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Racism And Sexism In The Bluest Eye

1783 words - 7 pages

Toni Morrison, the author of The Bluest Eye, centers her novel around two things: beauty and wealth in their relation to race and a brutal rape of a young girl by her father. Morrison explores and exposes these themes in relation to the underlying factors of black society: racism and sexism. Every character has a problem to deal with and it involves racism and/or sexism. Whether the characters are the victim or the aggressor, they can do nothing about their problem or condition, especially when concerning gender and race. Morrison's characters are clearly at the mercy of preconceived notions maintained by society. Because of these preconceived notions, the racism found in The Bluest Eye is not whites against blacks. Morrison writes about the racism of lighter colored blacks against darker colored blacks and rich blacks against poor blacks. Along with racism within the black community, sexism is exemplified both against women and against men. As Morrison investigates the racism and sexism of the community of Lorain, Ohio, she gives the reader more perspective as to why certain characters do or say certain things.

Morrison provides the reader with a light-skinned black character whose racist attitudes affect the poorer, darker blacks in the community, especially the main characters, Claudia MacTeer and Pecola Breedlove. Maureen Peal comes from a rich black family and triggers admiration along with envy in every child at school, including Claudia. Although Maureen is light-skinned, she embodies everything that is considered "white," at least by Claudia's standards: "Patent leather shoes with buckles...fluffy sweaters the color of lemon drops tucked into skirts with pleats... brightly colored knee socks with white borders, a brown velvet coat trimmed in white rabbit fur, and a matching muff" (Morrison 62). But Claudia and her sister Frieda are able to recognize "the thing that made [Maureen] beautiful and not [them]" was only in terms of its effects on other people (74). Despite knowing that they are "nicer, brighter," they cannot ignore "the honey voices of parents and aunts and the obedience in the eyes of [their] peers, the slippery light in the eyes of [their] teachers" when Maureen is around or the topic of conversation (74). The way Maureen dresses and behaves in front of adults is not the only way she affects Claudia and Frieda. With racist comments such as, "What do I care about her old black daddy...[and] you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute," she infuriates the girls, for in their eyes Maureen is black too. Racist attitudes like Maureen's affect the poorer, darker blacks and can eventually lead them to think racist thoughts of their own.

Pauline Breedlove, Pecola's mother, experiences racism within the black community when she moves to Lorain, Ohio. Being a dark-skinned black woman from the south, she does not understand why "northern colored folk was different... [and why they were] no better than whites for meanness"...

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