The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Introduction

Tina Morrison’s The Bluest Eye presents Pecola as a child whose role is significantly larger in contrast to that of other children of her age. Pecola’s life is full of misfortunes and suffering, for example, the rape by her father that leads to her pregnancy. Essentially, Pecola is a representation of the plight of the African-American people and the women in an unforgiving society (Friedman). The narrative presents Pecola as a young girl who is inherently snubbed and unappreciated by the society, including her family who ignore her needs. Consequently, she is perceived in a disproving and inferior light in contrast to other children. Meanwhile, interaction with various characters in the novel illustrates the challenges of the African-American culture through deceit and abuse that Pecola encounters in the novel.

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Analysis

Pecola’s first encounter with abuse and cruelty was in her home which should have been a safe environment for her. Her father’s action to rape her implies that the African-American community failed to rise above the behavior and station imposed on them by the society. Her apartment is described as dilapidated and impoverished, it was modified from an old store’s anterior (Morrison 25). The store was a successful and presentable business in the past; however, its current state of degradation illustrates the place and conditions that Pecola faced. Additionally, her subsistence on recycled goods is characteristic to segregation and indifferent treatment of the African-American community.

Morrison wrote his novel in the civil rights movement era when the African-American people were segregated from their white counterparts and relegated to degraded facilities. Therefore, Pecola’s isolation and subjection to a decaying home environment showcase the prevalent issues and events as perceived by Morrison. For instance, the author notes that the white people resided up the street, which is a figurative and literal representation of their higher position in society in comparison with the African-American people’s poor and degraded living conditions (Friedman). This aspect is shown by the Pecola’s life style.

Pecola is a representation of the African-American community’s negativity through its continued tolerance of segregation, social and economic poverty. Essentially, she is symbolic to the tribulations and poverty form which the African-Americans were constantly trying to escape. However, their attempts bore no tangible results, which is why they were rooted in their pre-condition (Bump). Through her desire to dissociate from the reality of the predicament, Pecola represents an alienated person looking for a way out through identifying with another individual. Additionally, Pecola’s alienation is a factor of the prevalent racial oppression that is illustrated by her mother’s actions who unceasingly complaints about insignificant issues. For instance, she complains in the event that Pecola consumes all the milk in the house.

Morrison uses Pauline, Pecola’s mother, to showcase a critical barrier that the African-American community needs to overcome. Pauline is discontent with her family, an aspect that leads to resentment and cruelty towards her close ones since she perceives them as a stumbling block towards measuring up to the white man’s standards. Consequently, she becomes distant and fails to care for Pecola. Meanwhile, Pecola’s father is presented as an unreliable and uncaring drunkard who fails to provide for or support his daughter; instead, he rapes and impregnates her (Morrison 46). As a consequence of years characterized by feelings of indifference and mistreatment in the hands of Pauline, Pecola becomes an apathetic representation of the African-American people who obey and bow to their white masters and whose inferiority becomes a hindrance to their attempts for equality in a white man’s world.

Pauline’s indifference towards Pecola can be perceived as a rejection of any attempts towards those who strive for change and equality in the society. Therefore, she is illustrated as more loyal and sympathetic to the white man’s wellbeing than her daughter’s. For instance, when Pecola tips over a pie, Pauline is not concerned for her wellbeing, instead she scuttles to comfort a crying white child while promising to bake another pie for him. This experience further alienates Pecola since she recognizes that her needs are insignificant in contrast to a white man’s needs. Thus, she learns that fighting the battle against the white man is futile. Inadvertently, the cycle of apathy, self-doubt, and inferiority is imposed on the next generation of the African-American people (Friedman).

In an attempt to find a meaning in her existence, Pecola visits a spiritualist who deceives her that her eyes are the bluest in the entire universe; therefore, she would be loved by all. Her desire to stand beyond her degrading conditions and loveless life is motivated by her parents’ indiscretions, among other challenges. Pecola’s parents engage in sex in the presence of their children, which makes her feel humiliated and ashamed. This leads to the belief that if she had blue eyes she could effortlessly choose to see what she desired to see and ignore the rest of the world. The atmosphere in her home eventually leads her to look for refuge with the prostitutes as they are the only people who seem to understand and appreciate her as a person (Morrison 69).

Trying to change her life and to find happiness, Pecola reverts to religion; however, her expectations of the divine intervention are grossly misplaced. Both man and God appear to be against her since her attendance to the Soaphouse Church serves to further her alienation. Although the church promises Pecola “blue eyes”, it fails to deliver on its promise but instead uses her to poison a dog. Morrison uses the church to illustrate the fact that there is a limit to the expectations within which the African-American community can place on a higher deity (Bump). Therefore, Pecola represents the naivety of a people who channel their faith and expectations in others, even though the chances of such expectations being fulfilled are significantly low.

The novel uses Pecola’s desire to possess blue eyes as a representation of the African-American community’s wish and need for equality. Hence, it is a symbol of freedom from poverty, social, and economic segregation, which, consequently, illustrates the “the strange meaning of being black at the dawning of the Twentieth Century” (Du Bois). While Pecola wants to have blue eyes, she has no wish to become a member of the white community. Therefore, her desire is motivated by her craving for recognition by the community, including her family. Pecola seeks spiritual intervention through the attendance to the Soaphouse church which is characteristic to the community’s attempts to find help from a higher authority, such as the government (Bump). The Church promises Pecola that she has blue eyes and, given her faith, the girl indeed sees her reflection in the mirror having blue eyes, even though it is not true.

Conclusion

In reality, Pecola does not have blue eyes, and she continues being a victim of her own disillusionment. This aspect of the narrative uses Pecola to represent the fact that the government is aware of the African-American community’s predicament and has enacted legislation that promise equal rights to them. However, the rigidity of society in accepting change ensures that the African-American community has vague and fewer rights and restricts them into a culture of servitude and subjection to the white society. Morrison uses Pecola to represent the continuing struggle for equality and would like to warn the African-Americans. The author urges them to continue their fight for a better life through the attainment of the actual equality and the elimination of their social, economic, and political segregation.

 

Works Cited

Bump, Jerome. Racism and Appearance in The Bluest Eye: A Template for an Ethical Emotive Criticism. College Literature, 37.2 (2010): n. pag. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~bump/publications/37.2.bump.html>.

Du Bois, W.E.B. “Forethought” from Souls of Black Folks. University of Virginia, 9 Jan. 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. < http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/dubois/fore.html>

Friedman, Joe. Race and Community in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” HubPages, 21 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://joefriedman.hubpages.com/hub/Race-and-Community-in-Toni-Morrisons-The-Bluest-Eye>.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2002.