The American s, a long and chaotic decade of war, social change, and second wave feminism, is one that certainly extends thematically into the early s.
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Morrison began writing the novel in because the reclamation of racial beauty at that time forced her to question how the damaging internalization of racialized notions of beauty is able to consume and even break especially young women. In addition, writing about the s and publishing the work inMorrison makes a connection between these two periods, perhaps similarly to what Jean Rhys does ffor her postcolonial novel, Wide Sargasso Seacausing readers to ask whether racial and gender relations actually improve or change with second wave feminism or the Civil Rights Act of Readers of Rhys and Morrison are forced to see the relevance of the themes both within the historical frame of the novel and in their current moment.
Ror does it mean to make Pecola the face of childhood innocence? Femalez Breedlove is of course demonstrative of what who completely lacks innocence, who is txt hood at all, might look like. Other children in the novel though also serve to deconstruct the myth of childhood innocence by way of their experiences of racial and gender discrimination, Claudia MacTeer being the best example as a young girl who feels the need to physically destroy white dolls she is given.
The novel goes to great lengths in demonstrating that femalfs relationship drawn between childhood innocence and national innocence is a construction of American culture that must be questioned. The sociopolitical history of the s as a whole is often proffered as a positive period of change. College campuses began to host debates and protests over the draft, the war, and other political issues.
The Civil Rights movement femalss frequently framed as a time of great positive change, despite the fact that that change did not come easily or quickly.
Nonetheless, we frequently reflect on the s as a period of progressiveness. Morrison focuses on gender disparity as informed by race in The Bluest Eye ffor, presenting readers with a decentering genealogy of second-wave feminism: while white women were able to focus on how patriarchy was generally oppressive, black women in wuth text find themselves doubly oppressed by ssex men and black men. As narrator Claudia tells us, the three things that have greatly affected her are being a girl, being black, and being.
We see the importance of childhood as young black girls, like Pecola, but even Darlene and Claudia, are oppressed not only by the white aesthetic, as well as white men and women, but also by black men, women, boys, and at times, even other black girls. Morrison makes race a central component of the discussion about gender, and is careful to make youth an important part of her look at oppression as well. Later, living with her husband Cholly and their two children, Pauline not only disengages from the children, only feeling happy when she is working for a rich, white family and spending as much time away from her own home as possible, but she also falls out of love with Cholly.
Cholly has, over the years, become quite the drunkard, and his troubling childhood in which he was left with his aunt because his father wanted nothing to do with him, comes to be seen as part of his failing as a parent. When Pecola is busy doing dishes one day, Cholly rapes her.
Morrison, like the other writers discussed earlier, is concerned with how much a given social system dictates and controls. For Rhys, writing about a post-Emancipation society in Jamaica, the system was an oppressive patriarchal one. For Morrison, patriarchy femaless plays a role as readers see not only Pecola but Frieda abused by an older man as well.
But this novel is primarily concerned with social dictates of white beauty in America and the damage they are capable of causing. Other critics have pointed out the ificance of these primers for the novel. Nancy Backes is concerned with the fact that the primers represent an ideal unobtainable even to the white dex class children that they were obviously intended for In other words, the primers begin to resemble the content and the form of the novel.
The Dick and Jane stories originated with the pre-primer books, Dick efmales Janeoriginally published inand the popularity of the texts grew into the s. Though the primers are not at the beginning of every chapter, a piece of one does precede the final chapter of the novel in which Pecola, arguing with herself, though she assumes she is speaking to a friend, addresses the fact that her father raped her.
Readers are made to assume throughout the novel that if Pecola is unfamiliar with the Dick and Jane primers, she is at least familiar with something quite similar to them. How else would so young be so immersed in the ideals of white beauty and perfect middle-class childhood?
The irony of this piece of the Dick and Jane narrative preceding this chapter is that while Pecola likely wishes herself to be Jane, she is quite her opposite. She has no friends.
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No one has ever come to play with her. A strange moment occurs when Pecola admits that an additional rape had occurred when she was reading — shortly after the first rape in the kitchen. This was of course not part of the narrative of the femalws scene from several chapters before. Indeed, all she wants is to have blue eyes, to be beautiful by white standards.
Later, when he is a parent, he imparts the same kind of harm and ruination to his daughter, Pecola. Focusing on this one year gor the life of a young black girl who is deliberately ignored and marginalized in her community, at school, even when she is buying candies, 7 Morrison, similar to Chauvet and other women writers of the period, is bringing a powerless and often voiceless figure to the centre of attention.
Morrison is scrutinizing a flawed system of gender relations, and by telling the story of every person involved, she makes readers aware that it takes an entire community, not just a single perpetrator, to drive to madness this young girl who has been led to believe and allowed to continue believing that beauty is only equivalent to being white and having blue eyes. I do, however, wigh that the novel offers hope and not just a bleak and somber conclusion.
The sisters not only represent hope, but because they are constantly trying balck thwart racism and to protect and defend Pecola, they represent action and movement forward. Morrison centres on Pecola Breedlove and readers bear witness to the tragedy femalea an entire family who imbibes themselves with the white aesthetic so much so that blxck destroys each one of them.
However, with Frieda and Claudia, readers are given a glimpse into the hope offered by two young women who decide to defy the social power of white beauty. The story of the MacTeer girls verifies that with a strong support system like that offered by the MacTeer parents, who act when one of their children is abused ffmales Pauline Breedlove, two young black girls need not fall victim to the demands of white beauty. This contrast between Mrs. Mae C. We see examples of this when Mrs. Breedlove, however, behaves in sharp contrast to Mrs.
With her own children, Mrs. Breedlove is either absent or silent. Femaels barely interacts with either of her children after all, her son ran away countless times before he was a teenagerand she refuses to acknowledge the situation when Pecola reports the rape to her. Indeed, Mrs. Breedlove does this, as seen in her interactions with the little white girl for whom she is a nanny.
She treats this little girl as if she were her own, exhibiting a caring, gentle attitude and paying close attention to the girl. Breedlove reprimands Rext, ignoring the burns on her legs from the hot berries, and immediately assures the little blsck girl that she will quickly bake her a new pie. This demonstrates to the reader that Mrs.
Breedlove is not an incapable mother, but she actively chooses to femwles her own children, who are outside the narrative of the white beauty aesthetic, in favour of white children, who better match her ideals. This essay builds upon and extends other existent criticism on The Bluest Eye.
Kubitschek, along with Pin-chia Feng and Phyllis R. Klotman, categorize the novel wtih a bildungsroman. Anne T. Salvatore argues that Morrison has fashioned, in this and other ffor, like Sula and Beloveda new bildungsroman, one that is more capable of representing the female protagonist and frequently pairs her with a non-ironic alternate anti-hero 8. And in the end, they cannot, as adolescents, make complete sense of what happened to Pecola, nor can they fathom why it happened.
Morrison is experimenting with form and narration to try to more successfully convey the experiences of someone whose story falls out of the frame of nation-building.
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Curiously, readers do sfx hear from Pecola throughout this novel. She is only briefly given a voice in the final chapter when talking with her other self about the blue eyes that she finally got. Though it may seem strange not to have Pecola narrate her own story, readers are likely denied direct access to Pecola as a means of illustrating that there is nothing to access. Her experiences of oppression, neglect, contempt, and scorn have taken that away from her.
Segregation and discrimination of African Americans was thought to be especially atrocious in the Midwest and Southern states after the American Civil War.
Issue 4: female subjectivity, sexual violence and the american nation in toni morrison's the bluest eye
This is the subject of ethnography by anthropologist Carol B. Stack entitled All Our Kinin which the author explores a poor and distressed community of African Americans outside of Chicago in the s. Her research is instructive to this essay in that she makes clear the necessity of family networks for the African Americans sustaining the hardships of this time period.
She also discusses how men would more often rely on friendship networks to offer them solace after losing a job or facing some other similar struggle, while women tended to rely more often on kinship ties when they needed some form of support. Though Stack provides myriad examples of such in her work, providing case study examples of each, Morrison shows us something entirely different in the novel.
The Breedlove family, ironically named such by the author for they breed nothing that even slightly resembles love, almost completely lack a support network of any kind, and certainly not one that coincides with that described by Stack. Readers come to understand that the Breedlove family barely fits the definition of such. They live in an abandoned store in town, just below an apartment occupied by three prostitutes.
Readers are told that the family chose to stay in such an environment because they believed they were ugly.
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We gather more history on the family through flashbacks that occur throughout the novel. Cholly was, for example, abandoned by his father and left to live with an aunt. When he sets out to find his father, he locates him playing dice in a small town. Now, get the fuck outta my face! Without being provided a healthy and safe upbringing, Cholly is unable to provide one for his children. Though he never has the same kind of quarrel with Pecola, his raping his own daughter is cause for the same kind of shame and humiliation his father forced him to feel.
Readers see that this traumatic experience being rejected by his father is what has pushed Cholly to silence. After all, within the present of the novel, Cholly barely speaks.
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His audible noises consist of drunken grunts. Thereafter, Pecola is not heard from again. She moves to the edge of town with her mother and is never heard from, only occasionally seen searching through garbage. We can think of the Breedlove family similarly. Pauline actually stops concerning herself so much with her work as a housekeeper and begins taking care of her own home in anticipation of starting a family. They are not brought together by love or support.
As was mentioned earlier, they stay together and they remain living in a storefront because all that truly unites them is their thinking that they are all ugly. She goes on to recognize that she was supposed to see these dolls as models of beauty, that even magazines and window s, along with girls and women of any age, based their standards of beauty on these blue-eyed and yellow-haired dolls, but she did not. Pecola, however, bases her entire understanding of female beauty on these dolls.
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She is obsessed with having eyes like they do. Though they all imagine that some kind of communion exists between them, there is rarely actual communication or meaningful exchange.
All that truly unites the Breedloves is a circle of violence, and oftentimes, complete neglect. Though some of what Stack writes about kinship ties in the Midwest applies to the Breedlove family, it is clear that readers are meant to pay special attention to what they lack.