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Racial Self-Loathing in the Bluest Eye - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Class Racial Self-Loathing in The Bluest Eye It is difficult in modern times to imagine the lack of exposure that blacks received in popular culture in the years when Toni Morrison was a small child, before the Second World War…
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Racial Self-Loathing in the Bluest Eye

Download file to see previous pages... The MacTeer family shares several elements with Morrison's family, fighting poverty during the Great Depression, with a grandfather who played the violin and a mother who sang. When Morrison was emerging as a writer during the 1960's, the “Black is Beautiful” movement was in full swing, with the primary goal of reestablishing the notion that African-Americans could be beautiful. In this novel, Pecola Breedlove's development serves to express Morrison's vitriol toward the racial self-loathing that typified the black experience when Morrison was growing up. The desire that blacks felt in those years to be accepted as beautiful in the majority white culture caused the characters of the novel to hate their own color and feel ashamed of their cultural background. This self-loathing becomes a generational tradition, moving down from one set of parents to their children, and so on. Pecola Breedlove wants to emerge from the darkness of living as a black girl: “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” (174). She wants to have blue eyes so badly that she goes through the primitive ritual that Soaphead Church gives her, feeding a packet of meat to a dog on the porch, and divining from the dog's response what would happen to her. Interestingly, the dog chokes on the meat, “his mouth chomping the air, and promptly [falls] down...[moving] like a broken toy around the yard” (176). There is a reason, though, why Pecola is willing to go to such grotesque lengths to change her appearance. Pecola's genuine African-American features make her ugly, at least according to the white way of seeing things. The physical traits that she has will ensure that she will always be the subject of that prototypical racism – the same hatred that would teach that “[t]o give the black girl a white doll in the early sixties was to mainstream the black girl into the culture, to say that she was worthy of the same kind of doll that a white doll would have” (Early 414). Because this idea was so firmly entrenched when Morrison was a child, she grew up thinking that her blackness created a connection with a time of primitive and uncivilized ways. Pecola ultimately feels that she must be hideous and that tragedy will befall her, because she lacks white skin – and blue eyes. Indeed, she says that everyone would like her if she had blue eyes (46). In the years when Morrison was growing up, black society in the United States was still caught up in an imitation of unrealistic modes such as that which would be later perpetuated as the myth of Barbie, who is “anything but real” (Hooks 610). In other words, black artists tried to paint like an ideal of white artists instead of like themselves; black singers tried to sound like an ideal of white singers instead of like themselves, all pursuing a false dream that was not attainable. The Harlem Renaissance and the advent of the jazz movement had yet to make their dent in this imitation – but those days were not far off. Pecola clearly wants to imitate the ways of white society; indeed, the reason that she loves Mary Jane candy is that she thinks eating it will turn 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” ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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