Essay on 'The Bluest Eye' Summary

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As a society, stereotypes are inevitable to avoid. From childhood to adulthood, people use these as a standard to judge people. Sometimes they can be seen positively, but most of the time, stereotypes can be harmful. Every culture has its standard of beauty as well, and it can either be difficult or easy to live up to those expectations within a culture. In the novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison reinforces the idea that people must change the way they look to be treated better or feel loved. From physical features to being wealthy, these things can cause people to take drastic measures to get what they want. One of the young characters, Pecola, is an example of someone who wants to change themselves to be treated differently. Sometimes, it can come with a heavy price to pay. With the way society advertises beauty, these stereotypes either hurt or help someone who could be struggling with their insecurities. These portrayals such as Claudia’s doll, Shirley Temple, Pecola’s desire for pale skin and blue eyes, and Maureen’s clothes are significant because they expose people to the issue that changing yourself, to fit in, would be better than being yourself. Individuals need to understand this thinking because it can help them to sympathize and learn that people have their ways of acceptance.

Most little girls, at some point, wanted to own a doll. They are so beautiful and delicate, so it was important to take extra care of them. Sometimes, girls would want a doll that would look similar to themselves or one that they considered to be beautiful. Claudia, on the other hand, hated the doll she was gifted. The doll she had received did not even look like her in the slightest. Instead of the doll having dark skin, dark hair, and brown eyes, she was the exact opposite. The doll was pale, blonde, and had blue eyes. These kinds of dolls were valued by women throughout the world, according to Claudia. She stated that “Adults, older girls,

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shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.” (Morrison, 20) She questions why everyone else believes that these dolls are lovable and beautiful. So, she decides to take apart her doll, trying to find where its “beauty” was. She finds only a “mere metal roundness.” This discovery gave her hope because even the most beautiful doll was ugly on the inside. Claudia naïvely assumes that the beauty others see in the doll must be physically inside it, This shows that she hasn’t learned that beauty, around this time, was a matter of cultural standards. This white, blue-eyed doll is considered beautiful because the culture she lives in believes that being white is superior to everyone else. Claudia ends up destroying her white baby doll, but she discovers that “dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls.” (Morrison, 22) Her hatred of these dolls had turned into an actual hatred of little white girls. She enjoys destroying the white dolls because as she does so, she satisfies her hate of white values that label her as black and ugly. Although Claudia despises these dolls with white skin and blue eyes, Pecola wants nothing more than these qualities.

Pecola Breedlove is a character that hates the way she looks. Instead of accepting her traits, Pecola is mesmerized by her white appearance. One person that she admires is Shirley Temple. Shirley Temple was a very popular child star in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, Shirley Temple was the epitome of white beauty standards. Pecola's love of Shirley Temple developed out of self-hate since she was everything that Pecola wasn’t. She was also obsessed with drinking milk, something that was white as well.S he drank three quarts of milk out of that glass that had Shirley’s face on it. Pecola believes that the more milk she drinks, the paler her skin will become. The milk could be seen as a way to lighten her skin in Pecola’s mind. It was very creative of Morrison to have Pecola drink milk since it’s a substance of pure whiteness. In Michelle Hunt’s article titled Women as Commodities in Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory and Morrison's The Bluest Eye she references a quote from another article from Jane Kuenz, who talks about Shirley Temple being a figure in the media. She states “ It is no accident that Morrison links many of these images of properly sexualized white women to the medium of film... because of the growth of the Hollywood film industry, more likely to limit the production of alternate images.” (Hunt, 2016) She argues that the way the media represents women, causes the common woman to judge themselves based on these standards of beauty. Pecola believes herself to be undesirable because she does not possess the white standards of beauty that are seen in the media. All Pecola wanted was to be a part of the lovely, white community, and Morrison depicts this through her huge obsession with Shirley Temple and milk, and she wants nothing more than to have white skin and blue eyes.

Blue eyes, for Pecola, symbolized beauty and happiness. She associates them with the white, middle class that she so desperately wants to be a part of. The reason why she wants them so badly is because she thinks that having blue eyes is the only solution to being beautiful and finding social acceptance. Pecola, like many girls, develops an unhealthy self-image because she isn't white and doesn't have what is considered 'traditionally beautiful' characteristics, such as blue eyes, that have been reinforced as desirable characteristics throughout her life. When she finally “receives” her blue eyes from Soaphead Church, she starts talking to her imaginary friend about how she’s not happy with how blue her eyes are. Pecola is worried that “If there is somebody with bluer eyes than mine, then maybe there is somebody with the bluest eyes... But suppose my eyes aren’t blue enough?...Blue enough for something. Blue enough... for you!” (Morrison, 203) Pecola starts hallucinating and she believes Soaphead has satisfied her wish and given her blue eyes. Now, she’s not sure how her eyes measure up to other blue eyes. Rather than giving Pecola awareness about the world around her, these eyes form a sense of blindness. She has not gotten rid of the jealousy of what others possess and worries that someone has bluer eyes than she does. Her belief in her blue eyes is not enough, and she needs constant reassurance. Her insecurities about these physical features have tied in with how she feels when she meets Maureen Peal.

Maureen Peal is a light-skinned, wealthy girl that everyone adores. Even though she is considered black, she is popular and adored. Maureen’s family would be the direct opposite of what a black family was at that time, which was poor and dirty. Maureen, in a sense, has a form of privilege of being a lighter-skinned black girl instead of scorning darker-skinned girls. The only people who dislike her are Claudia and Frieda. Maureen has everything that Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda lack: wealth, nice clothes, and beauty which brings her the admiration of whites and blacks alike. Claudia remarks that she and Frieda were fascinated but irritated by Maureen, and they do anything they can to make her ugly in their minds—call her names and make fun of her few physical flaws.M Morrison describes her clothing as the “richest of the white girls”, and goes into a lot more detail than the clothes of the other girls like Pecola and Claudia. Maureen was seen wearing “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) Her appearance shows a lot of color and neatness, which isn’t how most of the girls’ clothes are seen  When Pecola is accused of killing Geraldine’s cat, Morrison describes Pecola in a “dirty torn dress, the plaits sticking out on her head, hair matted where the plaits had come undone, the muddy shoes with the wad of gum peeping out from between the cheap soles, the soiled socks, one of which had been walked down into the heel of the shoe.” (Morrison, 91) These descriptions show how different the two girls are seen in the public eye. Maureen’s clothing shows significance because even the most minuscule things, like clothes, can impact how people see each other. Pecola admires Maureen’s clothes because she wishes that she had a lifestyle like her. Instead, she’s stuck with really dirty and worn-out clothes. Although both Pecola and Maureen conform to this ideal of feminism Pecola has it the hard way because no matter what she does, she can never be a part of the white, feminine lifestyle.

Beauty plays a huge role in this novel when it comes to reinforcing racial stereotypes. These depictions of racial stereotypes like Claudia’s doll, Shirley Temple, Pecola’s desire for whiter skin and blue eyes, and Maureen’s clothing are significant because they show people that changing themselves, to feel accepted, would be better than being themselves. Others need to understand this way of thinking because it can help them comprehend that people have their own ways of acceptance.

Works Cited

      1. Hunt, Michelle. 'Women as Commodities in Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory and Morrison's the bluest Eye.' Pennsylvania Literary Journal, vol. 8, no. 2, 2016, pp. 120-149,169-170. ProQuest,
      2. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume Book, 1994. 
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