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Social Issues in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye Social Issues

With The Bluest Eye, Morrison has not only created a story, but also a series of painfully accurate impressions. As Dee puts it “to read the book…is to ache for remedy” (20). But Morrison raises painful issues while at the same time managing to reveal the hope and encouragement beneath the surface.

A reader might easily conclude that the most prominent social issue presented in The Bluest Eye is that of racism, but more important issues lie beneath the surface. Pecola experiences damage from her abusive and negligent parents. The reader is told that even Pecola’s mother thought she was ugly from the time of birth. Pecola’s negativity may have initially been caused by her family’s failure to provide her with identity, love, security, and socialization, ail which are essential for any child’s development (Samuels 13). Pecola’s parents are able only to give her a childhood of limited possibilities. She struggles to find herself in infertile soil, leading to the analysis of a life of sterility (13). Like the marigolds planted that year, Pecola never grew.

The concept of physical appearance as a virtue is the center of the social problems portrayed in the novel. Thus the novel unfolds with the most logical responses to this overpowering impression of beauty: acceptance, adjustment, and rejection (Samuels 10). Through Pecola Breedlove, Morrison presents reactions to the worth of physical criteria. The beauty standard that Pecola feels she must live up to causes her to have an identity crisis. Society’s standard has no place for Pecola, unlike her “high yellow dream child” classmate, Maureen Peals, who fits the mold (Morrison 62).

Maureen’s influence in the novel is important. “She enchanted the entire school… black girls stepped aside when she wanted to use the sink in the girl’s toilet… She never had to search for anybody to eat with in the cafeteria–they flocked to the table of her choice” (62-63). In contrast, Pecola’s classmates insult her black skin by chanting “Black e mo Black e mo Ya daddy sleeps nekked/ stch ta ta stch ta ta” (65).

The most damaging interracial confrontation related to color involves Pecola and an adult, Geraldine (Samuels 12). When Pecola enters Geraldine’s home at the invitation of her son, Geraldine forces her to leave with words that hurt deeply, saying “Get out… You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house” (92).

Self-Hate in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

At a time when blue-eyed, pale skin Shirley Temple is idolized by white and black alike,

eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove desperately seeks out beauty for herself. In order to attain

beauty in her culture, Pecola must do the impossible: find white beauty. Toni Morrison shows

the disastrous effects that colorism and racism can have on a whole culture and how African-

Americans will tear each other apart in order to fit into the graces of white society. The desire to

be considered beautiful in the white world is so compelling, that the characters in The Bluest Eye

loathe their own skin color and feel shame for their culture. These feelings of self-loathing and

contempt pass on from the adults to their children, creating a continuous cycle of negativity and


“Here was an ugly little black girl asking for beauty…A little black girl who wanted to

rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes” (Morrison, 174). By

petitioning for white beauty, Pecola Breedlove is desperately attempting to pull herself out of the

pit of blackness. Because Pecola has dark-skin and authentic African-American features, black

and white society has conditioned her to believe that she is ugly. Pecola.s physical features

ensure her to be a victim of classical racism; classical racism being the notion that the “physical

ugliness of blackness is a sign of a deeper ugliness and depravity” (Taylor, 16). This notion

allows the mistreatment of dark-skinned people because their blackness is a link to a “dark past”

and to uncivilized ways. Pecola does not epitomize white society.s standards of beauty because

she does not have light skin and trademark blue eyes; therefore, she must be ugly and ba…

… middle of paper …

…Melus: 19.4 (1994): 109-127. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO.

Web. 24 March 2014.

Lobodziec, Agnieszka. “Theological Models of Black Middle-Class Performance in Toni

Morrison.s Novels.” Black Theology: An International Journal 8.1 (2010): 32-52. Academic

Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 March 2014.

McKittrick, Katherine. “Black and „Cause I.m Black I.m Blue.: transverse racial geographies in

Toni Morrison.s The Bluest Eye.” Gender, Place

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