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Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye – Female Childhood Icons

Female Childhood Icons in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison weaves stories of violation and hardship to examine the ugliness that racism produces. In this novel, the childhood icons of white culture are negative representations instrumental in engendering internalized racism. For the black child in a racist, white culture, these icons are never innocent. Embodying the ideals of white beauty, they expose the basis for Claudia’s bewilderment at why she is not attractive and Pecola’s desperate desire for beauty. They nourish neither innocent desire, nor the need for acceptance, but denigrate the very idea of blackness. The worship of ideal white beauty, by adults as well as by children, coalesces into a communal neglect of self esteem, foregrounding ugliness as a key element of internalized racism.

How the children respond to these cultural representations of beauty is contrasted through the characters of Claudia and Pecola. Claudia rejects the childhood icons of white culture: Shirley Temple and the blond, blue-eyed dolls she received as presents. Pecola embraces them to the point of madness. Unloved and unwanted, she believes that her ugliness can only be erased by the virtual embodiment of white beauty, beauty symbolized for her by blue eyes. The widely different views held by Claudia and Pecola are important in understanding the survival of one and the demise of the other. This paper explores the experiences and responses of Claudia and Pecola, as African-American girls, in their relationship to the white cultural icons of female childhood.

As a child star, Shirley Temple embodied cultural ideals of innocence and instinctual understanding believed inherent in idealized childhood. A tale…

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…The white, female icons are representative of the cultural ideologies invested in racism, and representative as well of the lack of innocence in things that appear innocent to whites in white culture.

The student may wish to begin the paper with the quote below:

“Had any adult with the power to fulfill my desires taken me seriously and asked me what I wanted, they would have known that I did not want to have anything to own, or to possess any object. I wanted rather to feel something on Christmas day. The real question would have been, ‘Dear Claudia, what experience would you like on Christmas?’ I could have spoken up, ‘I want to sit on the low stool in Big Mama’s kitchen with my lap full of lilacs and listen to Big Papa play his violin for me alone.'”

Works Cited:

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. Afterward by Toni Morrison. New York: Penguin, 1994.

The Loss of a Tribe’s Livelihood in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart: The Loss of a Tribe’s Livelihood

In Things Fall Apart we witnessed the destruction of a traditional native culture. More specifically we witnessed the challenge and weakening of Igbo spirituality, as well as the death of the tribe’s livelihood. The apparent cause can be found in a seemingly good intended mission acting as a gateway for the intrusion of a foreign government, and its quest to conquer and domesticate a self-sustaining, prosperous culture. Although the Igbo downfall was caused primarily by the invasion of “Christian missionaries,” their own religious doctrine and passivity played a significant role in allowing the initial infiltration of an alien religion, and the final dissolution of a once prosperous culture.

It is also critical to consider if this downfall could have been prevented or channeled to produce a positive outcome. History tends to repeat itself within specific cultures, and this is possibly the most valuable tool we can harness to provide us a means of escaping the destruction of the mistakes we have made in the past.

In Things Fall Apart the Igbo village Umuofia fell apart in two distinct fashions. The first aspect of Igbo culture to break down was the village’s spirituality, which was led by the arrival of the Christian mission. Second, this mission acted as a channel to allow a new government to infiltrate Umuofia and challenge the laws and customs that held together the former Igbo way of life.

Igbo spirituality weakened in two waves. First Christianity provided answers that the inhabitants of Umuofia and Mbanta were seeking. At the end of Part One Obierika’s thoughts are expressed:

Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess h…

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…ent the total destruction of Umuofia, it is important to remember that it is impossible for societies to stay static. Our world is growing at an exponential rate and it is inevitable that the boundaries of different cultures will someday overlap; but perhaps it is not really a loss after all. In Chinua Achebe’s words:

. . . the world is changing so fast around us, and a lot of it we are not in control of, but what we do control I think we should think about seriously. . . . Where one story stands, bring another one to stand beside it, and if that’s a better story, then it should displace the bad one. I think that’s the way it should be. If on the other hand, it is necessary to have the two of them side by side, then you don’t lose anything. (Interview with Rob Baker and Ellen Draper)

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann, 1986.

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