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Racism in in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

Both Toni Morrison’s novel about an African American family in Ohio during the 1930s and 1940s, The Bluest Eye and Louise Erdrich;s novel about the Anishinabe tribe in the 1920s in North Dakota, Tracks are, in part, about seeing. Both novels examine the effects of a kind of seeing that is refracted through the lens of racism by subjects of racism themselves. Erdrich’s Pauline Puyat and Morrison’s Pecola Breedlove are crazy from their dealings with racism and themselves suffer from an internalized racism that is upheld and maintained by social and cultural structures within which they live. Pauline and Pecola become the embodiment of world sickness, of social pathologies as they become increasingly alienated from their bodies.

Pecola, driven to want blue eyes by her observations that is is those with blue who receive and thus “deserve” love, eventually loses her mind after she experiences repeated violence at home, at school, and on the street. These violences are all rooted in racism. Pecola begins to believe the lie of racism: that to be black…

Use of Color in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

Pauline saw the beauty of life through the colors of her childhood down South. Her fondest memories were of purple berries, yellow lemonade, and “that streak of green them june bugs made on the trees the night we left down home. All them colors was in me”1. Pauline and Cholly left the colors of the South when they moved North to Ohio to begin their life together. Through Cholly, Pauline hoped to find those colors of beauty that she left “down home”.

For a while she did find her colors, her beauty, in the eyes of Cholly. He released in her all the colors of life which were sealed down in her soul. Everything about their early married life was described in vivid colors. This was true even of her sexual experiences with him. Everything was fine, ordered and beautiful in both Pauline and Cholly’s life until they moved “up North”.

Once they moved North everything changed. The colors went out of Pauline’s life. “I missed my people. I weren’t used to so much white folks…Northern colored folk was different too”2. Cholly only became “meaner and meaner and wanted to fight all of the time”2. He did not help the situation and contributed to his wife’s dissatisfaction and disillusionment by not coming home. He found his satisfaction through other people, thus he neglected Pauline.

To make up for this neglect and her own insecurities, Pauline sought comfort through movies. Here she would sit and watch the perfect “white” world of Hollywood. Here she would find her colors on the “silver screen”. She had a longing for these colors which was going to affect her life and the lives of her family until it destroys them, especially Pecola.

When Pecola was born, a major change occured in Pauline’s life. According to Susan Willis, “Adjectives become substantives, giving taste and color and making it possible for colors to trickle and flow and finally be internalized…”3. She now wished to live her life like this, through the colors in herself.

Right after Pecola was born Cholly again began to pay attention to Pauline again the way he used to when they lived down South. The only problem was that the colors had dimed in Pauline. By working for a white family, she found her order and her colors again but not with the intensity that she once did.

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