Self Hate In Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

2430 words - 10 pages

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
self-hate.

“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 bad things
will inevitably happen to her because she is ugly and.

According to Elaine Showalter.s discussion about “The Female Tradition”, there are
several phases that a minority group experiences. The first phase is described as an extended

period of “imitation of the prevailing modes of the dominant tradition, and internalization of its
standards of art and its views on social roles” (Hamilton, 114). White Western society plays the
dominant role here, and Pecola exhibits longing to imitate white society. Her desperation to
have white beauty is so strong that she eats Mary Jane candies, fantasizing that the candies will
make her white: “Smiling white face. Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue eyes looking at her out
of clean comfort…To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane.
Be Mary Jane” (Morrison, 50).

Claudia Macteer is the only character that seemingly has distaste for white beauty. She is
not at all impressed with it and does not understand why she is not considered beautiful like
other white children. Readers get a snapshot at the beginning of The Bluest Eye of Frieda and
Pecola discussing their fondness of Shirley Temple. The only one who seems...

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