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Social Issues in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

With The Bluest Eye, Morrison has not only created a story, but also a series of painfully accurate impressions. As Dee puts it “to read the book… is to ache for remedy” (20). But Morrison raises painful issues while at the same time managing to reveal the hope and encouragement beneath the surface. A reader might easily conclude that the most prominent social issue presented in The Bluest Eye is that of racism, but more important issues lie beneath the surface. Pecola experiences damage from her abusive and negligent parents.

The reader is told that even Pecola’s mother thought she was ugly from the time of birth. Pecola’s negativity may have initially been caused by her family’s failure to provide her with identity, love, security, and socialization, ail which are essential for any child’s development (Samuels 13). Pecola’s parents are able only to give her a childhood of limited possibilities. She struggles to find herself in infertile soil, leading to the analysis of a life of sterility (13). Like the marigolds planted that year, Pecola never grew.

The concept of physical appearance as a virtue is the center of the social problems portrayed in the novel. Thus the novel unfolds with the most logical responses to this overpowering impression of beauty: acceptance, adjustment, and rejection (Samuels 10). Through Pecola Breedlove, Morrison presents reactions to the worth of physical criteria. The beauty standard that Pecola feels she must live up to causes her to have an identity crisis. Society’s standard has no place for Pecola, unlike her “high yellow dream child” classmate, Maureen Peals, who fits the mold (Morrison 62).

Maureen’s influence in the novel is important. “She enchanted the entire school… black girls stepped aside when she wanted to use the sink in the girl’s toilet… She never had to search for anybody to eat with in the cafeteria–they flocked to the table of her choice” (62-63). In contrast, Pecola’s classmates insult her black skin by chanting “Black e mo Black e mo Ya daddy sleeps nekked/ stch ta ta stch ta ta” (65). The most damaging interracial confrontation related to color involves Pecola and an adult, Geraldine (Samuels 12).

When Pecola enters Geraldine’s home at the invitation of her son, Geraldine forces her to leave with words that hurt deeply, saying “Get out… You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house” (92). Pecola is a delicate character because of her young age, but her delicacy lies even more in her innocence. Pecola actually believes that Soaphead Church has helped her to receive the blue eyes that she fervently prayed for. Pecola “got blue eyes, bluer than theirs” (Morrison 197). Dee describes the impact of the novel, saying “(Morrison) has split open the person and made us watch the heart beat.

We feel faint, helpless and afraid – not knowing what to do” (20). Morrison herself claims that “One problem was centering: the weight of the novel’s inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than into an interrogation of themselves” (211). Morrison didn’t want readers to ”remain touched but not moved” (211) The issues raised truly do touch the reader in an indescribably deep and special way. In The Bluest Eye, Morrison has created a powerful novel with a strong social impact.

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