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An Essay On Unprettisms Essay, Research Paper

“Thrown, in this way, into the binding conviction that only a miracle could relieve her, she would never know her beauty. She would see only what there was to see: the eyes of other people.” (Morrison p.46)

The novel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, is a testament to the individuals who have suffered the generational effects of unprettisms. The Breedlove’s are the main characters of the novel; a family, which has been nurtured with servings of unprettisms throughout their individual and collective lives. It is the intention of this essay to reveal a few of the unprettisms found therein, and the affect they have.

Unprettisms: A denigrating statement regarding a person’s appearance and/or character. Delivered within the family structure, covertly, its intention is to inform the receiver of proper etiquette. The impacts of the words are intended to work psychologically in reverse, to produce the proper behavior, by making a person feel negatively towards improper behavior. However, the actual results are not always the desired outcome.

A family sets its own rules of behavior within the family as unit and the behavior of each family member outside of the family. The larger society sets the rules of behavior for the family within the larger scheme of things. Within the previous quote, Pecola can only view herself through the past experiences of her family’s anguish, status, and fate in life. Through eyes of suffering, Pecola’s family has taught her to view the world and herself.

Here, an adult female delivers an unprettism. She is speaking to a child, Pecola Breedlove, visiting her home. This quote from the novel reflects an aspect of society’s view that Pecola and her kind thrive and multiply in squalor. People like this child; pose great potential to infect all they come in contact with. She thinks,…”Tin cans and tires blossomed where they lived. They lived on cold black-eyed peas and orange pop. Like flies they hovered; like flies they settled. And this one had settled in her house.”(p.92) She speaks to the child, “Get out,” she said, her voice quiet. “You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house.”(p.92) Covertly, words like these only reinforces the self-hatred Pecola already feels. Pecola equates what little love for herself with ‘snowflakes falling and dying on the pavement’. (p.93)

The way people go about gaining knowledge and drawing conclusions about the world and ourselves; comes from our families; First, from our communities; second, and third, from our peers.

These are the educators from which Pecola Breedlove and her family has manufactured their concepts of a non-beautiful self. Throughout the novel, are allusions to many

unprettisms. Another quote from novel states, “Although their poverty was traditional and stultifying, it was not unique. But their ugliness was unique. No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly.”(p.38)

Here, social construction has branded this family as ugly. A people acknowledged only by their ugliness and usefulness. Castoffs–to merely be tolerated and manipulated. Homeless folk. These feelings are validated by the voluntary and involuntary choices presented to and accepted by the Breedloves in life.

It seems that society blames and faults the Breedloves for their experiences of anguish and abuse by others and themselves, regardless of situation or circumstance.

As with all human beings, the likelihood that just one thing or just one someone would disagree with these labels of ugliness, is not too much to think likely. This quote, lay bare how easily they have been trained to give up on hope, “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.”(p.39) For every impoverished person, the struggle to survive, alone, can and will bring about negative mindsets and situations; all are detrimental to the foundation of the family unit. In defense of themselves and to keep society and self-realization at bay, “And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.”(p.39) Accepting the judgments of others–seeing through others eyes, they consider themselves misfits and outcast (putouts–repulsive additions to society. The Breedloves are outcaste and unwanted. On the topic of individuality and security, the novel states, “And Pecola. She hid behind hers. Concealed, veiled, eclipsed—peeping out from behind the shroud very seldom, and then only to yearn for the return of her mask.”(p.39) Is there a need for each person to long for a mask, to protect and comfort us from the eyes of society’s judgmental perspectives of who ‘they’ think we are?

As has been noted, unprettisms are taught. To perceive a concept such as beauty, one must first identify the concept and secondly, relate it to one’s self. For every individual to have a cognizance of one’s own beauty, it must first come from our families. Only then, will it continue throughout our relational developments. When we are born, we know not who or what we are, ours is a fate of family and society. If our families and society are striving for a future, then uprettisms must stop for each one of us.


Morrison, Toni,The Bluest Eye,Penguin Books, New York,1994.


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