The Problems Faced By Black Children In The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer


Over time, human perceptions of each other based on race have changed. Race has caused many problems throughout generations because it has divided society into specific categories. People have established certain prejudices based on beauty standards. Society opinion on beauty was whiteness. When whiteness is considered superior, white people are considered more attractive by definition and people of other races who deviate from that standard, they are considered unattractive. Unfortunately, children are more likely to suffer from these prejudices. For many years, the rights of children with black skin were severely violated. People did not treat them the same way as they did the white children. Period movies, books and advertisements are evidence to all of this. In the book The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, illustrates some the problems faced by Black children. Unfortunately, in the text below, I will attempt to illustrate how parents’ treatment and disposition towards children can be linked to the child’s physical appearance.

Standard of Beauty

The Bluest Eye is a story about a Black American girl, Pecola Breedlove. During 1940s, the middle class and lower class of black society were divided. For example, Maureen Peal a light-skinned black girl, was a class above of Macteer’s (another black family) and Breedlove’s.

“I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly”.

This quote reveals the importance of perceived a person’s beauty based on their skin color. Maureen Peal thinks her lighter skin makes her look more white, beautiful, and more superior over the darker girls. Pecola has been thought that because of her skin color she is not considered beautiful and it makes her feel unconfident and dislike herself. Every store and magazine were advertising a lots of pictures of white people saying how pretty they are, looking at this everyday would affects the self-esteem of physical beauty of everyone. In The Bluest Eye, Morrison states:

“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 girl child treasured”

Society as a Socialization Agent

Pecola experiencing all this at such a young age, contributing to her emotions of feeling worthless and ugly. She continually focused on the negative attention she receives because of the color of her skin. Once Pecola went to play at Geraldine’s son’s house and was racially abused there. Geraldine’s family is another black family in the community of Lorain, Ohio. The black boy who Pecola was playing with, accidentally kills his cat and decides blame it Pecola, because he did not want to get in trouble. When Geraldine came back home and found out what happened, got angry and yelled at Pecola:

“You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house…”.

Geraldine hates Pecola because she is black. Geraldine’s son sees his mother treat black differently, so he learns to do the same and later when he grown he will teach his own children to discriminate black people. Even at school, white kids had more privileges than black kids, and teachers treated them with respect.

Family as Socialization Agent

Society influences the way children feel as adults and about themselves. As result, this causes a negative influence on the development of their personalities. However, besides the society, family is another big socialization agent. Pecola experienced racism not only from her peers, but also from her own family. For example, we can find differences between relationship Pecola and her mother, and Mrs. MacTeers and her daughters. Mrs. MacTeers loves and cares about her daughters while Pauline, mother’s Pecola, shows that she does not care for her daughter Pecola. One day, Mrs. Breedlove took Pecola to work wither, where she was taking care of little white girl, Pecola tried to help Mum with a pie and by accident knocks a it onto the floor. The white girl that Mrs. Breedlove cares for saw it and started to cry. That is made Mrs. Breedlove mad and she yells at Pecola,

“Crazy fool… my floor, mess… look what you…”

But, unlike her reaction to her own black child, she tries to calm down unrelated white girl saying to her:

“Hush. Don’t worry none.”

We see how Pauline is showing love to her employers’ daughter, who had blue eyes and white skin, but she never did the same with her own daughter. Mrs. Breedlove did not do good job in her parenting responsibility because she could not educate and guide her daughter. She did not care about Pecola and left her to discrimination and hate. She wanted her life to be good, until she stared to work for white people. Mrs. Breedlove was influenced by the white culture and wanted to be a good servant at the same time she forgot that she is mother. Her role as a mother had not been fulfilled since she had abandoned her daughter who was being mistreated while she lived a happy life.

Compared to Mr MacTeer and his daughter, Pecola did not have as good a relationship with her father. Mr. MacTeer protects and cares about her daughters, while Cholly Breedlove hated his daughter Pecola. This contrast in parenting among the two families affects the emotional and spiritual condition of children. Pecola grows up feeling hatred towards herself because it is important for any child to have parental guidance because it creates a strong foundation on how to tackle any issues in life that could arise from a young age. Because of all this Pecola felt unworthy and ugly. She thought that the bluest eyes and white skin would change her life, and her parents and other people would not consider her ugly anymore. She wanted to be white so much that she drinks a lot of milk and hopes that she will become whiter. Another way shows her desire to be white, is when she goes to Garden Avenue, and buys candies named Mary Janes. This candy shows a white girl with blues eyes on them.

”She eats the candy, and its sweetness is good. To eat the candy somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane.”

These problems remained unresolved and it inherited by the children, and they will transmit to the next generations. Throughout the story, beliefs of children remain the same as their parents leaving them feeling unhappy, unconfident and ugly.

“Imitation of life” – evidences of black people discrimination

The novel The Bluest eye is not the only public media source, where we can see unfair altitude to black kids. In the movie “Imitation of life” we can find a lot of evidence of kid’s discrimination. This movie is about the girl named Peola, light-skinned enough to pass as white, tried to hide the fact that her mother was a black, and even more she despised her. Peola does not want people know she is black because she knows that society does not treat black people well. Because she does not want to discriminated, she decides to hide her background.

United Colors of Benneton – United Colors of Race

On one of the ads of United Colors of Benetton, we can see two girls are hugging each other. One of the girls is white, and the other one is black. It seems that the picture has a positive meaning, friendship between two girls of different race. But there is some details that might be not noticeable. The black girl looks sad, and the way her hair is styled is remind me a little devil. But the white girl is shown in the role of an angel, and her hair, smile and blush on the checks are the proof of this. This ad perfectly shows how people see the children, depending on their external features.


Morrison In her novel ‘The bluest eyes’ expresses the racial dilemmas which society was facing in 1940s and are created by social norms of beauty. The standard of beauty makes young girls doubt about their identities and their own beauty. The social media and society determine physical beauty and as result it affect the self-esteem of the characters in the novel. Based on the standards of beauty black people considered the least pretty. If society reconsiders their views about race, then many problems will be solved. The society’s problem is that there a race division between people. That is make children growing up with some psychological traumas. Instead of having happy childhood, kids are worries about their appearance, just because they are not white. Children should live be able live a normal life and not worry about the narrow pre-conceived opinions of others.

Works Cited

  1. Imitation of Life. 1934. Movie http://www.amazon.com/Imitation-Life-John-M-Stahl/dp/B002G7ZTDI/ref=sr_1_2?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1455839014&sr=1-2&keywords=imitation+of+life
  2. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Penguin Group, 1970.
  3. United Colors of Benneton Ad. Digital image. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-qVlyfV0e-OI/UKTQk9h58rI/AAAAAAAAAKE/2BNK2VtH-Ew/s1600/kids.jpg


Read more