprised that she is not at home as usual on a Sunday. He sees the gutter hanging loose and assumes the storm had done this. He thinks he can fix the gutter in the morning, as he normally would do. When Neddy finds that the door of his home is locked, he assumes his cook or maid locked it by mistake. So Neddy relies on his coping mechanism of ignoring obvious problems and, as a result, tries to explain away ominous signs. He keeps on trying to delude himself until he is forced to confront the truth. The house is empty; his family has left him; he is alone. The more he has, the less he has. To fill the void inside him, he immerses himself in alcohol and swimming pools during his journey through life. Neddy’s preoccupation with material success and social standing leave him feeling empty. He ends up an empty man with an empty house and an empty bank account.Additionally, My Sister’s Keeper illustrates the controversial issues behind the individual’s rights to their own bodies based on love and mutual acceptance. The story follows that of the Fitzgerald family, afflicted by the eldest daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of leukemia. Her Parents, Brian and Sara, decided to go through fertilization to conceive a genetic match. As Anna, the genetically modified child who will serve as Kate’s reluctant donor and willing savior. To avoid being forced to donate a kidney to Kate, Anna saves up her own money and hire a lawyer, Campell Alexander, to sue her own parents: I want to sue [my parents] for the rights to my own body (19). It is the formal declaration of her desire to choose her own life, even if that choice directly affects her sister’ life. Anna’s whole existence happened because Kate was ill. It’s a weird situation to be in, kind of having to be grateful that your older sister has cancer: It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy Certainly, I would not be part of this family (14). Anna has some feeling that she does not fit into their family. Anna, though, for better or for worse, knows that this is her family”she was created specifically for them: I used to pretend that I was just passing through this family on my way to my real one. (57). The fact that Anna feels i
nvisible. She feels like she is not a typical teenage girl with boy problems, a hockey game to practice for, and homework to do, and instead of her mom, Sara, sees her only as a donor. Being simply a mass of cells to keep someone else alive makes Anna feel less than human.To summarize, several characters in the stories have social needs and want to belong by using a variety of behaviors to bring themselves closer to being accepted by others and themselves. There are significant ties between understanding and belonging. One needs to be understood through their relationships with others before they can be accepted and effectively belong to society and themselves. The expectations of relationships, society, and perception of belonging can subsequently be a driving force for individuals to rebel against conformity. Belonging or connections with others allows one to develop a distinct identity characterized that by affiliation, acceptance, and association. To gain a full understanding of belonging, it is essential to experience some significant hardships. In struggling to belong to someone else, an opportunity arises to carefully decide how much or whether lessons can be learned or ignored. These endeavors shape and develop the understanding of belonging not just to society but themselves.