The Bluest Eye


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The Bluest Eye is a brilliantly written novel revealing the fictional trauma of an eleven-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove. This story takes place in the town of Lorain, Ohio during the 1940’s. It is told from the perspective of a young girl named Claudia MacTeer. She and her sister, Frieda, become witness to the terrible plights Pecola is unintentionally put through. Pecola chooses to hide from her disabling life behind her clouded dream of possessing the ever so cherished “bluest of eyes”. The Breedlove’s constant bickering and ever growing poverty contributes to the emotional downfall of this little girl. Pecola’s misery is obtained through the touch of her father’s hand and the voice of her community’s struggle with racial separation, anger, and ignorance. Her innocence is harshly ripped from her grasp as her father rapes her limp existence. The community’s anger with it’s own insecurities is taken out on this poor, ugly, black, non-ideal, young girl. She shields herself from this sorrow behind her obsessive plea for blue eyes. But her eyes do not replace the pain of carrying her fleeing father’s baby. Nor do they protect her from the shady eyes of her neighbors. Though this book discuses negative and disturbing situations, it teaches a very positive lesson.

The theme of The Bluest Eye is that of depending on outside influences to become aware of one’s own beauty and to fabricate one’s own self image can be extremely damaging. I feel that Toni Morrison showed this through each of her characters especially the obvious, Pecola Breedlove.

One incident, for example, is when Claudia, Frieda, Pecola, and Maureen Peal, a well-loved “beauty” of Lorain, are walking home from school. As the girls saunter down the street, they begin to bicker. The conversation ends with Maureen stomping away and establishing the fact that she is indeed “cute”. Claudia then thinks to herself, “If she was cute--and if anything could be believed, she was--then we were not. And what did that mean? We were lesser. Nicer, brighter, but still lesser. Dolls we could destroy, but we could not destroy the honey voices of parents and aunts, the obedience in the eyes of our peers, the slippery light in the eyes of our teachers when they encouraged the Maureen Peals of the world. What was the secret? What did we lack? Why was it important? And so what?. . . And all the time we knew that Maureen Peal was not the Enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred.

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The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.”(74) Claudia and Frieda are engulfed in the mindset of this “picture perfect” girl all of the parents and friends ogled over. They allow this incident to not only let Maureen rise above them with her power of snobbish beauty, but to shrink their self-esteem into what Maureen had decided it should be.

Pauline, Pecola’s self-centered mother, has also been caught up in the excitement of radiance. She constantly is depending on the movies to decree the characteristics of beauty. “She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen”(122). As many people now a-days do, Pauline relies on the movies to dictate to her who was beautiful, and who was not. This forces Pauline to immediately decide whom she would care for and whom she would ignore. Since her daughter, Pecola, is black, and therefore non-ideal, she chooses to love a little white girl more than her own flesh and blood

Pauline’s obsession with the white girl she cares for causes Pecola’s life to head downwards in a destructive spiral. This spiral for Pecola includes assuming that everyone is jealous of her new found beauty, her blue eyes. She decides that the reason her neighbors refuse to talk to her is because they are resentful of her imaginary eyes. “I’d just like to do something else besides watch you stare in that mirror. You’re just jealous. I am not. You are. You wish you had them. Ha. What would I look like with blue eyes? Nothing much”(194). In Pecola’s world, pulchritude is what keeps everyone away. This concept of beauty is driving her into a world of delusion. In order for Pecola to be happy, she creates the reverie of being beautiful. She assumes that there is no beauty to be found within her thin, black, little self. So she generates the idea that if she possesses the ideal blue eyes, people will start looking at her with the same respect and love as the rich white girls.

Ultimately, this novel discloses the insecurities about beauty found in everyone; not just young black girls like Pecola. Toni Morrison stunningly proves the overlooked fact that to depend on outside sources for your happiness, you deny yourself the chance at being and loving who you are; that is the worst thing you could do.

Unfortunately, many young girls have trouble with insecurities about their looks, just as Pecola does. Friends and myself included. In many instances, I have struggled with the way I looked.

I remember growing up with the popularity of Barbie-Dolls. I looked down upon myself for not having that long blonde hair and those dreamy blue eyes. On a few occasions, I had paraded around the house in a blonde wig. I praised myself for the beauty I had acquired. But as soon as the wig fell to the floor, the real me was revealed and I was ashamed. “Why was I cursed with brown hair and eyes?” I had repeatedly asked myself. I didn’t realize the destruction I was imposing upon myself with these depressing questions. As I grew up, I became fond of my puppy dog eyes and flowing hair. I became aware of the fact that one does not have to have long legs, sea blue eyes, and white-like hair to be considered beautiful. Luckily, I was able to understand this concept; some friends of mine did not however.

My friend refuses to leave her house without a mirror because she’s so terrified that her makeup will smudge or her hair will twist in the wrong direction. And if this terrible ordeal ever did happen to her, she would look nothing like the model on the cover of the magazine she’d just read. It makes me sad when I see her hound herself for not being the perfect height or the perfect weight or the perfect color. It’s depressing to see someone so beautiful at heart to look in the mirror with disgust at her/his reflection. Hopefully she’ll grow up and learn to love herself. But until then, she is sadly stuck in the same boat as little Pecola Breedlove.


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