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Self-Hate In The Bluest Eye Essay, Research Paper
“It was as though some mysterious knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question” (Morrison 39). Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye depicts the disastrous affects that racism had on African Americans during the mid nineteen hundreds. During this terrible period, blacks were treated unfairly, and most were unable to resist their oppression. This oppression in many cases leads to self-hatred. The blacks felt that all of their problems were due to the fact that they had dark skin. The poverty in which they lived and the discrimination they faced caused them to idealize the white race instead of fight for freedom and equality. “She said she wanted blue eyes . . . the experience of what she possessed and also why she prayed for so radical an alteration” (210). In the novel The Bluest Eye some of the characters are able to fight the oppression more than others.
Many of the African Americans of this time believed that they lived in poverty because they were black, and that if they were white, they would be wealthy. In the novel, most of the black characters live in poverty. “The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they were ugly” (38). The white race would not let the blacks out of their indigence, but the blacks just accepted it as the way. Most knew nothing different than poverty, so they did not work for a change. The Bluest Eye shows how sad life can be without any hope or love.
When a light-skinned black girl moves into town, the three main characters, Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda, all become jealous. Maureen, is not the average black girl. She has green eyes, straight hair, and she is wealthy. Automatically the other girls assume she is wealthy, because she is whiter than the other black people. “She enchanted the entire school. When teachers called on her, they smiled encouragingly. Black boys didn’t trip her in the halls; white boys didn’t stone her, white girls didn’t suck their teeth when she was assigned to be their work partners; black girls stepped aside when she wanted to use the sink in the girls’ toilet . . .” (62). Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda know that her popularity is a result of her light skin and beauty, and therefore want to be white themselves.
Pecola Breedlove, the main character in the novel, struggles and eventually fails to find any self-respect and love. All her life she is told that she is ugly, and feels that the only solution to her ugliness is to become white. “Each night, without fail, she prayed for blue eyes. Fervently, for a year she had prayed” (46). Pecola does not have the self-esteem to contest the injustice that she receives, so she just turns the other cheek to accept it. “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held pictures, and knew the sights-if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different. If she looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove too. Maybe they’d say, “Why, look at pretty-eyes Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty eyes” (46). Pecola does not pray for blue eyes simply because she wants to feel pretty. She sincerely believes that her whole life would change-that her parents would stop fighting, that her brother would stop running away, that her father would stop drinking, and that she would actually have a good life-if she possessed this one symbol of whiteness.
During Pecola’s early age, she rationalizes that white is better, because she does not have the heart to say that it is not true. She simply has the brain that does not know any better. How can she know any better when people call her names, and whites are afraid to touch her? “She holds the money towards him. He hesitates, not wanting to touch her hand. Finally, he reaches over and takes the pennies from her hand. His nails graze her damp palm. Outside, Pecola feels the inexplicable shame ebb” (50). Pecola adores Shirley Temple, because of her splendid beauty and blue eyes. She drinks three quarts of milk per day, because she likes the color. Pecola tries to do whatever possible to associate with the white race. She feels that the only way she will be loved is if she is white. She does not know what love is, because she cannot even love herself. She can find no good qualities in herself, because she has been told differently all her life.
Pecola’s family, the Breedloves, is extremely different than Claudia and Fred’s family, the MacTeers. The family is the key to success in this novel as it is in the today’s world. Pecola’s parents are uncaring, while Claudia and Fred’s are stern, but loving and supportive. By the end of the novel this is the deciding factor of survival-love. Pecola receives no strength from her parents. They have always considered themselves ugly, and they passed on the torch to Pecola. Unlike the MacTeer Sisters, Pecola had no parental role model to look up to. “A cross between a puppy and a dying man. But I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly” (126). Since day one, Pauline, Pecola’s mother, thought Pecola was ugly. How can Pecola love herself, if her parents find her ugly? How can she resist her oppression? Pecola does not know that the discrimination she faces is wrong, because her family abuses her in the same fashion.
On the other hand, Claudia and Frieda are able to keep their self-esteem, because they are loved. The sisters find themselves jealous of Maureen, the wealthy light-skinned black girl, but are able to overcome their jealousy by cutting Maureen down behind her back. “The weight of her remark stunned us, and it was a second or two before Frieda and I collected ourselves enough to shout, “Six-finger-dog-tooth-meringue-pie!” We chanted this most powerful of our arsenal of insults as long as we could see the green stems and rabbit fur” (73). They use the strength that their parents have taught them to fight against their unjust discrimination.
Unlike Pecola, Claudia MacTeer knows that the white race is ignorant and wrong for the way they treat the blacks. She does not give in to the disrespect she receives, but constantly tells herself that it is not right. “I couldn’t join them in their adoration because I hated Shirley Temple. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy . . .” (19). Claudia knew that being different-being white-was not the answer to their oppression. She knew that by fighting it, she would live a better life, and maybe one-day, make a change in the world.
Pecola desperately wants the life depicted in the “Dick and Jane” reading primers that she must read in school.
“Here is the house. It is green and white. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress. She wants to play. See the cat. See Mother. Mother is very nice. Mother laughs. See Father. He is big and strong. Father is smiling. See the dog run . . .” (i).
Pecola notices that this family is joined together by love. She knows that her family is not. She also notices that this family is white. Obviously, she knows that hers is not. Therefore she wants the life of a white girl-the life of Jane.
The structure of the novel is based on the cycle of the seasons, which usually denotes the themes of death, birth, fertility and barrenness. Unfortunately, Pecola’s life is only filled with death and barrenness. In Pecola’s life, spring is the same as autumn; summer the same as winter. The cycle of seasons becomes an ironic theme, because even the normal cycles of nature are aborted in the face of the self-hating world in which Pecola exists. Pecola does not allow spring to act as a time of happiness, birth, and love, because she does not love herself. She does not know what love is. “Then Pecola asked a question that had never entered my mind. “How do you do that? I mean, how do you get somebody to love you?” (32).
When a person is dealing with hardship and struggle, someone must be there for them. Otherwise, they will fail. Nobody is there to help Pecola during her times of grievance, and therefore she cannot fight her oppression. Nobody could fight the oppression that Pecola faces on her own. People must act as a team to succeed. Love is the key to survival, and that is why it is God’s Greatest Commandment. Pecola can not handle the racism that she faces, and eventually goes insane. With love, she might have been able to live the life that Claudia does. She might have been able to resist the appalling discrimination, and fight to change the world.