The Bluest Eye is a novel written by Toni Morrison, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1973. The novel tells the narrative of Pecola Breedlove, an African American girl who prays for her eyes to turn blue so she can escape the reality of living in poverty and being black during the time of segregation in America. The theme of beauty shows how more often than not, beauty can become more important than anything else. The protagonist, Pecola Breedlove longs to have blonde hair and blue eyes because this is what she believes will make her beautiful.
The major characters in The Bluest Eye all deal with the theme of beauty differently as each has their own unique story, but ultimately they are all affected by society’s standards of beauty in a negative way. The novel also deals with the theme of racism and how it affects the characters. The Bluest Eye shows that reality is often far from beautiful, but through it all, people can come together to build each other up instead of tearing them down.
The protagonist, Pecola Breedlove, is an eleven-year-old African American girl living during the time of segregation in America. The novel states that she “was so black that her blue eyes looked purple” (Morrison 1), and this description implies that her physical appearance clashes greatly with what society deems beautiful and pretty: blonde hair and blue eyes. Society’s standard of beauty is something Pecola wishes to obtain because she believes this will make her beautiful, but her actions and the things people say about her make it clear that this is not possible.
The first example of society’s image of beauty impacting Pecola comes from an encounter with a white shopkeeper. The novel states, “Pretending she did not look where she was going, she bumped squarely into a white woman on the sidewalk. The woman shouted ‘Nigger! ‘ at her” (Morrison 8). The word ‘nigger’ reflects how society views African Americans as inferior to whites, causing them to have low self-esteem and see themselves as less than human. The theme of beauty also shows through Pecola’s internal conflict with loving herself.
The Bluest Eye mentions that one day when Pecola was brushing her hair, she “thought of the black-and-white picture of the little blond girl in the book. The caption under it read, ‘I am beautiful. ‘ The words made Pecola feel like vomiting”(Morrison 17), showing how her connection to this ideal beauty standard causes her to dislike who she is naturally. The novel also states that “Pecola did not know how anyone could claim that Shirley Temple was beautiful; for Pecola, Shirley Temple looked like a horse” (18).
The description implies that growing up in poverty and segregation caused Pecola to see everyone around her as inferior to what society deems beautiful. The theme of beauty shows through when people look at Pecola and do not see the beauty that she sees in herself. The novel states, “The women who called to her – Mrs. Breedlove! The women who touched her – Mrs. Breedlove! ” (Morrison 18). The word ‘Mrs. ‘ shows how Pecola is still considered young and immature because society only views the appearance of beauty, not the person beneath it.
Pecola grows up believing that beauty is something only white people enjoy, but this belief changes when she meets Maureen Peal. The Bluest Eye states that “Maureen was everything Pecola wanted to be” (19) because she had blonde hair and blue eyes just like what society deems beautiful. This moment leads to another example of the theme of beauty showing through when Pecola states, “I hate my blackness. It’s too tight. My skin is too dark. The blueness of Maureen’s eyes hurts me” (19).
The pain Pecola feels in her skin leads to the novel mentioning that “her fingers fumbled with the buttons on her dress because she wanted to tear it off – to rip off the band of black flesh that gripped her chest like a vise” (21). The feeling of being constricted by this darkness shows how society views African Americans as inferior and ugly. The theme of beauty shows further through when The Bluest Eye states, “She was not beautiful; therefore, she could be loved by no one… She had known for a long time that if she were ever loved, really loved, by her family it would be a miracle.
The fact that they did love her was hardly noticeable; it certainly bore no resemblance to the slick illustrations in storybooks” (21-22). The ideal beauty standards that society holds causes Pecola long to be accepted and loved by others, but she looks in the mirror and sees herself as unlovable because of how society views African Americans. The novel continues on to say that “Pecola’s face began to shine with sweat and life… Suddenly she looked like a little girl illuminated from within – or as if someone had put a bright light beside her face for a photograph.
The novel The Bluest Eye focuses on the racism and oppression African American women face throughout history, and how this affects their self-image. This is evident through the different characters’ opinions on beauty, such as Soaphead Church’s preference for blue eyes and Pecola’s desperate wish to have blonde hair and blue eyes. The novel The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is focused on describing the effects of racism and oppression on African American society.
The main character, Pecola Breedlove, does not understand why she is constantly bullied by her peers simply because she is darker-skinned than they are; thus her wish for blue eyes and blonde hair. The characters in The Bluest Eye who have a preference for light skin and eyes are criticized by the author, so that she can show how society’s beauty standards affect the way people perceive themselves. The novel The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is focused on describing the effects of racism and oppression on African American society.
The main character, Pecola Breedlove, does not understand why she is constantly bullied by her peers simply because she is darker-skinned than they are; thus her wish for blue eyes and blonde hair. The characters in The Bluest Eye who have a preference for light skin and eyes are criticized by the author, so that she can show how society’s beauty standards affect the way people perceive themselves.