How does the Toni Morrison, in “The Bluest Eyes,” develop the character of Pecola so as to expose and attack “racial self-loathing” in the black community?
In the novel, “The Bluest Eye,” Toni Morrison exposes and attacks racial self-loathing in the black community through her main character, Pecola. Pecola is depicted as a black girl. However, she is white at her heart. Pecola has self-loathing that gets worsen as the novel goes on. When the clerk of a store completely ignores her, for the first time, she gets the knowledge of her blackness. She tries to wash it away as if she wants to remove it. Towards the end of the novel, a new girl tells Pecola that she is black and ugly. This made her burst out into tears. Through her character, Toni Morrison displays the racial self-hatred in the entire black community.
Pecola is the protagonist of the novel, but she is always passive. Her character is depicted as mysterious. The author purposely portrayed the character of Pecola from one point of view to keep her self-respect and her secret intact. At the beginning of the novel, Pecola is a delicate and fragile girl. Finally, she is destroyed by the violence against the black community. She wants her to be loved by everyone. On the contrary, she receives hatred from everyone that makes her hate herself. She wants to disappear because she can defense against her pain only in her fantasy world. She wants to get blue eyes because she believes that it will change how others see her. She believes in an unrealistic manner that she has been granted with her wish at the cost of her sanity. Her fate does not attain any change because she is not released from her world. Tony Morrison describes her agony as if it is the agony of the black community.
Pecola represents the black community and becomes the symbol of her community’s belief and self-loathing in its own ugliness. Her father, mother, and Geraldine, who belong to her community show hatred toward her to enact their own self-loathing. Finally, she becomes a scapegoat for the black community. They feel themselves beautiful while comparing to Pecola’s ugliness, they feel lucky while comparing to the suffering of Pecola, and they take the opportunity for speaking as she keeps her silence always. However, she lives even after she has lost her sense of mind. She wanders aimlessly at the edge of town that disturbs the entire community because her presence reminds them her hatred and ugliness and hatred that they repress. Her existence becomes an allegory of human suffering and a reminder of cruelty of human.
“The Bluest Eye” deals with the psychology of an individual character, Pecola Breedlove. Toni Morrison develops her novel around the idea of racial self-loathing. She presents it through the physical and mental struggle of a young girl. Pecola’s feelings of inferiority and self-hatred are intense that made her soothe others to love her. Her life in the fantasy world makes her thing some wonder to be happened to get her blue eyes. She wants blue eyes. She feels blue eyes can give her more beauty and help her to win others’ love. The standards for beauty that are set by the white become the cause for this racial self-hatred. Pecola’s intentions to wipe her blackness out by washing and to attain the standard set by the white led her to the destruction.
Pecola does not want to see ugly things. This particular thought makes her get the idea of getting blue eye. Pecola and her family are ill-treated because they belong to the black community. She wants to see things differently, and she wants herself to be seen by others differently. She can imagine the words of Cholly and Mrs Breedlove if she get the bluest eye; “Why, look at pretty-eyed Pecola. We must not do bad things in front of her pretty eyes” (The Bluest Eye, 40). This is because so far she faces her ill-treatment just for her appearance and complexion not for her character. Even she cannot see herself beautiful because of the society she lives in which she gets harsh words and ill-treatments. Superiority of white plays a vital role in her life that makes her take things as if she is ugly. However, the truth is beautiful at heart that has never been seen by the other in her community as well as by the other friends.
Whenever she faces ill-treatment from other, she wants to disappear because her appearance makes others hate her. At one stage, she cries, “Please God Please make me disappear” (The Bluest Eye, 45). Toni Morrison uses her as a symbol to represent the black community and to reveal the mind set of those people who always happen to get ill-treatment. Her condition is worse than death because she wants other to love her because she is white at heart. However, others and her own family members hate her for possessing black skin. This is not her mistake. There is nothing to worry about the others’ comments. She becomes mentally disturbed, as she cannot get wishes fulfilled. The standards for beauty that are set by the white become the cause for her racial self-hatred and make her get the bluest eye, which she believes can help her to see things differently. Pecola’s life proves us that how the white beauty standards disfigure the black community, especially the black girls and women. John Leonard rightly describes Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”:
is an inquiry into the reasons why beauty gets wasted in this country” (John Leonard, 1).
Pecola has been used a tool to describe the inner feeling of the entire black community. Toni Morrison creates Pecola character to reflect the black community and to express the mindset and feelings of black people who always happen to get ill-treatment.
Carlacio, Jami L. The Fiction of Toni Morrison: Reading and Writing on Race, Culture, and Identity. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2007. Print.
Leonard, John. "Books of the Times." New York Times on the Web. New York Times Company, 13 Nov. 1970. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume Book, 1994. Print.