The Bluest Eye' Essay on Beauty

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The standard of beauty has changed throughout the years, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is how women have been forced to conform to the standards set by the media. “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison was set in the 1940s, a time when white beauty standards deformed the lives of black women. Upon googling the 1940’s images it can be seen that the majority of the pictures were white women and very few were black women. The basis of the white beauty standard and the idolization of being a white female in the 1940s can be seen heavily throughout this classic novel.

Throughout this novel, white beauty standards take a heavy toll on the many characters within this novel. Even though this was centuries after slavery, the black community still faced racial discrimination due to the high standards at which women were held in the 1940s. This strong white supremacy could be seen everywhere, even with the Shirley Temple doll that was given to Claudia. At this time, the white beauty standard was white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes which still holds its place in today’s society. With the desire to match up with these standards, Claudia states “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs-all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every child treasured” (Morrison 20). This statement shows that American culture promotes the standards of white beauty and its desire. Due to the high standard that women were held to, African American women faced rejection and self-hatred. Each of the characters in the novel is affected by the beauty standards and it leads to their acceptance or rejection by the society in which they live and how they see themselves.

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Out of all the characters, Pecola Breedlove suffered the most because she connected beauty with being loved, and having blue eyes will allow her to be accepted into society. Due to the way cinema portrayed ‘absolute beauty’, Pecola believed that the only way to be accepted by society was based on her whiteness and physical beauty standards. According to an academic journal written by Minhazul Md. Islam, “In gender studies and feminist theory, beauty standards are also interpreted as socially constructed rather than given. In this perspective, such standards are a form of control. The “beauty myth” reproduces gender inequalities by propagating unrealistic beauty ideals for women” (Minhazul 192). This study explains moreover of how the media caused Pecola to question her beauty because of how it’s been portrayed within society and her quest for ‘absolute’ beauty drives her to madness, which in a way suggests that her desire will never be fulfilled. Pecola’s unhealthy obsession with beauty she also believes if she were prettier it would stop her parents from fighting. As stated by the narrator, “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes...were different, that is to say, beautiful, she would be different…maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove” (Morrison 46). This part of the novel goes into talking about Pecola’s home life, and in a way, she blamed herself for what was happening because she wasn’t pretty enough, and she didn’t have the blue eyes that were idolized in their society. She believed that her physical appearance could alter one’s psychological condition and other problems in her own life.

Unlike Pecola, Claudia’s family is comfortable with the color of the skin and their appearance, but their problem is they see whiteness to be superior to blackness and they simply put up with it. We see their first encounter with this problem when Claudia receives a doll with yellow hair, blue eyes, and pink skin from her family. Her family says to her, “Here, this is beautiful and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it” (Morrison 21). Based on this, it suggests that if you don’t have these features then you are not worthy to be a human being and you are not beautiful. Through Claudia’s eyes, she doesn’t understand why someone sees this as beautiful because it is an object and can’t have feelings of any kind. Also, she believes through this experience that beauty could be earned and bought. Islam states in her journal, “Beauty standard is always built upon socially fabricated values. Claudia’s perplexity concerning the representation of beauty refers to politics. This also is associated with Freud’s idea of the unconscious treatment of words as real things” (Islam, 193). This supports the idea of how Claudia thinks beauty can be bought and your appearance will define whether or not you are worthy and beautiful. After a while, she realizes that due to society, she will never be seen as beautiful because of her skin color and she as well as her peers turn to worship those who are seen as beautiful such as Shirley Temple.

Overall, the white beauty standard in “The Bluest Eye” affects the characters by not allowing them to see their full potential or beauty. They all were set into these beliefs because of how America portrayed the standard of beauty through toys and cinema. This standard of white beauty still exists in society today, especially on social media. On the other hand, when it comes to toys, they are beginning to create dolls so children can see themselves as beautiful no matter what and feel more accepted within society.   

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The Bluest Eye’ Essay on Beauty. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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