Racialised Beauty Toni Morisons The Bluest Eye English Literature Essay

The Bluest Eye is Morrison ‘s first novel published in 1970. In this novel, Morrison challenges Western criterions of beauty and demonstrates that, beauty is a socially framed construct. Morrison besides recognises that if whiteness is used as a criterion of beauty or anything else, so the value of inkiness has been diminished. This fresh works to dispute the above mentioned inclination. In showing pride in being black, this author does non merely portray the positive images of inkiness. Alternatively of that, she focuses on the ‘damage ‘ that the black adult females characters suffer through the building of muliebrity in a racialised society ( Matus, 1998, 37 ) .

As Gurleen Grewal besides argues, simply change by reversaling perceived ‘ugliness ‘ to beautiful inkiness “ is

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non plenty, for such counter-rhetoric does non touch the bosom of the affair: the race-based category construction upheld by dominant norms and stereotypes ” ( Grewal, 1998, 21 ) .

In “ Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernisation of Patriarchal Power ” , Sandra Lee Bartky examines the building of Western muliebrity by using Michel Foucault ‘s theories about the production of subjectiveness in modern societies. Foucault argues that “ discipline produces subjected and adept organic structures, docile organic structures ” ( in Bartky, 1988, 62 ) . However, Bartky recognises that Foucault does non see gender differences and “ is unsighted to [ the ] subjects that produce a mode of incarnation that is peculiarly feminine ” ( Bartky, 1988, 63-64 ) . She farther argues that analyzing disciplinary patterns that produce feminine organic structures reveals sexism runing in Western patriarchal society ( Bartky, 1988, 64 ) . However, in making so, Bartky does non trouble oneself much about racial differences. She argues that the larger subjects that construct a ‘feminine ‘ organic structure out of a female one are by no agencies race- or class-specific. There is small grounds that adult females of colour or workingclass adult females are in general lupus erythematosus committed to the embodiment of an ideal muliebrity than their more privileged sisters ( Bartky, 1988, 72 ) . It is considered a fact that, beauty is a cardinal focal point of many adult females, and harmonizing to Naomi Wolf, this is a really powerful myth ( Wolf, 1990 ) . Yet, since the ideal of beauty is and has been mostly depicted as a adult female with light tegument and bluish eyes, it is even less possible for adult females

of coloring material than for white adult females to accomplish this ideal. As Paul C. Taylor argues, “ a white-dominated civilization has racialised beauty, in that it has defined beauty in footings of

white beauty, in footings of the physical characteristics that the people we consider white [ people ] are

more likely to hold ” ( Taylor, 1999, 17, accent in original ) . Therefore, in the procedure of

seeking to accomplish beauty, as Taylor farther argues, “ the experience of a black adult female aˆ¦

differs from the experiences of aˆ¦ Jewish and Irish adult females ” ( Taylor, 1999, 20 ) . This can

clearly be seen in the ways that the black adult females characters in Morrison ‘s novel suffer in

seeking to conform to Western criterions of beauty.

The Bluest Eye tells the narrative of an 11 twelvemonth old black miss, Pecola Breedlove, whose desire is to hold bluish eyes, because she sees herself, and is regarded by most of the characters in the

novel, as ugly. The criterion of beauty that her equals subscribe to, is represented by the white

kid actress, Shirley Temple, who has the desired bluish eyes. The fresh starts with the

description of an ideal white household but in the near-parodic manner of a school reading primer,

where we run into Dick and Jane and their lovely parents populating in a nice and comfy house

with a lovely Canis familiaris and a cat. The Dick and Jane text maps as “ the hegemonizing force of

an political orientation focused by the domination of ‘the bluest oculus ‘ by which is a prevalent civilization

reproduces its hierarchal power constructions ” ( Grewal, 1998, 24 ) . As Donald B. Gibson

besides argues, the Dick and Jane text implies one of the primary and most insidious ways that

the dominant civilization exercises its hegemony, through the educational system. It exposes

the function of instruction in both suppressing the victim – and more to the point – learning the victim

how to suppress her ain black ego by internalizing the values that dictate criterions of beauty

( Gibson, 1989, 20 ) .

In contrast to this hegemonic individuality, the chief black characters are depicted as assorted and

really different characters located in three hierarchal households: “ first Geraldine ‘s ( a forgery

of the idealized white household ) , aˆ¦ [ so ] the MacTeers and at the bottom [ of the societal order ] ,

the Breedloves ” ( Ogunyemi, 1977, 113 ) . The novel shows how these black characters respond

to the dominant civilization otherwise and this refutes easy binary societal differentiations.

Pauline Breedlove, Geraldine, Maureen Peal, and Pecola are black characters who try to

conform to an imposed ideal of muliebrity. They are absorbed and marginalised by the

“ cultural icons portraying physical beauty: films, hoardings, magazines, books, newspapers,

window marks, dolls, and imbibing cups ” ( Gibson, 1989, 20 ) . Pauline Breedlove, for illustration,

learns about physical beauty from the films. In Morrison ‘s words,

[ a ] long with the thought of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical

beauty. Possibly, the most destructive thoughts in the history of human invention, both

originated in enviousness, thrived in self-doubt, and ended in disenchantment ( Morrison, 1970,

1999, 95 ) .

Consequently, in seeking to conform to the ideal of white muliebrity, the black adult females

characters despise their inkiness which in bend leads to self hatred. They see themselves

through the eyes of white people and their worship of white beauty besides has destructive

effects on their ain community. This is because, as Taylor argues:

one of the basiss of the modern West has been the hierarchal rating of

human types along racial lines. aˆ¦ The most outstanding type of racialised ranking

represents inkiness as a status to be despised, and most items of this type extend

this attitude to cover the physical characteristics that are cardinal to the description of black

individuality ( Taylor, 1999, 16 ) .

Geraldine, for illustration, represses her black features which are non ‘fitted ‘ to white

muliebrity as she strives “ to acquire rid of the funkiness ” ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 64 ) . She besides

culls Pecola when she sees her in her house as Pecola seems to incarnate all the negative

facets of her positions of black misss ( see besides Bouson, 2000, 37-38 ) :

She looked at Pecola. Saw the dirty lacerate frock, the braids lodging out on her caput, hair

matted where the braids had come undone, the muddy places with the wad of gum

peeping out from between the inexpensive colloidal suspensions, the dirty socks, one of which had been

walked down into the heel on the shoe. aˆ¦ She had seen this small miss all of her life.

Hanging out of Windowss over barrooms in Mobile, creeping over the porches of scattergun

houses on the borders of town, sitting in coach Stationss keeping paper bags and shouting to

female parents who kept stating ‘Shet up! ‘ ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 71-72 ) .

Bing good educated and holding adopted Western ways of life, Geraldine draws the line

between coloured and black. She intentionally teaches her boy the differences between

coloured and black: “ Colored people were orderly and quiet ; niggas were soiled and loud ”

( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 67, besides in Bouson, 2000, 37 ) . Maureen Peal, a light-skinned miss at

school, besides thinks that she is pretty and Pecola is ugly and Morrison sets up a hierarchy of

tegument tone taging propinquity and distance in relation to idealized physical properties. As “ [ a ]

high-yellow dream kid with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down

her dorsum ” ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 47 ) , Maureen is treated good at school: She enchanted the full school. When instructors called on her, they smiled encouragingly. Black boys did n’t trip her in the halls ; white male childs did n’t lapidate her, white misss did n’t suck their dentitions when she was assigned to be their work spouses ; black misss stepped aside when she wanted to utilize the sink in the misss ‘ lavatories, and their eyes genuflected under skiding palpebras ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 47-48 ) .

Finally, holding been treated really severely by most people environing her, Pecola yearns to

have bluish eyes in the hope that people will love her.

Despite those extremist differentiations, the building of muliebrity for black adult females is slightly similar to that of white adult females in footings of gendered organic structure and subjected organic structure. For illustration, Pecola sees herself as ugly, as an object possessing an low organic structure. This is paralleled with what Bartky says about the procedure of training patterns to derive the ideal organic structure of muliebrity which produces “ a ‘practiced and subjected ‘ organic structure, that is a organic structure on which an inferior position has been inscribed. A adult female ‘s face must be made up, that is to state, made over, and so must her organic structure ” ( Bartky, 1988, 71 ) . This suggests, as Bartky farther argues, that “ adult females ‘s organic structures are lacking ” ( Bartky, 1988, 71 ) .

However, as Pecola does non hold bluish eyes, these societal symbols of white beauty, she can non

come anyplace near to the ideal of white beauty. In other words, white adult females may miss

something in footings of the gendered organic structure, but due to their white privilege, they are non

racialised in the same manner. Grewal besides argues that If Irigaray ‘s feminine topic a cosmopolitan feminine topic is defined as deficiency, as absence, so the black adult female is double deficient, for she must imitate or sham her muliebrity as she dissimulates or conceals her inkiness ” ( Grewal, 1998, 26 ) .

Therefore, The Bluest Eye can besides be read as text which is critical of broad white feminism

which excludes the experience of black adult females. As Madhu Dubey besides argues,

[ T ] he presence that defines black feminine characters in the novel as deficient is

represented non by the black adult male but the white adult female. aˆ¦ Each look of black

feminine desire, whether Pecola ‘s yearning for bluish eyes, Frieda ‘s love of Shirley

Temple, Claudia ‘s hate of white dolls, Maureen ‘s worship of Betty Grable, or

Pauline ‘s of Jean Harlow, takes the white adult female as its object ( Dubey, 1994, 39-40 ) .

However, non all the black characters adore or are in awe of Western criterions of beauty. The

novel besides shows black people who are cognizant of the danger of following Western criterions of

beauty. Claudia, the immature miss storyteller, at the really beginning of the novel, describes herself

as indifferent to both white dolls and Shirley Temple. She besides realises that she does non truly

detest light-skinned Maureen but hates the thing that makes Maureen beautiful: “ [ a ] neodymium all the

clip we knew that Maureen Peal was non worthy of such intense hatred. The Thing to fear

was the Thing that made her beautiful, and non us ” ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 58, accent in

original ) . It is the political orientation of whiteness that makes Maureen appear beautiful ( Munafo, 1995,

8 ) and as Bouson argues,

the ‘Thing ‘ Claudia learns to fear is the white criterion of beauty that members of the

African American community have internalised, a criterion that favours the ‘highyellow ‘

Maureen Peal and denigrades the ‘black and ugly ‘ Pecola Breedlove ( Bouson,

2000, 31 ) .

As kids, Claudia and her sister Frieda are happy with their difference, their inkiness:

“ We felt comfy in our teguments, enjoyed the intelligence that our senses released to us, admired

our soil, cultivated our cicatrixs, and could non grok this unworthiness ” ( Morrison, 1970,

1999, 57 ) . This may propose that Claudia resists the force per unit area to conform to a white vision of


However, as a kid, Claudia wonders why people treat Maureen good because she is


Dolls we could destruct, but we could non destruct the honey voices of parents and

aunts, the obeisance in the eyes of our equals, the slippery visible radiation in the eyes of our

instructors when they encountered the Maureen Peals of the universe. What was the secret?

What did we miss? Why was it of import? And so what? ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 57 ) .

As a kid, Claudia besides wonders why people admire small white misss:

But the dismembering of dolls was non the true horror. The genuinely atrocious thing was

the transference of the same urges to small white misss. The indifference with which

I could hold axed them was shaken merely by my desire to make so. To detect what

eluded me: the secret of the thaumaturgy they weaved on others. What make people look at

them and state, ‘Awwwww ‘ , but non at me? The oculus slide of black adult females as they

approached them on the street, and the genitive gradualness of their touch as they

handled them ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 15 ) .

Claudia merely subsequently learns to love Shirley Temple: “ I learned much later to idolize her, merely as

I learned to please in cleanlinessaˆ¦ ” ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 16 ) . This acquisition to love Shirley

Temple suggests two things. First, it reflects the mother-daughter relationship. As a signifier of

placing with her female parent, Claudia ‘s love of Shirley Temple, as Anne Anlin Cheng argues,

can be read

non simply or chiefly as a gesture of societal conformity but instead a response to the

call of the female parent, as a perverse signifier of maternal connexion. Merely by larning to love

small white misss can little black misss be like their female parents ( Cheng, 2000, 200 ) .

Second, Claudia ‘s acquisition to love Shirley Temple may besides propose that ‘beauty ‘ is

something learned which is non ‘natural ‘ or built-in.

However, when Claudia subsequently learns to love Shirley Temple, she finds out that “ the alteration

was accommodation without betterment ” ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 16 ) and accommodation made by

black people remains an semblance. Towards the terminal of the novel, Claudia realises that

[ a ] neodymium fantasy it was, for we were non strong, merely aggressive ; we were non free, simply

licensed ; we were non compassionate, we were polite ; non good but good behaved. We

courted decease in order to name ourselves brave, and hid like stealers from life. We

substituted good grammar for mind ; we switched wonts to imitate adulthood ; we

rearranged prevarications and called it truth, seeing in the new form of an old thought the

Disclosure and the Word ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 163 ) .

Similarly, Claudia recognises that if we follow the white political orientation of aesthetics we may derive

beauty but merely at the disbursal of others. Claudia blames the black community which adopts

“ a white criterion of beauty aˆ¦ that makes Pecola its whipping boy ” ( Furman, 1996, 21 ) . Pecola is

symbolically ‘dumped ‘ : being pregnant, ugly, and mad and an object of abhorrent incubuss:

All of us -all who knew [ Pecola ] – felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on

her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simpleness

decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her hurting made us glow with wellness, her

clumsiness made us believe we had a sense of temper. Her inarticulateness made us

believe we were facile. Her poorness kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we

used – to hush our ain incubuss ( Morrison, 1970, 1999, 163 ) .

This besides shows the danger of the transmutation of western political orientation into black community

which enforces hierarchal power constructions.

Hence, Claudia ‘s consciousness can besides be read as decolonizing her head from colonial

subjugation as she frees herself from white criterions imposed on black people. As Grewal

argues, “ persons collude in their ain subjugation by internalizing [ the ] dominant civilization ‘s

values in the face of great material contradictions ” ( Grewal, 1998, 21 ) . Quoting Terry

Eagleton she besides argues that the most hard thing in emancipation is to liberate “ ourselves

from ourselves ” ( Grewal, 1998, 21 ) . Through Claudia, nevertheless, the fresh suggests that some

are capable of disputing this ( see besides Munafo, 1995, 17 ) , but for the victims of such

suppression ression this consciousness may come excessively late.

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