During the 1940’s; an American time of depression, 83% of children were living in a two parent functional home. These children had a higher chance of academic achievement, better emotional health, and most importantly, fewer behavioral problems. What about the other children who lacked not just one parent,but two? Children are additionally influenced by their surrounding community. Some neighborhood opportunities outweigh the risks, while in other areas; neighbors avoid each other resulting in isolated home environments. What happens to the other children who are excluded from their community?
Meeting the expectations of parental and community involvement in a child’s development can become challenging to most. In a “perfect childhood” the parents and others involved have a “desire to nurture their child’s every hope and dream”(Andrews 140). On the other hand children, specifically those of the African American race, growing up in the 1940’s were raised contrary to the popular parenting belief. In The Bluest Eyes, Written by Toni Morrison, the childhood of the African American main characters, Pecola and Cholly Breedlove are described, as the cause for their alleged destitute future.
These characters can be identified as the “other children”; the ones short of required influences from peers as well as authorities. Therefore, the absence of community support and positive parental figures in one’s childhood, will result in devastation. Constantly trying to escape the world she lives in, Pecola Breedlove faces rejection in many ways from various people, all while trying to fit to conformity. As a young African American girl growing up in a community populated with less fortunate minorities, this demoralized girl is continuously labeled as ugly.
From the criticism coming from her own mother to the bullies at school, She spends her time fantasizing about becoming beautiful and essentially, loved. These influences lead her to believe in the preposterous concept that if she were to achieve physical beauty, her life would improve. From the day Pecola was born, she failed to meet the expectations of the first person she came in contact with, her mother, Pauline. After the birth of Pecola, her mother exclaimed,”She looked different than what I thought [… ] but Lord she was ugly”(Morrison 126).
Pecola was struck with immediate rejection at the beginning of her life. During Pauline’s pregnancy with Pecola she imagined what her daughter would look like (124). She would talk to Pecola while she was still in the womb (124). She would whistle to her (124) and act just how any mother would in excitement for their child to be born. Up until the actual day arrived. The fixed image Pauline had of her daughter failed to become a reality. Thus, not only defining her daughter as ugly, but displaying herself as a demeaning parent.
The moment she could comprehend the lack of importance she had to others, Pecola began to live a life of worthlessness. Toni Morrison demonstrates the root of the young girl’s feelings when implying in several events that her mother who is too busy with life itself, sees her child as a little object (Portales 496). As Pecola grew older her experiences with rejection from the comfort of her own home to the playground never seemed to come to a halt. An average school day for Pecola consisted of boys circled around her shouting “ Black e mo. Black e mo. Black e mo” (Morrison 65).
Pecola’s own peers taunted her with an insult of her complexion, something in which she had no control over. Ironically, the group of taunting boys were African Americans themselves. These circumstances and the hurtful words that were said, left Pecola feeling distraught. With such little confidence, Pecola “ [was] unhappy with not only herself but also everyone’s reaction [toward] her” (Andrews 141). The young girl was constantly curious about the idea of what love really is and questioned things as hopeless as, why people love the town’s three whores, but no one loved her.
It can be agreed upon, that younger generations take after their parents in some way even if it is a negative impact left on the child. Pecola is rejected by not only her entire community, but those who are typically expected to love her. This creates a mental struggle for Pecola during her childhood and contributes to her desolated future. These circumstances are what connects Pecola to her father Cholly Breedlove. The absence of positive parental figures and in Cholly Breedlove’s childhood leaves him a broken man.
Due to Cholly’s past, the nuclear family that he has in the father role in, should theoretically work. However [the] family is led by an individual who cannot foster love in his own home” (Andrews 142). With the last name Breedlove, it could be considered that Cholly’s family would essentially breed-love, but this man’s lack of support and upbringing leads him to do quite the contrary of what his last name seems intended to imply. At a young age,Cholly’s mother “wrapped him in blankets [… ] and placed him on a junk heap by [a] railroad” (Morrison 132). Similar to his daughter Pecola, Cholly dealt with rejection between him and his own mother during the first stages of life.
This abandonment left a powerful impression on Cholly, altering the way he would handle situations to come. Later on, he was rescued by his Great Aunt Jimmy, who he had “difficulty connecting with [… ] as a real parent” (Andrews 140). For example, when the cold winter weather kept Cholly awake at night, Aunt Jimmy insisted for him to sleep in bed with her for warmth. With no bad intentions, Aunt Jimmy was simply committing an act that a caring parent figure would;an act that would typically be a pleasant memory for most children.
Conversely, this experience is uncomfortable and loveless between Cholly and his aunt. Unable to understand Aunt Jimmy’s kind gestures, Cholly wondered whether it would have been just as well to have died in the trash where his mother left him (140). Before her traumatizing death occurred, Aunt Jimmy tried to guide Cholly in the right direction, but she wasn’t in his life long enough to create a lasting impact. “As people grow and mature, it is essential for them to have lessons on how to relate to others”(141), Cholly’s childhood lacked this necessity from both peers and authority figures. nobody talked to him;[… ] they treated him like the child he was, never engaged him in serious conversation”(Morrison 140).
Approaching the teenage years, Cholly continued to grow up in an environment in which he was not successfully nurtured in. The unfortunate circumstances that Cholly lived through brought several negative emotions upon him. The lost boy’s first encounter with a girl his own age lead to a humiliating experience while losing his virginity. “Two white hunters [… ] interrupted them [… ] and ordered Cholly to continue [… ] while they watched (Portales 501).
The social and legal power that these caucasian men had in society at the time, influenced Cholly to turn his rage toward the African American girl and future women in his life. This traumatic event disorients Cholly and gives him a flawed perspective of what sex really should be about. Instead of an act of love, sex becomes an outlet for his anger and a catalyst for his feeling of disgust toward women. Following his shameful first sexual interaction, Cholly develops a sudden desire to meet his father in hope that he will gain the love and acceptance that he longs for.
Unfortunately, Cholly yet again, faces rejection this time from his own father. Similar to Pecola, Cholly reacts to this rejection by trying to disappear (Andrews 141). “[struggling] throughout his life against a society that treats him, intentionally or not, without compassion or sympathy”(Portales 503), influences Cholly’s lonely way of life. Everything that he does is a reaction to forces and pressures around him. Never offered an example of a healthy and successful parent-child relationship, Cholly is unable to create this connection with his daughter.
Pecola embodies physical qualities that represent Cholly’s childhood, making it even more difficult for him to love his own daughter. Moments before Cholly commits a horrific act of rape on innocent Pecola, he arrives home drunk and sees her washing dishes. A feeling of revulsion is brought upon Cholly as a reaction to her hopeless presence. In addition Cholly is struck with the thought that “he himself is a hopeless character who never received real love and affection from his natural parents, and he knows that he has given none to Pecola”(Andrews 142).
In the essence of raping his forlorn daughter, Cholly feels “hatred mixed with tenderness. The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her” This broken man’s past is full of negativity resulting in the hatred, while he gains a slight fatherly instinct forcing him to cover his violated daughter. Not only does this act of incest affect Pecola for the rest of her life, but Cholly is also overwhelmed with an abundant amount of feelings, including guilt,love,shame,pity, and fear (Portales 502).
With such emotions, Cholly Breedlove lives in devastation;a byproduct of inadequate social support as well as nonexistent parental guidance. During a child’s upbringing, it is crucial to involve positive influences from peers. Children are also in need of admirable parental figures. Without these necessities,the likelihood of internal conflicts within the child and future adult, may increase. In an article titled What Kids Need to Grow up Well, published by the New York Times news service, states “ A U. S Children’s Advocacy group says too many young people are growing up today ill-prepared to take their place in society”(N. Y Times).
Essentially the more developmental assets a child has, there becomes a lower risk of future failure. Pecola and Cholly Breedlove are prime examples of the devastation a person will face with lack of community support and positive parental figures. In order to impact the future of children, society must stop situations similar to Pecola’s constant demoralization and Cholly’s rejection, from occurring.