Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is noteworthy English literature works that focus on various social issues that face human beings in their day to day lives.

Racial Discrimination and Social Issues

According to him, familial pathologies hardly spring from individual's shortcomings. The statement is critical in that it highlights some of the social issues that people face in the communities. Racial discrimination, for instance, is one of those challenges that have over the years been experienced in various parts of the globe. The same applies to issues of gender disparity and segregations based on social class.

Characterization and Irony

Morrison uses different characterization to bring out the ideal meaning of not only the book's topic but some of the statements he uses such as the one on "familial pathologies." It partly addresses the irony that is evident in the book. One of the outstanding characters in the book is Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl that suffers from racial prejudice from those of the white community. The name "Breedlove" is ironical, in that they do not breed love but hate (Morrison, 2016). The sufferings that she goes through are mainly psychological, and this brings to picture the socio-historical context of the enslavement that the black society faced before its abolition by Abraham Lincoln in the American Parliament. Her life is a reflection of the real hate that the black women had to face from the whites and this ended up leading to an increase in self-hate.

Pecola's Perception of Beauty

In the first chapter of the book, Pecola and Frieda argue over Shirley Temple's beauty. They argue that her beauty comes from her white complexion, and this leaves Breedlove spending her time at the movies admiring the white actresses. She wishes that she could live in the world of the white actresses in the movie. Most of the characters in the book believe that their beauty or ugliness is a significant factor in the definition of their value in the community and family at large. Morrison states that Breedlove's family is "fixed in poverty due to the belief that they are ugly," and that Pecola, "feels that she deserves the abuse and neglect that she experienced on regular occasions both within the society and outside the community due to her self-perceived ugliness." In the society where she lives, she believes that whiteness is beauty and black complexion is a reflection of ugliness (Morrison, 2016). The variations in beauty go to the extent of the difference in class. The low-class niggers are seen as ugly while those of high class consider themselves as beautiful (Simpson, 2007). Pecola is invited by Geraldine's son, Junior but she ends up rejecting the invitation. She is, however, tempted to see some Kitten in Geraldine's house but ends up receiving scathing comments from her stating, "You nasty black bitch, get out of my house." Geraldine, a black woman, hardly wants her son to associate with low-class niggers.

The Symbol of Beauty

The "Blue Eye" is a symbol of beauty versus ugliness in the society based on skin complexions. The book provides an overview of the ways in which the internalized white beauty deforms the lives of the black girls and women within the society. The black characters in the book are made to believe that whiteness is the source of beauty, and this makes them despise their skin color (Haugen, 2008). The author tries to give the reader a bigger picture that racism is not all about whites discriminating those from the African American communities but the discriminations that exist among those from the same skin complexion. Pecola is reminded of the unfairness that is existence in the society and feels that the whites are more beautiful compared to those from the black community. She wishes that "if those eyes were beautiful, herself would be beautiful." She feels that she is treated rudely due to her ugly appearance. On her realization that Maureen Peal, a cute girl is praised for her beauty and her light complexion, she develops the fondness of "possessing her eyes." The presence of Maureen's beauty has the power to stop the violence experienced by Pecola at the hands of some of the schoolboys in the school, thus bringing out a clear picture of the power that beauty possess.

Cholly's Shortcomings and Poverty

Cholly is a reflection of characters whose shortcomings outweigh their significance in the community. He leaves his family, not physically but is ever in a drunk and this makes it hard for him to provide the simplest of the necessities. Despite being discriminated due to skin complexion, Cholly's family also languishes in poverty. Had he worked hard on a daily basis, his wife and children would not be facing the challenges that are depicted by the author. Her daughter Claudia is faced with the challenge of keeping up with the beauty standards set by the white. Black is beautiful. However, according to Morrison, characters from the African American community believe that they lack beauty. He uses a dandelion flower as a significant metaphor that is a representation of Pecola's image. As she walks towards Mr. Yacobowski's store, she passes some dandelions and she thinks that they are pretty though some people call them weeds. However, after the humiliation that she receives at the hands of Yacobowski, she changes her mind when she walks past the flowers, terming them as weeds and "ugly" which contradict her initial thoughts. Apparently, she transfers the dislike and hate that comes from the society to the dandelions. That is in line with the author's statement that shortcomings of an individual are indirectly related to the familial pathologies.

Racial Distinction and Self-Esteem

At school, Pecola feels racial distinction when the boys and the girls give her a glare of disgust, and this she believes it's because of her black complexion. Morrison tries to demonstrate the force from the white community that eats away Pecola's self-esteem and self-value on her encounter with Mr. Yacobowski. He is a fifty-two-year old storekeeper that operated in her hometown. Despite her being the storekeeper's paying customer, he eyes her with an eye that reflects a lack of human recognition (Morrison, 2016). When Pecola hands her money, he "hesitates with the appearance of an individual that hardly wants to interact with one from a different race." Once she leaves the shop, she feels ugly and with less value, and this is worsened when Maureen states that, "I am cute! You are ugly." Looking back as an adult, Claudia states that "in the fall of 1941, there was no marigold." They had planted the marigold seed and believed that if they grew and survived, Pecola's baby would have also been healthy. However, the land was hostile to the seeds and the chances for their survival were slim. From a bigger picture, this is a metaphor that the African Americans had minimal chances to grow and survive because they lived in societies that were inherently racist.


In conclusion, based on the above argument, it is clear that Pecola is a tragic character in the novel. She lives in the society where complexion is the determinant of emotion. The whites are seen as beautiful while the blacks are considered ugly. It should, however, be noted that beauty and ugliness are not destructive, but it's the internalization of the idea that ends up making beauty destructive. The essay is in line with Morrison's statement that familial pathologies do not simply spring from shortcomings of an individual.


Haugen, H. (2008). Racism. Detroit [Mich.]: Greenhaven Press.

Morrison, T. (2016). The bluest eye. London: Vintage.

Simpson, R. (2007). Black looks & Black acts. New York: Peter Lang.

December 12, 2023




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