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the bluest eye

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zlatan filipovic

on 24 September 2018

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Transcript of the bluest eye

Toni Morrioson
The Bluest Eye

Historical Context
The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s led to a cultural questioning of America’s alleged self-image of liberal and democratic freedom and
its failure to live up to its promise.
Study Qs
Discuss Morrison’s suggestion that the novel explores “the damaging
internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority
originating in the outside gaze” (BE, xi).

What does she mean exactly and how is this experience manifested in the novel? Use textual evidence.
Study Qs
Compare and discuss the relation between Pecola and Claudia?

How do they differ and why is Pecola destined to a devastating end? Substantiate your discussion with textual evidence.
Study Qs
What is the purpose of omniscient narration in the novel?
Dr Zlatan Filipovic
GU, SPL/Eng Lit

Due to distrust in political authority, writing that reexamines the dominant versions of history opened up for a diversity of American experience and questioned
the received myths of what constitutes American identity.
This is very much prevalent in the novel, where the possibility of being
and being American at the
time is in question.
African American women like Toni Morrison, Lucille Clifton, and Rita Dove wrote in transnational, racial, and ethnic terms, focusing on particular experiences, specific to race, ethnicity or gender.
The condition of double discrimination is part of the fabric of black American women's experience, which Morrison explores in her fiction.

Yet women in black communities are often spiritually strong, holding the shreds of the community together (e.g., Sula).
Morrison’s writing is an important political and ethical act that resonates beyond the usual reach of imaginative fiction.
The famous “I have a dream” speech given at
the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1963 after a
freedom march where over 200.000 participated.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

King is anchoring the justice of the cause in the Constitution and the very birth of the nation. To dispute it is to dispute
Struggling against the ethnocentric patriar-
chal myths and expectations of femininity.

The importance of black history

The fact that black American consciousness has to somehow accept and engage with the historical realities of slavery and discover
“how to believe what had to be believed”
(Morrison, “Recitatif”).
Morrison is writing about
shame as internalization of inferiority.
Racism as part of the white perception, “edged” in the gaze of “the white eyes”

As if to say that this is what constitutes the encounter with the white gaze inscribing shame into the very structures of perception.

This objectification seems systemic to the annihilating white gaze in whose eyes the other, or Pecola, can only emerge as desubjectified.
This is what Morrison suggests regarding the internalization of inferiority:

When one is bled dry of any self-respect, in the end, one internalizes others’ prejudice that is now ontologically manifested in shame, which becomes part of one’s being, and the only way to recover a sense of dignity and belief in one’s own cultural identity maybe through liberating absolving violence.

After all,
is this not why Claudia tears apart and destroys the “blue-eyed Baby Dolls” (20)
she receives as a gift?
Her blue eyes reflect my own shame, which is why I either destroy them (Claudia), or feel self-contempt creeping in and hatred for my own skin that I now also see as repulsive (Pecola).

Internalized oppression:

Pecola accepts rejection by the white dominated society as legitimate, irremovable and turns it against herself.
But why does Pecola react in this way and Claudia does not, considering their social circumstances?
Pecola is constantly exposed to the brutality of domestic violence and of dehumanising social rejections everywhere and from everyone.

even from the black boys, who by tormenting her try to exorcise their own blackness

and also to domestic aggression of the worst kind: incest.
Pecola, in the end, drowns in acute psychosis as her narration testifies in the last part of the novel.

She is now wrapped tightly in a cloak of madness that comforts her into believing that everyone is jealous of her "newly acquired" blue eyes.
We are allowed a glimpse in her alienated world where an imaginary friend now compensates for the unbearable emotional pain she has suffered by constantly reaffirming her fantasies.
What does her desire for blue eyes imply?

What is the significance of the title and what does the symbolism suggested in it represent for Pecola?
It suggests
racial self-loathing and contempt for her own difference
that eventually leads to complete destruction.

She is a victim of the white hegemony that wholly negates her because she does not,
nor ever can
, measure up to the destructive blonde, blue-eyed American myth.

This prejudice, being universal, affects even the white community who might themselves fail to live up to it by their own Anglican standards.

Pecola believes that everyone would value her more — in fact, recognize her humanity — if she were not black, that she would be loved if she were white.
Morrison zeroes in on the psychological damage done to a black girl who self-destructively accepts racial prejudice as legitimate and unquestionable.
Pecola’s quest for whiteness becomes a quest for self-approval, which is the devastating impact of racism if it remains unquestioned.
Auto-immunity of racisim
Alternating omniscient and restricted narration with Claudia's tender segues into the past
Last section is given to Pecola's alienated, suffering voice and to Claudia’s finishing lines that bring us to the present time and close the circle of Pecola’s tragedy and self-destruction.
The omniscient narration thus tries to account for the crimes and for the psychological damage inflicted on the black consciousness by the years of white oppression and racial contempt.
The reader is thus given an implicit answer to the question Morrison addressed in her Foreword of "How" something like this can happen.
A human face is put upon the suffering of Cholly as well as Soaphead Church (Ellihue M. Whitcomb) that makes us complicit in the crimes that happen.
The omniscient narrator, each time, provides the social and historical context that inevitably shape the characters and their destinies in the novel.
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
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