The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, tells the sordid story of Pecola, a young colored girl, as she struggles to attain beauty, desperately praying for blue eyes. Depicting the fallacies in the storybook family, Morrison weaves the histories of the many colored town folk into the true definition of a family. Through intense metaphor and emotion, the ugliness of racial tension overcomes the search for beauty and in turn the search for love.
Pecola, a twelve year old from a broken home, is first introduced when she is sent to live with Claudia (the narrator) and her family. Her father, Cholly Breedlove, a drunk, has burnt down the family’s home and is now in jail. Here we see Pecola’s want for beauty and her obsession with Shirley Temple and blonde haired, blue-eyed baby dolls as a common desire of young black females. This want for beauty is really a yearning for love, the love and adoration they see attributed to the living “dolls.”
[I wanted] to discover what eluded me: the secret of the magic they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say “Awwwww,” but not for me? The eye slide of black women as they passed them on the street, and the possessive gentleness of their touch as they handled them (15).
The children, so used to being beaten or whipped, have memories only of this treatment. They have never felt the warmth or love that they believe the white children receive. This pain turns them to believe that it is because of their color, their dark skin, dark eyes, and “woolly” hair, that they are not seen as being beautiful, and from these thoughts they begin to hate the beauty of the white children. Living in fear of her parents, Pecola becomes introverted and learns as many of the other children to deal with the pain. “[Mama’s song] left me with the conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet” (18).
An undertone of sexual fantasies and discovery is present throughout the novel, as many of the characters have been products of loveless relationships. The men especially seek passion in the young girls, leading eventually to the confrontation between Pecola and Cholly, during which he rapes and impregnates her still developing body. It is after this immoral act that Pecola seeks Soaphead Church for the answer to her prayers.
Ophelia as a Foil to Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Ophelia as a Foil to Hamlet
In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the audience finds a docile, manipulated, scolded, victimized young lady named Ophelia. Ophelia is a foil to Hamlet. Plays have foils to help the audience better understand the more important characters in the play. The character of Ophelia is necessary so that the audience will give Hamlet a chance to get over his madness and follow his heart.
Similarities are an important part of being a foil. One similarity that Hamlet and Ophelia share are that they both are children of controlling parents. [SV – 1] Hamlet’s father, who is murdered, comes back as a ghost to tell him who his murderer is. This news is his father’s way of controlling him from the grave. Hamlet’s mother and stepfather are also controlling him by persuading Hamlet not to go to Wittenburg. Ophelia is also controlled by her father. She tells him how Hamlet has tried many times to express his affections for her. Ophelia’s father does not believe Hamlet is sincere and orders her to stay away from him. Ophelia obeys her father’s wishes. Women were expected to do as they were told and believed what they were told to be true.
Another similarity between Hamlet and Ophelia is the feelings they have for each other. In the beginning of the play, we are led to believe that Hamlet loves Ophelia. This frightens Ophelia, but that does not mean she does not have feelings for him also. It is her father who encourages her to suppress any feelings she may have then. Later in the play Ophelia confesses her love for Hamlet, and he then hides his feelings and denies that he loved her. He suggests that she go to a nunnery. This makes Ophelia feel worthless and not wanted.
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… when Ophelia takes her life, Hamlet does just that. [SS-1] He again admits to his love for her and apologizes to her brother Laertes for the death of their father. At the end of the play Hamlet’s madness is also brought to an end, and he joins Ophelia again.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Pennington, Michael. “Ophelia: Madness Her Only Safe Haven.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet”: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.