The Bluest Eye is a novel written by Toni Morrison, an African-American novelist and a Nobel Prize winner. The novel is set in the 1940s during which the African-American women were under great pressure to conform and satisfy the beauty standards that were put, that were; the ideal blond hair, blue eyes and white skin. The novel focuses on many different themes such as sexuality, race, beauty, and family. One of the major themes is social class. Social status plays a big role throughout the novel and it can be seen through different characters.
The focus in this essay will mainly be on the Breedloves. A dark skinned family, that are portrayed in a quite different manner than the other families.The Breedloves is a family of four; Cholly, the father. Pauline the mother and their son and daughter named Sammy and Pecola. The Breedloves are represented as an unstable poor family that seem to face problems leading from accepting themselves physically to being financially stable.
They are the unluckiest family shown in the novel, suffering from being accepted in the community. Every family member having their own internal battle in order to be loved and accepted. Morrison portrays them in a unique way, displaying how the judgement of the society, the social classes and self hatred leads to self destruction. Home and family being one of the main themes also illustrates the idea of self-worthiness. Being dark skinned was already a disadvantage during that period, therefore having a home created a sense of value.
The Breedloves are portrayed as socially lowest class in the novel. Not owning a proper home they are automatically considered the most inferior ones. As quoted in the novel, [The Breedloves] lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed because they believed they were ugly.’ This also refers back to the theme of beauty and ugliness. Showing that the Breedloves never thought of them as self worthy and always referred to themselves as ugly. Furthermore in the novel it also mentions how the father happened to be one of the reasons why the Breedloves didn’t have a stable home.The MacTeer, another black family in the novel, are characterised quite oppositely to the Breedloves.Quoted in the novel, There is a difference between being put out and being putThe distinction was subtle but final….Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership.'(ch1) This quote illustrating how the MacTeers were seeking for the ownership and the racial independence, while the Breedloves were destroying their home. Another contrast between the two families is the presence of love. Although the mother of Frieda and Claudia MacTeer is shown as a strict uncaring woman, but in reality she cares and loves her daughters. And this is not shown in the Breedloves family. Pecola is constantly called ugly by her own mother and is abused and raped by her father. Which also leads to the fact that although the Breedloves and The MacTeers happen to be the same race there’s a huge difference between their lives.Not only does Morrison display the Breedloves different from the rest of the black families, but she also includes how every member of the Breedlove family is suffering physically and internally. Cholly for instance is shown as an alcoholic who beats and abuses his wife and daughter due to his past experience and hatred towards women that are seen as socially and legally less powerful. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, and helpless.'(ch8)This quote illustrating Cholly’s belief toward the white men that had humiliated him. Mentioning how the white were more superior than the black and how he felt emasculated. The self hatred is what leads to his attitude towards his family and their destruction. Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist of the novel, suffers from abuse. She, as stated before, is considered ugly. When she was born her own mother found her unpleasing. All through we can see that Pecola desires one thing that is to be loved. How do you do that? I mean how do you get someone to love you?'(Ch1) This shows that pecola is deprived of one thing that a family should or at least is expected to have. Which is slightly ironic because of the fact that they are called the Breedloves’ yet there is no love between them. Another black female character in the novel, Claudia MacTeer is presented as the opposite of Pecola. Where Pecola wishes for white beauty, Claudia despises the idea. Pecola desires for blue eyes, that are seen as a symbol of beauty, in hopes of being noticed. This shows how Morrison uses the idea of beauty to differentiate between the two.Pauline Breedlove, Pecola’s mom wishes she had the perfect life as shown in the movies. Living in a fantasy world, she tries to avoid her own family. Neglecting the children and constantly fighting her husband. She despises her marriage and the only way she feels better for herself is by working as a housemaid for a white family. And just like Pecola she constantly wishes for that white beauty. While Claudia’s mother is shown the opposite. She works hard, trying to earn enough for her family and loves her daughters.Moreover, Morrison continues stressing the fact that not only was race the reason for the Breedloves breakdown, but also the psychological issues and self-hatred greatly impacted too, as quoted, The Breedloves did not live in a storefront… they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly’. (ch1)In conclusion, using themes such as dreams,beauty and social class Toni Morrison portrays the Breedloves as the poorest in the novel. Showing how the pressure from the society, one’s internal love and self-worthiness can lead to destructions. And these destructions not only affecting the one person but the whole family as well causing them to become an outcast.