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The Novel the Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison's book The Bluest Eye explores the element of self-hatred in a greatly advanced manner. Despite the fact that the novel is politically motivated, there are very few instances of overt ethnic oppression. An in-depth examination of the novel reveals that the presentation is hopefully something of a nuanced portrait of bigotry (Bryce 85). There is an aspect of the internalized collection of principles in which the characters are subjected, and which has a development of in-self victimization within the various characters. Cultural ideals based on the aspect of skin color as well as certain physical features, both function as tools of oppression. With the focal character being Pecola, the Blue Eye addresses the theme of self-hatred in varied perspectives, an aspect that equally impacts significantly on the element of race.

The Analysis of The Bluest Eye and Self-Hatred

From its developmental point in the 1940s, Blue Eye brings about the picture of an ideal family comprising of whites. From such a viewpoint, the typical family enjoys having in their possession all the good stuff that makes them happy. Anything else perceived to the contrary of the perfect family is considered wrong. Self-hatred is a derivative of racism in the novel. Such an aspect is presented in the variations in which internalized white beauty stands as the standard of beauty that ends up deforming the lives of black women and girls as they strive to attain the desired beauty of the era. Such an aspect brings about a clear depiction that whiteness stands as a preferred aspect of beauty regardless of whether it is human or doll. Unknown to many are the consequences associated with self-hatred. Ideally, self-hatred has the capability of destroying an individual entirely, and a further lead into insanity. Racially driven segregation through class and race are elements with pernicious influence on how people look at themselves. With a setting in a white dominated area, racism becomes manifest as a contributor to the society’s placement of emphasis on beauty. Common knowledge requires the definition of beauty from realistic qualities and pragmatics; however, in the case of the Blue Eye, beauty has its definition derived from the society’s view and that which the dominant class understands and perceives of beauty (McKittrick 126).

Contrary to the case presented in Blue Eye, today’s society has its understanding of what attributes beauty. To many, the beauty of a woman involves a combination of qualities such as slim body, moderately skinned, and long straight hair among others. In the novel, beauty was all about racism and perceptions of the dominant class on beauty (Bryce 102). With the elements of class and racism playing an influential role in cultural determination, the blacks faced discrimination to a higher degree and as such developing self-hatred. Indeed, beauty is an essential element for the female gender, and when popular culture has the determining factor of such an aspect, it is evident that those without the capacity of meeting the culture’s standards of beauty are likely to develop a hate for themselves on the perception of failing the beauty threshold.

Toni Morrison's novel makes a presentation of the plight of an African-American girl and the circumstances that she has to go through in a society that has no other understanding of beauty rather than of the elements of blue eye and blondness of a woman. The stereotyping of beauty as it is evident in the novel creates both an emotional and mental damage to an individual’s soul and self. Such a destruction has an important significance in the socio-economic displacement of an individual, thus resulting in the person’s dysfunction and abuses. Pecola is the primary victim of self-hatred in the novel. Being a young girl with low self-esteem, any little abuse and discrimination on her personality have a disastrous impact on the individual, thus arousing self-hatred. From the consistent attack both from her peers and the elderly, Pecola is left with nothing rather than the belief that she is indeed ugly and not worth being in association with the perceived beauties. Over time, Pecola’s perception of beauty conforms to the dominant culture’s standards and therefore, considering herself as ugly. With such an internal acceptance of being ugly despite the mental and psychological torture attributed to it, Pecola sets out to seek for self-beauty.

For a significant part of her life, racism becomes a daily encounter for Pecola. Contrary to the how the situation would be if only the whites discriminated against her, even Pecola’s fellow blacks discriminate against her on the perception that she is by far darker than the rest and therefore much inferior to her fellows. When those that you believe should stand to support you are the very ones that cast the first stones against you, there is nothing left rather than self-hatred. Despite the low self-esteem, Pecola believes she has a way out of the self-hatred, and that involves obtaining blue eyes as is the case with her white peers (McKittrick 118). Despite such an approach, the essential aspect of beautifulness being associated with white and ugliness being related to black makes Pecola seek for not just blue eyes, rather the bluest of all. Such an occurrences is a depiction of how the white beliefs stand dominant for both the American and the African American cultures. The desire for Pecola to acquire the bluest of eyes makes a clear revelation of how cultural racism is a pervasive, destructive factor to individuals, whose understanding of the circumstances lie embedded in the perception of the beliefs (Bryce 89).

The ideal standard of the society’s perception of beauty forces Pecola to idolize the beauty of famous movie stars, all of whom are blue-eyed. Additionally, the structural presentation of the novel develops a perspective of a cycle of occurrences, which presents a situation that non-escapes the cycle of life given in the society. Attainment of beauty for Pecola in her culture requires that she engages in the extraordinary colorization as that would enable her to fit into the white society and considered beautiful. Such a perspective is a clear demonstration of the disastrous effects that racism and colorism have on a society and the needed alterations that would enable one fit into the society. To be considered beautiful in the white culture is more than a compulsion and different characters, especially Pecola have to experience the loathing of their skins to fit into the society.

With incidences of the hatred of skins coming from the adults and being passed on to the young ones, it is evident that the cycle is likely to remain constant over the period and continuous creation of negativity and self-hatred. The fact that Pecola is black thus has to seek for beauty by becoming white is in itself the most self-destructing aspect. The desperate attempt in partitioning for white beauty by Pecola is a desire to pull herself out of the black pit associated with ugliness (Morrison 174). The physical features exhibited by Pecola make her feel unworthy of the society in which she lives. The physical features equally make her a victim of classical racism as she fails to meet the desired standards of beauty from the notion that the ugliness of a black woman signifies an in-depth depravity of the inner self, thus self-hate (Kuenz 428). Despite the backwardness associated with the idea that blackness attributes ugliness and a further link to the dark era before civilization, Pecola fails to meet the society’s standards of beauty measured by the elements of light skin and blue eyes. The element that one is ugly provides an opportunity for such an individual to experience the bad things associated with ugliness, which inevitably happens to those perceived ugly.

The societal standards of beauty according to Pecola is a direct connection to being loved, and therefore, she believes that by possessing the blue eyes, the cruelty she is experiencing in life will all be gone and respect and affection would take its place. With such a thought, it is evident that a person in such a situation faces the challenges of desperation, which lead to hopelessness (Morrison 65). Pecola’s desire to meet the standards of beauty in the society requires that she conforms to the perceived beauty, whose ultimate end is madness. Based on such an aspect, it is evidently clear that the desire to fulfill the wish for experiencing white beauty could eventually result in a tragic end rather than the impulse of attaining the beauty (Davis 341). The result of the standardization is that the lighter one is, the more attractive the person is; similarly the darker a person is, the uglier. Pecola is indeed presented with numerous controversies in her quest for beauty. Despite the fact that she can only attain beauty through possessing of the bluest eyes and whitening her skin, Pecola has not fully given in to the self-threatening pressure of loathing.

Even though the racial pressure seems to overwhelm her, there is the retracting element that bothers Pecola’s feeling from her attraction to flowers. She exhibits a subjective belief that flowers display the attitude of brightness and happiness; nonetheless, they stand lowest in the floral hierarchy (Kuenz 426). From a part of her understanding, Pecola experiences some element of internal confusion as she fails to understand her situation. Whereas a little belief tells her that she should be happy as it is with the flowers, the classical societal racism does not bear such understanding, and the only measure of the standard is blue eyes and light skin. Such an aspect equally makes Pecola hate herself even more. The society has made her perceived beauty fade away and a replacement needed with the white standards of beauty. To a significant extent, such an aspect is heartbreaking and self-hate for a person that fails to meet the set standards. Pecola still falls a victim of such a situation.

From an in-depth analysis of the novel, it is evident that the show of racism as determined by white beauty as well as the constant desire by the black women to acquire the perceived white beauty play a substantive destructive role to numerous characters in the novel. While Pecola is presented as the worst of the victims, other characters also feel the heat of victimization of beauty. Ideally, the internalization of white as the measure of beauty disfigures the lives of many black girls and women through self-hatred, as they believe they do not meet the standards of being beautiful. With the elderly black women leading the way in the hating the blackness of their bodies, the hatred is also taken out of the children, thus making self-hatred for the black woman an unending cycle. Pecola’s blackness faces Mrs. Breedlove’s conviction that she is ugly and further being cursed by Geraldine who is light-skinned and therefore identifies with the beautiful. Pecola with the helpless feeling of neglect and self-hate from her ‘ugliness,’ befriends prostitutes; those associated with impurity and immorality. Such an occurrence is a sense of inferiority among the superior for Pecola (Cormier-Hamilton 117).

Even though her presentation in the novel depicts a situation in which she hides her real feeling from the other characters, inwardly, she is suffering greatly. Like the others of the white race, Pecola’s family equally idolizes the white as attributed to the manner in which the mother Pauline praises the members of the family for which she works, based on their physical characteristics of white beauty. Pecola lacks the physical qualifications for the white beauty such as the light skin, good long hair, and blue eyes; however, her possession of the key emotional characteristics increases the desire to acquire the white privilege while also breaking from the black community. Unfortunately, she does not want to break from her family. Such a situation increases her self-hate of the whole white beauty stuff as Pecola stands stranded between losing her family and attaining the white beauty, all of which are attributes of the society’s standardization of beauty and ugliness, which are ideals that form the basis for self-loathing.

Ideally, Pecola’s life revolves around self-hate in most parts of the novel. Whenever an instance occurs in which the Black find themselves emulating the whites, then perpetration of hate and self-loathing occurs. Such happenings occur in situations in which the black decide to start hating their natural blackness as well as their culture at the expense of emulating the white value systems (Kuenz 431). Several examples are evident in the novel; however, the outcomes from the affected characters is indeed bad. One of such examples is the case of the black but educated individuals that make way into Lorain. To fit into their new environment, the people have to emulate the whites’ behaviors, such as talk, straightening of hair, while at the same time forced to hide their blackness in almost every aspect of life including passion, emotions, and nature among others (Cormier-Hamilton 111).

On a similar perspective, Geraldine rejects the show of affection to her son and rather shows the love and affection to the blue-eyed cat. The boy’s early lives were full of solitude attributed to his blackness. He never had a chance to play with fellow black kids as he wished, though one thing he was meant to believe was that he was better than the black boys. While cultural racism continue in the novel, the element of self-hate built in the boy as he could no longer stand the experience of boredom. The mother’s repression of love and emotional affection from him contribute to the development of hatred and destruction, which results in him killing the cat that seems to have taken his place in the mother’s affection simply because of the cat’s blue eyes. To cause more injury to Pecola’s already damaged soul, the boy blames the death of the cat on Pecola, and since she appears blacker than the kid, Geraldine fully believes in such an accusation.

A further example of self-rejection as an attribute of self-hatred is evident in Pauline’s case. From her personal internalization of ugliness and worthlessness in equal measure, she also rejects the daughter, Pecola. While denying the daughter the needed affection and comfort, Pauline comforts the white employer’s daughter, who she believes is beautiful from the possession of white perceived characteristics of beauty (Cormier-Hamilton 127). When Pecola later goes insane from her mental imbalance, the mother refuses to make communication with her, an occurrence that further hurts her inner self to the extreme. Pecola’s unpopularity causes her harassment in school while at the playground, especially from boys that believe she is black and therefore ugly. Whereas Maureen comes to her rescue from the boys, a squabble ensues when Claudia and Frieda quarrel with Maureen when she talks of Pecola’s father’s nakedness. Maureen leaves the ladies while screaming at the fact that they are black and ugly while she is beautiful (Morrison 73). The scenario deeply hurts Pecola though there is nothing much she can do to her situation. The occurrences only remind her of her self-unworthiness as her race and culture have become inferior from the standardization of what attributes beauty to the whites. One similarity exhibited by all the occurrences mentioned above is that of the black rejecting their racial identity to fit into the white race’s identity, which they have been made to believe is superior to theirs. Unfortunately, the result of all of the occurrences is either self-loathing or further hatred.

The impact of race is equally an import aspect of discussion in the analysis of Morrison’s novel. From the first instances in the book, the author tries to establish the sense of belonging to the different characters, in a way that enables them to achieve real existence rather than those that adhere to the set conservative standards of belonging. Making such an achievement is an occurrence attributed to the personal effort in the realization of the necessity and responsibility to become a happy individual. Establishing a sense of belonging conforms to the occurrence that the characters see themselves in their own eyes rather than in the eyes of other cultures (Davis 338). Acceptance of the individual’s existing state is indeed a recipe for happiness and more prosperity among people, with an event occurrence that leads to the enhancement of the particular race of interest. The most important aspect involves the realization of personalized beauty regardless of color and physical attributes as well as self-worth before they lead to an individual’s destruction (McKittrick 132). The very moment that self-worth diminishes and self-hate builds in a person; destruction becomes the obvious occurrence, whose adverse effects influence the loss of self-esteem.

While the novel for the women’s case is an illustration of ways in which cultural conceptions of beauty are a devastation to the women as seen when every female character, whether big or small tries to emulate the celebrities they adore and love. For Pecola, the obsession for white beauty is both linked to attainment of America’s beauty, rather she believes through her beauty, her parents would fight less often. While throughout the novel Pecola faces constant humiliation and victimization, all such occurrences are only but directed to her ultimate victimization when her father Cholly, rapes her. Despite the trials Pecola makes to achieve the white beauty such as the acquisition of bluest eyes, she gets to hate herself more when the father rapes her as to Cholly, the imagination of beauty is as attributed to God to include elements such as the good hair (Morrison 135). When her child that resulted from the rape finally dies towards the end of the novel, Pecola loses touch with reality and becomes insane as she lacks the capability to accept and process her circumstances.

Conclusion

With the whole town having a strange look towards her, Pecola is forced to acquire an imaginary friend with whom she can make sense of her experience. The imaginary friend in Pecola’s mind does that which no one else could; loving her and showing her affection. From Claudia’s last words on Pecola, it is conclusive to state that Pecola’s ugliness was a mere scapegoat for the people of Lorain as a means of making themselves feel beautiful. Pecola, therefore, takes the full responsibility of the for the black community’s low self-esteem, and self-hatred as the novel makes the presentation. The theme of self-hatred and the impact on race is therefore clearly manifested in the story’s development as Toni Morrison bring the picture of a racially-driven society and the impact it has on the racially-segregated individuals.

Works Cited

Bryce, Patrice. The Novels of Toni Morrison: The search for self and place within the Community. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.

Cormier-Hamilton, Patrice. "Black naturalism and Toni Morrison: The journey away from self-love in the bluest eye." Melus 19.4 (1994): 109-127.

Davis, Cynthia. "Self, society, and myth in Toni Morrison's fiction." Contemporary Literature 23.3 (1982): 323-342.

Kuenz, Jane. "The bluest eye: Notes on history, community, and black female subjectivity." African American Review 27.3 (1993): 421-431.

McKittrick, Katherine. "‘Black and’Cause I'm Black I'm Blue: Transverse racial geographies in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye." Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 7.2 (2000): 115-142.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. London: PEN, 1970.

 

September 01, 2021
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