"Bluest Eye" By Toni Morrison. Essay

2716 words - 11 pages

Post World War I, many new opportunities were given to the growing and expanding group of African Americans living in the North. Almost 500,000 African Americans moved to the northern states between 1910 and 1920. This was the beginning of a continuing migration northward. More than 1,500,000 blacks went north in the 1930's and 2,500,000 in the 1940's. Life in the North was very hard for African Americans. Race riots, limited housing resulting in slum housing, and restricted job opportunities were only a few of the many hardships that the African American people had to face at this time. Families often had to separate, social agencies were overcrowded with people that all needed help, crime rates increased and many other resulting problems ensued. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison takes place during this time period. A main theme in this novel is the quest for individual identity and the influences of the family and community in that quest. This theme is present throughout the novel and evident in many of the characters. Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, and Pauline Breedlove are all embodiments of this quest for identity, as well as symbols of the quest of many of the Black northern newcomers of that time.The Breedlove family is a group of people merely under the same roof, a family only by name. Cholly (the father) is a constantly drunk and abusive man. His abusive manner is apparent towards his wife Pauline physically and towards his daughter Pecola sexually. Pauline is a "mammy" to a white family and continues to favor them over her biological family. Pecola is a little black girl with low self esteem. The world has led her to believe that she is ugly and that the epitome of "beautiful" requires blue eyes. Therefore every night she prays that she will wake up with blue eyes.Brought up as a poor unwanted girl, Pecola Breedlove desires the acceptance and love of society. The image of "Shirley Temple beauty" surrounds her. In her mind, if she was to be beautiful, people would finally love and accept her. The idea that blue eyes are a necessity for beauty has been imprinted on Pecola her whole life. "If [I] looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove too. Maybe they would say, `Why look at pretty eyed Pecola. We mustn't do bad things in front of those pretty [blue] eyes'" (Morrison 46). Many people have helped imprint this ideal of beauty on her. Mr. Yacowbski, as a symbol for the rest of society's norm, treats her as if she were invisible. "He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant storekeeper... see a little black girl?" (Morrison 48). Her classmates also have an effect on her. They seem to think that because she is not beautiful, she is not worth anything except as the focal point of their mockery. "Black e mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepsnekked. Black e mo black e mo ya dadd sleeps nekked. Black e mo..." (Morrison 65). Shouted by her classmates...

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