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The exploration of Racism in 'The Bluest Eye'

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Aaliya Amrin

on 19 May 2011

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Transcript of The exploration of Racism in 'The Bluest Eye'

By definition Racism is the result of social segregation due to ethnicity The characters experience some instances of direct oppression however I feel mostly, Racism in this novel exists internally within each of the characters, within families and the immediate community that they are exposed to... (their neighborhood) The black community in the novel has been forced to accept beauty to only exist in white people. They are exposed to beauty icons
such as Shirley Temple. They are seen to judge Maureen's lighter skin to be on a higher pedestal than for e.g Pecola's darker skin. The lighter you are the more attractive and the darker the uglier. Claudia is a character that you can argue see's the wrong. She senses the destructive attitues of everyone in the 40's. She is seen rebelling against this in the way in which she destroys her white doll. This can also be seen when she imagines Pecola's baby to be beautiful. She is the only character that you can call open minded and see's more than what is shown to her. Racism also affects the characters in indirect ways such as: The over arching general implications that the great depression had on black people compared to the relative affluence of the whites. Reminding us of the interlinked themes of Race & Class. More directly: The sexual violation of Pecola by her own father is connected to the sexual violation of Cholly by whites who are seen imposing their power in society onto him. Morrison inserts the 'Dick & Jane' narrative as a primer to show the audience the pre-set values that exist within the black community and their mindset. We immediately realize that there is a gap between the ideal, upper-middle-class lives of 'Dick & Jane' and the 'ugly' life. Arguably Morrison doesn't imply that the 'white' life is better but instead this is just used to show us the internalized white 'Dick & Jane' values within the black characters that make them unhappy. This also creates irony between the 'Dick & Jane' narrative and the novel. Whiteness is seen to be associated with beauty and cleanliness (especially in context to Geraldine and Mrs.Breedlove). On the contrary however Morrison shows a contrasting view: Mrs.Breedlove's happiest memories(making love to Cholly) are in the form of 'Yellow, green and purple memories'. This imagery could be seen to emphasize the irony in the black community as they prioritize whiteness when in fact vibrant colour rather than white(absense of colour) could be seen as a stronger image of hapiness. The motif of 'dirtyness' and 'cleanliness' are stereotypically linked in the novel to 'Black'. This idea of 'dirty-black' is explored as this was the mindset of the 40's. These links are explicit when Geraldine and Mrs.Breedlove are excessively cleaning all the time. Although Mrs.Breedlove only really is concerned with cleanliness when cleaning her employer's house, perhaps she feels her own house is unfixable. This fixated attempt at cleaning could be described as the black women's best but futile attempt at ridding herself of the dirt around her as perhaps she feels as though her colour itself is dirty enough. Pecola has difficulty communicating with Mr. Yacobowski, the store owner, who seems to look right through her. “the total absence of human recognition”, He does not understand what she is pointing at and speaks harshly to her. ”what? these? these ?, phlegm and impatience mingle in his voice”, illustrating his disgust and annoyance by her. He does not want to touch her hand, which is evident when he “hesitates” when she passes over her money. The phrase ‘hesitate’ insinuates the uncertainty Mr. Yacobowski,experiences. After Mr. Yacobowski's racist act, “Pecola feels the inexplicable shame ” Suggesting how she as passed on authority to the storekeeper keeping by positioning herself at a lower status. This is ironic due to the fact that customers always remain a higher post as they hold the money. The reader is able to identify the change the occurs in Pocola’s character, on the way home, as she modifies her perception of the beauty of dandelions, “They are ugly, they are weeds” which suggests Pecola begins to conform to society’s definition of what is admissible, furthermore beauty. The general sense of instability present in the black community during the Great Depression, in contrast to the privileged circumstances the whites are presented in the novel reinforces the connection between race and class. In addition, the fact that Pecola is molested y her own father, cholly mirrors the sexual violation of Cholly by whites who view his loss of virginity as entertainment, “go on nigger, make it good”. This event has changes cholly significantly and that surprisingly at that moment of shame he did not loathe the white men, “he hated..the girl” Something rather prominent, that the Bluest Eye explores, is the relationship between race and beauty, or ugliness. The novel extensively explores how the dominant racial group’s perspective on beauty and appearance serves to degrade and humiliate other races. The dominant racial group in question are the whites, the white standards of beauty are imposed and forced upon the black race, as such they are described as ‘accepting rejection as legitimate, and self-evident’ by Toni Morrison herself in the foreword. With such standards of beauty and appearance being forced onto the Afro-American community, many feel as if they are unable to live up to such standards and thus many develop a ‘powerful self loathing’. In conclusion, Pecola Breedlove is presented as an example of the worst consequences of racial self loathing. Everybody that encounters her do not consider her beautiful, she, herself does not find herself attractive nor beautiful – suggesting at the extent of white superiority thus resulting in a sort of ‘internalized racial loathing’. Even Mr. Yacobowski as we've discussed a foreigner – somebody not even raised in the same country tries to avoid having to ‘touch her hand’. Even her own race does not seem to consider her beautiful, suggesting at the extremity of ‘racial loathing’ and of course the result of the so called ‘powerful self loathing’, Geraldine quietly calls Pecola a ‘nasty little black bitch’, though this could be seen as out of anger of thinking Pecola killing her son’s cat, but the fact that she directly refers to her race and skin colour with disgust links her hatred for Pecola more with her race and physical features than the fact that Pecola had supposedly killed her son’s cat.
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