The Bluest Eye Essay Sample
- Word count: 1975
- Category: love
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The Bluest Eye Essay Sample
From the quotations above, I’d like to choose two words, “love” and “woman-friend”, to reveal the focus of Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, that is, the representation of sisterhood.
In The Bluest Eye, personally, sisterly love is represented as a “voice” to speak what is unspeakable. In other words, a sister gives words to another sister who is the ultimate “other” and who is silenced and damned by her unspeakable experience in the white patriarchal world.
Pecola, the heroine in The Bluest Eye suffers what Philomela does, for she is raped by her own father. Moreover, she suffers from emotional rape from her mother. Pecola’s father Cholly Breedlove has a traumatic childhood when he is abandoned by his parents and his is forced to perform sexually for two white hunters. Then, Cholly regards his black identity as inferior and stigmatized because of the disgraceful exposure of himself as weak. When Cholly becomes an adult, even a father, he still negates himself and transfer his own shame to his daughter. Cholly even becomes the perpetrator of rape on his own daughter. In fact, such sexual violation is common in the African-American world; because of the grave oppression from the White, the Black male transfers it to the Black female, even if she is closed to him.
As a black male in a society that values only whiteness, Cholly believes that he is useless and powerless, so Pecola, his daughter, becomes the only person he can dominate to assert himself. By committing such violent incest, Cholly thinks he has gained power in his otherwise dismal world but he does not realize that he has violated the sacred values of family life and even destroyed his own daughter’s childhood. What’s worse, such a kind of sexual violence turns out to be an kind of unspeakable as Toni Morrison says: “Because when I began to write, it was an unmentionable. It is so dangerous, it is so awful, so wicked, that I think in connection with vulnerable black women it was never talked about” (Chloe Wofford 75). When the incest is committed, denial, avoidance and distancing are common responses. Pecola’s suffering from physical rape is so shameful that it turns out to be a patriarchal taboo which remains unspeakable.
However, Pecola’s tongue is not cut off and she indeed is able to speak and tells Mrs.Breedlove what has happened. Unfortunately, Pecola’s mother is unwilling to listen to her and refuse to believe what Pecola confides to her. Instead of giving Pecola comfort and helping her fight against Cholly, Pauline Breedlove denies the rape and even blames Pecola for being raped. Pauline abuses Pecola as the patriarch has abused her. Thus. when Cholly, rapes again, Pecola keeps the story and remains silent.
Obviously, Pecola’s mother, who would come to her rescue. One is able to help the other on the condition that he believes in himself and loves the one who needs help. However. Pauline not only negates her own self but also emotionally abandons her own daughter. Pauline has a sense of defectiveness because of her deformed foot; that is, Pauline is victimized by the white norms of beauty. Unable to love her own self, Pauline can not love her daughter. And Pecola does not enjoy maternal love since she was born. Her mother thinks she is ugly: “She looked so different from what I thought. Reckin I talked to it so much I conjured up a mind’s eye view of it”, but “I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly”( Bluest Eye 99-100). In Pauline’s “mind’s eye of view” of the unborn child, it must look like the white in the movies she has watched, thus, Pauline is greatly dismayed and biased to Pecola.
Moreover, Mrs. Breedlove doesn’t care about her daughter at all. For example, when Pecola accidentally knocks over the berry pie Pauline has made for the Fisher family, Pecola is deserted by her mother for the little white Fisher girl: “in one sharp gallop she was on Pecola, and with the back of her hand knocked over her to the floor”(Bluest eye 86); Mrs. Breedlove gently smoothes the tears of the little white girl but does not even acknowledge her daughter’s existence. In fact, Mrs. Breedlove confuses her relationship to the white girl with that to her own daughter. She does not recognize that she is only regarded as a servant to that white girl while she is the mother of Pecola, who needs her care and especially emotional support. Moreover, by doting on that white girl, Pauline transfers to Pecola her deep-rooted contempt for her own blackness.
Bing placed in a white patriarchal world, a black is discriminated against and consider a s an outsider; furthermore, Pecola even can not find warmth in her own home but suffers from physical and emotional rape by her own parents; as Elizabeth Heyes says,she is denied the “love and support the girl needs to develop a strong identity”(“Like Seeing You Buried”177). Thus, Pecola becomes voiceless and even develops internalized self-hatred. She does not know how to love herself but seeks a pair of the bluest eyes to assert her own worth, insisting that with such a pair of the bluest eyes she will be noticed and loved. But what Pecola does not realize is that the effects of such internalized racial self-hatred could only make her more muted and then insane.
The unmentioned thing is spoken when Claudia acts Pecola’s loyal sister. Actually, Morrison constructs The Bluest Eye by making duality between Claudia, the narrator who defies the mainstream notion of beauty and nurtures her own life, and Pecola who is raped and then silenced by her own internalized self-hatred. As Pecola’s friend,Claudia not only provides her sisterly love but also speaks out what is unspeakable, attempting to revenge the silence.
It is right to say that Claudia does not suffer from what Pecola does, but it does not mean that Claudia is safe and far away from that White patriarchal world.
Then why can Claudia voice out what Pecola cannot? Personally, based on my own experience, one can not speak if there is no one present to listen to her/him. Like Pecola and her mother, Pecola wants to speak but her mother refuses to listen to her, which results in Pecola’s quiet. Conversely, from the very beginning Claudia is enjoying sisterly love from her blood sister Frieda who is a willing listener and also they are able to discuss matters together, so Claudia sustains her voice to tell story. In her narration, Claudia is able to analyze the effects of internalized racism and affirm her own resistance to self-hatred and the white notions of beauty.
Such as, Claudia and Frieda love each other and love themselves: “ We felt comfortable in our skins, enjoy the news that our sense released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend the unworthiness”(Bluest Eye 62). In this sense, these two sisters find faith in the self-knowledge of their own beauty and love their own “dirt” and “scars”, their own worth. By mirroring each other, they learn to love their own skin, hair, eyes, voice, because from the other’s face, they see an image of the self. Because of sisterly love. they learn this art of self-love, thus rejecting the dominant white notion of beauty. So when the popular rich girl Maureen shows off before them and even taunts them with ice cream, Claudia and Frieda still love themselves instead of giving in.
They find inner strength in standing together and calling her names when Maureen hurts Pecola by saying “I’m cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I an cure”(Bluest Eye 61) On hearing this, Pecola believes that there is no escaping or comforting her ugliness, feeling miserable, but being unable to fight back; however Claudia and Frieda have faith about themselves, knowing that Maureen has the vision of beauty defined by the westen notion but she is not beautiful inside. Because they have one another, Claudia and Frieda do not need validation from others or outside world. In contrast, Pecola does not have the same comfort, remaining alone. Such sisterly love gives these two sisters a self-confidence that Pecola can not enjoy and their strength reveals the power of sisterhood to validate each other.
Furthermore, Claudia can speak because her mother passes on the oral tradition to her. For instance, Claudia’s mother often sings of those bad time, which makes Claudia realized that “misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took all of the grief out of the words”(Bluest Eye 24). From her mother’s singing, Claudia knows that she also can tell the stories and voice out the pain, the unspeakable.
Thus. through her songs, Claudia’s mother helps her learn the beauty of the African-American folk tradition of story-telling, so that Claudia has her own voice.
In this way, we can see that sisterly love between Claudia and Frieda, love from their parents and the spiritual heritage from their mother help those two sisters know how to love their “self”. Especially Claudia learns to break the silence, by voicing out what is unspeakable and what the black female suffers in the white patriarchal world.
As the story goes on, we can see the love between sisters is not limited to sisters. Claudia and Frieda not only love each other, but they also love Pecola. First, they let Pecola stay with them just because her house is burnt down and she is homeless. The advice of Claudia’s mother “be nice and no fight” further makes those two sisters help Pecola. For example, they don’t despise Pecola and sleep with her in the same bed; and they help Pecola when she is frightened by her first menstruation. Claudia recalls those few days when Pecola stays with them happily:
We had fun in those few days Pecola was with us. Frieda and I stopped fighting each other and concentrated on our guest, trying hard to keep her from feeling outdoors…When we discovered that she clearly did not want to dominate us, we like her. She laughed when I clowned for her, and smiled and accepted gracefully the food gift my sister gave her.(Bluest eye19) Obviously, Pecola enjoys being together with Claudia and Frieda, Thus, sisterly love offers company,keeping loneliness and fear away.
In this novel, sisterly love is presented by means of Claudia’s voice, her story-telling. In the Bluest Eye, it is Claudia who becomes the loyal sister who avenges Pecola’s destruction by telling it. For example, Pecola keeps silent no matter how painful she is; she folds “into herself like a pleated wing”, while Claudia “wanted to open her up, crisp her edges, ram a stickdown that hunched and curving spine, force her to stand erect and spit the misery out on the streets.”(Bluest Eye73-74) However,Pecola still can not speak, “she held it where it would lap up into her eyes.” Thus, Claudia finds words for Pecola’s pain and she affirms that there are melodies in grief which are to be written and spoken of, so that unspeakable things are spoken at last.
But finally, Claudia and Frieda still can not save Pecola, for she becomes insane, which seemingly shows that sisterly love is somewhat not so miraculous. However, the significance of sisterly love, personally, lies in making what is unspeakable spoken. Sisterly love indeed does not prevent Pecola’s tragedy.
“Chloe Wofford Talks About Toni Morrison.” The New York Times Magazine. Sept.193:73-75. Heyes, Elizabeth,T. “‘Like Seeing You Buried’: Persephone in The Bluest Eye”. Elizabeth Hayes. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1994:170-194. Morrison,Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: A Division of Random House, 2007.