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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Post World War I, many new opportunities were given to the growing and expanding group of African Americans living in the North. Almost 500,00 African Americans moved to the northern states between 1910 and 1920. This was the beginning of a continuing migration northward. More than 1,500,000 blacks went north in the 1930’s and 2,500,00 in the 1940’s. Life in the North was very hard for African Americans. Race riots, limited housing resulting in slum housing, and restricted job opportunities were only a few of the many hardships that the African American people had to face at this time.

Families often had to separate, social agencies were overcrowded with people that all needed help, crime rates increased and many other resulting problems ensued. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison takes place during this time period. A main theme in this novel is the “quest for individual identity and the influences of the family and community in that quest” (Trescott). This theme is present throughout the novel and evident in many of the characters. Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, and Pauline Breedlove and are all embodiments of this quest for identity, as well as symbols of the quest of many of the Black northern newcomers of that time.

The Breedlove family is a group of people under the same roof, a family by name only. Cholly (the father) is a constantly drunk and abusive man. His abusive manner is apparent towards his wife Pauline physically and towards his daughter Pecola sexually. Pauline is a “mammy” to a white family and continues to favor them over her biological family. Pecola is a little black girl with low self esteem. The world has led her to believe that she is ugly and that the epitome of “beautiful” requires blue eyes. Therefore every night she prays that she will wake up with blue eyes.

Brought up as a poor unwanted girl, Pecola Breedlove desires the acceptance and love of society. The image of “Shirley Temple beauty” surrounds her. In her mind, if she was to be beautiful, people would finally love and accept her. The idea that blue eyes are a necessity for beauty has been imprinted on Pecola her whole life. “If [I] looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove too. Maybe they would say, `Why look at pretty eyed Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty [blue] eyes’” (Morrison 46). Many people have helped imprint this ideal of beauty on her.

Mr. Yacowbski as a symbol for the rest of society’s norm, treats her as if she were invisible. “He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant storekeeper… see a little black girl? ” (Morrison 48). Her classmates also have an effect on her. They seem to think that because she is not beautiful, she is not worth anything except as the focal point of their mockery. “Black e mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepsnekked. Black e mo black e mo ya dadd sleeps nekked. Black e mo…” (Morrison 65). Shouted by her classmates on such a regular basis, this scorn seemed not to penetrate anymore.

As if it were not bad enough being ridiculed by children her own age, adults also had to mock her. Geraldine, a colored woman, who refused to tolerate “niggers”, happened to walk in while Pecola was in her house. “`Get out,’ she said her voice quiet. `You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house’” (Morrison 92). By having an adult point out to her that she really was a “nasty” little girl, it seems all the more true. Pecola was never able to get away from this kind of ridicule. At home she was put through the same thing, if not worse because her family members were the ones who were supposed to love her.

Her mother was not able conceal her obvious affection towards a white girl over her. One day as Pecola was visiting her mother at the home where she is working, Pecola accidentally knocked over a blueberry pie. Obviously burned by the hot pastry, her mother completely ignored Pecola’s feelings of pain and instead tended to the comforting of her white “daughter”. “`Crazy foo…my floor, mess …look what you…get on out…crazy…crazy…my floor , my floor…. ’ Her words were hotter and darker than the smoking berries. The little [white] girl in pink started to cry. Mrs. Breedlove turned to her. `Hush, baby, hush. Don’t cry no more’” (Morrison 109).

Her mother viewed Pecola as an obstacle that had the potential to get in the way of her white charge’s happiness and consequently her happiness. Her mother refused to show any love to Pecola because it might interfere with more important things. For a little girl, the love of her mother is the most important love she can receive. Without that, how can she think that she is worth anything at all? Finally the rape by her father is the last evidence Pecola needs to believe completely that she is an ugly unlovable girl. While in most cases a father figure is one who little girls look to for guidance and approval, Cholly is the exact opposite.

He hurts Pecola in a physical way that in one attempt measures up to the years of hurtful mockery. He took away from her the one thing that was utterly and completely hers. After the rape, Pecola was never even remotely the same: She was so sad to see. Grown people looked away; children, those who were not frightened by her, laughed outright. The damage done was total. She spent her days, walking up and down her head jerking to the beat of a drummer so distant only she could hear. Elbows bent, hands on shoulders, she flailed her arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly.

Beating the air, a winged but grounded bird intent on the blue void it could not reach-could not even see- but which filled the valleys of the mind. In short, after the rape, Pecola went insane. Pecola’s search for identity was defined by her everlasting desire to be loved. Her purpose in life was to be beautiful and as a result of that to be loved. Her family and community made it impossible for her to ever be sanely content. Cholly Breedlove the father and eventually rapist of Pecola, is a bastard. He was born to an unwed mother; his father ran away the day of his birth and his mother abandoned him three days later.

This horrible beginning reflects his everyday views and actions. His mother attempted to leave him alone in the world. His father figure was an empty void in his life. After his legal guardian, his aunt, dies, Cholly decided that as an inner mission he needs to find his father to find himself. To understand exactly who he is he needs to look into his past. A long search ends in an extremely disappointing – crushing- experience. As Cholly tries to explain his identity to his father, he becomes flustered, “The man’s eyes frightened him. `I just thought… I mean my name is Cholly. ’” His father’s face changes as he begins to understand.

He shouts at Cholly, “Tell that bitch she got her money. Now, get the fuck outta my face! ’” (Morrison 156). This extremely embarrassing encounter with his father scars him for life. His only image of a father figure is one who brings pain. Cholly’s sexual history starts off painfully as well. His first attempt at sex was scorned, mocked and watched by two white police officers. “The men had shone a flashlight right on his behind . He had stopped, terrified. They chuckled. The beam of the flashlight did not move. `Go on,’ they said. `Go on and finish. And, nigger, make it good. ’ The flashlight did not move” (Morrison 42).

These first two episodes left a huge impact on him that eventually caused him to do something that would not have happened had he had proper guidance in those areas. Cholly’s family (or lack thereof) and his community as a boy ultimately influenced the way he was as a man. Their effects on him molded his personality and as a result influenced his identity. Another cause of his eventual downfall was the way the community perceived him. They treated him disrespectfully, talked about him behind his back, and made a mockery of his name. After Cholly attempts to burn his own house down, he earns a reputation as being a scoundrel.

Who, “having put his family outdoors, had catapulted himself beyond the reaches of human consideration. He had joined the animals; was indeed, an old dog, a snake, a ratty nigger” (Morrison 18). As long as society had an idea of who this man was and what he stood for, it was impossible for Cholly to rise above them. While it is hard to make a good first impression, it is near impossible to change that impression. With that in mind he could go nowhere but down. Cholly’s ultimate downfall, occur simultaneously with the rape of Pecola: The tenderness welled up in him, as he sank to his knees, his eyes on the foot of his daughter.

Crawling on all fours toward her, he raised his hand and caught the foot in an upward stroke…His mouth trembled at the firm sweetness of her flesh. He closed his eyes, letting his fingers dig into her waist. The rigidness of her shocked body, the silence of her stunned throat, was better than Pauline’s easy laughter had been. The confused mixture of his memories of Pauline and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him, and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length, and softening the lips of his anus.

He wanted to fuck-tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down to his guts and fly out to her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made-a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon. With this final act, Cholly lost all humanity conceivable. His search for himself ended in destruction. Pauline Breedlove, wife of Cholly, mother of Pecola, is a servant in a white household.

The times she was there working for this family without any reminder of her own failures were the only times that she felt truly happy . It was there and only there that she finally felt as if she were part of something successful. In Pauline’s search for her identity and ultimately her happiness, she learned exactly what she would have to sacrifice so that she could be content, as well as the difference between herself and the rest of society. The movie theater helped her realize the stark difference between her and other women. “Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another-physical 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…” (Morrison 122). As Pauline learned what physical beauty was, she also learned for what it stood. In that time physical beauty was the ideal of Shirly Temple beauty, the equation of blond hair and blue eyes to beauty. It signified equality, happiness, worthiness, and overall comfort. If you were a white woman with those qualities living in northern America you were content, it was that simple. As Pauline learned these guidelines, she gave birth to Pecola and got a job as a black “mammy” to a white family.

She quickly learned that when she was in the company of her white family, who were equal, happy, and worthy in the eyes of society, it rubbed off on her and she felt as if she was part of all these positive virtues. On the other hand, the more time she spent with her own black family, the more time she realized how ugly, poor, and unworthy they were. It was as if “the master had said, `you are ugly people. ’ They had looked about themselves and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance” (Morrison 39).

In coming upon this realization, Pauline has a decision to make. She could have stuck with her biological family, continued to be unsatisfied but be accepted as an equal, or she could completely give up on her own family and devote all her time, energy, and love on her white charges. To Pauline this decision is obvious and she makes it hastily. Without a second thought she mentally leaves her family in place for her “Perfect Life”. However she fails to realize that by committing herself to a servant’s life that’s all she will ever amount to be – a black servant in a white world. Have all of the characters found their identity?

Pecola Breedlove yearned for blue eyes. At the end of the book she believes that she has those blue eyes. She believes that people treat her funny because they are jealous of her blue eyes and she has learned to happily accept that. Pecola yearned for the acceptance and love of society seen through her eyes. No matter if that acceptance and love were really there, she thought it was and therefore was able to survive. “I [Soaphead Church], I have caused a miracle. I gave her the eyes. I gave her the blue, blue, two blue eyes… No one else will see her blue eyes. But she will. And she will live happily ever after” (Morrison 182).

Pecola found herself only by going insane. Although Pecola is not accepted by society for reasons she does not understand, she puts her exclusion from society into terms she can comprehend. Society influences her identity. They mold her into what she becomes by not giving her the guidance and approval she needs. In the same way, Cholly found himself separated from the community. After the realization of the perception the community has of him, he is demoralized and does an act of inhumanity. He could not live with the realization of the monster he had become and he disappeared. As a man he did not know who he was.

In a sense he needed an act that would completely set him apart from the rest of the rational world for him to find himself. He sanely found himself as Pecola insanely found herself. They finished with varying results. While Pecola was separate but content, Cholly was separate and unsatisfied. Pauline, on the other hand, chose an identity she could be content with. She had an option to become two very different people and she chose the one that seemed right for her. Her distorted view of reality made it seem that the choice she made was accepted in society, and would allow her to increase her status in society.

However, her overseer saw it and described it in actuality. “We could never find anyone like Polly. She will not leave the kitchen until everything is in order. Really, she is the ideal servant” (Morrison 128). This twist of perspective shows how Pauline is really accredited. Are they satisfied with what they have found? It seems that the only truly satisfied person is Pauline. Pecola is not content, she will not ever be. Her father took away that option. Cholly is not satisfied. He can not handle the naked truth that he is a beast, and therefore retreats from society.

Pauline, though looked down upon by society was somehow satisfied with her identity. Her twisted view of reality made her believe that she was accepted as an equal in society. The Breedlove family are representatives of the black rising community in the north. Pecola a “dismissed, trivialized, misread” ( Morrison 216) child, was representative of the younger Black population. While her ending does not conform to societies norm her story does. Cholly was a misunderstood Blackmale adult. He was a part of the generation that started the Black community in the north.

For Cholly, the responsibilities of that were too great and he therefore needed to withdraw from society. Pauline was representative of the part of the Black — that tried too hard to conform to the White culture. She found what she was looking for and was able to convince herself that she was happy, but she did not really have a place where she truly fit in. The Breedlove family is a black family living in the 1940s. They have to deal with the same problems, situations, and dilemmas as do the rest of the rising Black community in the north. The Bluest Eye tells their story and offers their experiences.

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Home » The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The major characters in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison were Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Claudia MacTeer, and Frieda MacTeer. Pecola Breedlove is an eleven-year-old black girl around whom the story revolves. Her innermost desire is to have the “bluest” eyes so that others will view her as pretty in the end that desire is what finishes her, she believes that God gives her blue eyes causing her insanity. She doesn’t have many friends other than Claudia and Frieda. Throughout the book we see how Pecola is picked on by other children her age and then later on abused by Cholly, her own father.

Her mother doesn’t care for her either her actions toward Pecola are not without contempt. Cholly Breedlove is Pecola’s drunken father. He has never known a loving family; his father deserted him and his mother who then left him to die in a garbage can. His great aunt saves him and raises him until her death, which occurred when Cholly was only thirteen or fourteen years old. Cholly himself deserts his family, not physically but he is always in a drunken state and doesn’t provide the family with the barest necessities. Cholly dies alone in a warehouse.

Claudia MacTeer is the main narrator in the story. She is about nine years old when they story takes place, she is remembering the story. Claudia is black and doesn’t see anything wrong with that. She isn’t like the other girls who think it would be better if she was white, she doesn’t buy into that idea, she destroys the white dolls that she receives for Christmas. Claudia has learned from her mother how to be a strong black female and express her opinion in a white dominated society. Frieda is a lot like her sister and had the same morals imposed on her by her mother.

Frieda is about ten years old when the story takes place. The book The Bluest Eye is not told in chronological order and skips from the story to a look into the past of certain characters. There are two narrators, Claudia MacTeer is one who tells the actual story but there is also an omniscient narrator who tells us about the character’s lives. The book starts in the fall of 1940 and Claudia and Frieda have just gone back to school.

Their family is having some troubles paying the bills so they rent a room out to Mr. Henry but then find out that they will have another guest soon because Pecola Breedlove is going to come stay with them because her father has just burned down their house. We then hear memories about the time when Pecola is living with the MacTeers and then the second narrator comes in and gives us some background on the Breedlove family. This is when we find out about Pecola’s wish for blue eyes and her living situation before she came to the MacTeers. The next season we hear about from Claudia is winter. She tells us about a girl named Maureen who is “perfect” in the eyes of all the other students and teachers.

Claudia, Frieda and Maureen are walking home together, even though Claudia and Frieda don’t like her, when they see Pecola getting harassed by some boys in the school yard and they rescue her. Maureen tries to befriend Pecola but only to torture her some more. Frieda stands up for Pecola but then Maureen makes a comment on how the girls are black and therefor ugly which hurts Pecola even more. Now we hear from the second narrator again about a woman named Geraldine and her son Junior. Junior sees Pecola and invites her into the house to supposedly show her some kittens and give her one.

Junior kills his mother’s beloved cat and blames it on Pecola. Geraldine shoves Pecola out of the house calling her “black” as if it was an insult, which just adds to her harassment by others. We hear from Claudia again about the spring where the roomer Mr. Henry sexually harasses Frieda and about how the whippings they receive are worse in the spring. Claudia and Frieda go to visit Pecola and find her at the home of the white people where her mother works. The omniscient narrator comes in again and tells us about Pauline Breedlove’s childhood and the beginning of her marriage to Cholly. We also hear about Cholly’s childhood.

The next major event, whish is told by the second narrator, is when Cholly comes home drunk one day and rapes his own daughter and just leaves her lying on the kitchen floor. Again from the second narrator we find out about “Soaphead” Church who is “Faith Healer” he claims he speak to god. Pecola asks him for blue eyes and he has her kill a dog that he was too repulsed by to kill himself and says she will have blue eyes if something happens to the dog when she gives him the “food. ” We now hear from Claudia again about the summer, when everyone finds out that Pecola is pregnant by her father.

Pecola has gone insane and she only speaks to her imaginary friend who she views to be real. Pecola believes that she has blue eyes. In the last section we find out that the baby dies because it was born prematurely and that Pecola lives with her mother on the edges of town, he father has died and her brother has left town. In The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison makes a judgement on the human condition. Her opinion is that people depend on the world to find their self-value and their self-worth. This opinion has had a lot of truth in my life.

I used to look at others to figure out how I should be feeling and what others saw of me I saw in myself. That view on life gave me a lot of problems. I believe that what Toni Morrison is saying about the human condition is true in some ways. It’s sad that we rely on others to see what we should see in ourselves. The people who have gotten away from that trend have made a great improvement in their lives. There are many movies and t. v. shows that have this point of view because it is sadly a fact of life. The one movie that stands out in my mind is a French movie called “Le diner des cons.

Which is about these friends who find the weirdest people to take to diner and the one who has the “weirdest” wins, this one guy thinks it is wrong yet to fit in with his “friends” he goes along with the scheme. The people who are chosen think they are really making friends but it is all a scam. There are many people who would do anything to fit in with the “cool” group. I think it is sad that we decide who we are by the group of people we associate with. Being a black child growing up in the 1940’s you faced a lot of criticism and harassment not only from the white children but also from other black children.

Pecola Breedlove is a good example of the constant harassment. She was hurt and harassed by everyone even her own parents. She had low self-esteem and a low self worth because of her surroundings while Frieda and Claudia thought more of themselves because of their upbringing. I liked The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, it isn’t my favorite book out of the ones that I have read but I enjoyed it, some parts were a little too graphic for me though. Even so this book is within the top five books that I have ever read.

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