Identity Crisis in a Racist World
Identity Crisis in a Racist World as reflected by Toni Morrison in The Bluest Eye
The present paper is an attempt to study the thematic concerns of the novel The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. In her first novel The Bluest Eye (1970), Toni Morrison has shown thrown light on the black consciousness of the 1960s that was characterized by identity crisis resultant of struggle for personal and racial identity. The novel revolves around the tragic tale of a young black girl who has a staunch desire for a pair of blue eyes because she considers by having blue eyes she will become beautiful and worthy.
Morrison brings forth the disastrous effects of inter race prejudice upon innocent black girls who are left traumatized bereft of any individuality.
Toni Morrison was passionately inclined to writing endowed with a new insight into black history, the great suffering and trauma suffered by her race. She wanted her novels to serve the purpose of a reformer in the right sense of the term. She felt the oppression that the black people have been subjected to, is something highly disturbing in nature that the blacks consider it is the lack of beauty aspects in them which is the cause of their disgrace and humiliation. The blacks wishing to have beauty aspects like blue eyes, blond hair and white skin on par with the whites is the central idea in the novel.
It is a profoundly sensitive issue to the blacks and it is a tragic condition for them in a racist social order. The novel centers on racism; black stands for something dark, evil, and bad while white stands for purity, virtue, hope and innocence. Morrison brings into focus that racism tarnishes the self image of the black girls and leaves adverse psychological effects in their psyche.
The protagonist of the novel The Bluest Eye, Pecola Breedlove belongs to a poor black family and yearns for blue eyes like white children so that there would be mutual reciprocation of her feelings, and attitude on par with the whites. She wants to be loved and accepted by both the whites and blacks. She feels that absence of complexion and blue eyes is the main reason for poor personality.
She is forced to long for blue eyes like those of white children and surrounded by cultural message that she is ugly by definition; she can achieve peace only by retreating into schizophrenia. The agony and pain of Pecola is all the more worse when her own father outraged her modesty. She is made to live a life of fetters for no fault of her own. The people around her view her as a pitiable person reduced to nothing. Her desire is something which cannot be fulfilled. The world that Pecola lives in is one which reduces persons to mere objects.
Toni Morrison exposes the radical effects of racism on the black girls. The pitiable plight of Pecola is the outcome of fierce racism and interracial conflicts of myths. The failure of Pecola is not only because of her hopeless desire for blue eyes but it is also because of her lack of self confidence. She has a deep rooted feeling that she is ugly and the intensity of feeling is such that she finds it difficult to uproot it even from her sub conscious mind. When such a feeling is accompanied by external humiliation it is her inferior complex that gets aggravated. Her mother calls her ugly since her childhood days and her father hates her because she is ugly. Her parents fail to give Pecola the necessary love and affection.
Pecola’s struggle for identity is defined by her everlasting desire to be loved. Her family and community made it impossible for her to be ever sanely content. Cholly Breedlove, the father and eventually the rapist of Pecola is a bastard. He was born to an unwed mother, his father ran away the day of his birth and his mother abandoned him three days later. This horrible beginning reflects his every day views and actions. After the death of his legal guardian (his aunt), Cholly decides that as an inner mission he needs to find his father to find himself. To understand who he is, he has to look into his past; a long search ends in an extremely disappointing and crushing experience. Cholly’s private life is still painful. Being a black victim he is forced to have sex with two white police officers.
Forcing him to have sex they just chuckled from behind. These episodes left a huge impact on him that eventually caused him to do something that would not have happened had he had proper guidance in those areas. Cholly’s family and his community contributed in making the man he became and thus his eventual downfall.
Almost all characters in The Bluest Eye are after something. Having lost themselves they look in for their identity. Pecola yearns for blue eyes. At the end of the novel she believes that she has those eyes. She thinks that people treat her funny because of her blue eyes and she has learned to accept that happily. She yearned for the acceptance and love of society seen through her eyes. No matter if that acceptance and love were there or not, she thought it was and therefore was able to survive.
Pecola’s search for her identity ends in her insanity. Although she is not accepted by society for reasons she does not understand, she puts exclusion from society into terms she can comprehend. Society influences her identity and moulds her into what she becomes by not giving her the guidance and approval she needs. In the same way Cholly found himself separated from the community. He does an act of inhumanity and he could not live with the realization of the monster he had become and he disappeared. As a man he does not know who he is.
W. E. Du Bois in his book, The Souls of Black Folk gauges the deleterious impact of racism on cultural self consciousness and identity. The term, ?double consciousness’, refers to two distinct realitiesa psychological conflict between opposing cultural world views and debilitating resolution in which extremely derived and distorted perceptions of the self constitute a single, but alienated self- consciousness.
Du Bois further notes that it is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.
The Bluest Eye inspired a climate of revolution and evolving black consciousness of the sixties, a period characterized by an almost evangelical struggle for personal and racial identity. Morrison chooses the obsession of the blacks with an American standard of beauty that seems both inescapable and destructive. The novelist states that that concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the dumbest, most pernicious and destructive ideas of the western world.
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