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Standards of Beauty in the Bluest Eye
The characters within The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, all attempt to conform to a standard of beauty in some way. This standard of beauty is established by the society in which they live, and then supported by members of the community. Beauty is also linked with respect and happiness. Both people who reach the standard of beauty, and those who try, are never really satisfied with who they are. This never-ending race to become beautiful has devastating effects on their relationships and their own self-esteem. Geraldine, a respected woman living in the community, does conform to the standard of beauty, and she feels that anyone else is greatly inferior. So as to retain the beauty, Geraldine loses her culture and her individuality. Pecola Breedlove, a young girl, also feels that she must be aesthetically beautiful. She, on the other hand, believes that beauty is the only way for her and her family to be happy. When Pecola finally thinks that she has this beauty, she becomes temporarily happy, but is not really satisfied with what she has. Eventually, Pecola becomes obsessed with being more and more beautiful, a state that she can never truly reach because she is black. The fact that a rigid standard of beauty is established, and all of the members of the community are pressured to conform to it, causes overwhelming effects on those who do fit it, and those who merely try.
The society within The Bluest Eye, just as our society, establishes a standard of beauty that its members must conform to. Since the whites are still the dominant force in the community, beauty is considered being as close to white as possible. Black people and black culture is looked down upon as being dirty and inappropriate. Beauty, in essence, is having blond hair, blue eyes, and a clean, plastic family. The roles of each member of the family are fixed, and each person fulfills them with good cheer. This standard of beauty is then applied to everyone as a kind of scale of quality. A person who matches this standard is "good" and is respected for being so. A person who does not match the standard, or does not choose to conform to it, is not looked down upon. Not only are all people measured by this standard, people are aware of it at an early age. The "Dick and Jane" books read by children in school, clearly define beauty. More importantly, these books show that happiness can only be attained through beauty, and that an ugly person can never really be happy or good.
Geraldine is an example of the devastating effects of conforming standard of beauty, even if it is reached. Geraldine, and the other women like her work their entire life to reach and maintain a standard of beauty. The women are constantly concerned with their appearance or the cleanliness of their house and belongings. The house, the clothes, the linens, everything is kept spotless. In fact, this obsession with appearance is so complete, that the women are only concerned with their hairpins while having intercourse. This obsession of retaining the standard of beauty also separates the women from their family. In Geraldine's case, the husband married her because of her pervasive cleanliness, and does not expect anything more. The relationship between the couple is very machinelike and without feeling. The effects on the child are even more profound. From on early age, Junior is taught that he is better then the other children, that playing with them is beneath him. Not only does this create extreme feelings of superiority within Junior, it also isolates him from the other children. Although he wants to have fun, he is not allowed because he would no longer be clean. Without a relationship between his pears, Junior can only have one with his mother, but he is failed in this sense also. Geraldine feels that it is her duty to bring up a clean and moral child, but she does not feel that she must have any bond with him. In truth, any emotions between Geraldine and Junior are almost nonexistent. The relationship deteriorates to such a degree, that Geraldine feels more love towards her cat, a clean and proud creature, than she does towards her son. In reaching the standard of beauty, Geraldine is actually abandoning that which makes her unique. She is, in essence, washing herself of her culture and her identity, and becoming a faceless member of society. By becoming "beautiful", Geraldine is actually becoming like everyone else. In the process, she destroys the relationship between her and her family, and isolates her child.
Pecola Breedlove is another example of the damage brought on by submitting completely to a standard of beauty. Pecola gradually becomes more and more fixated on reaching the standard of beauty, and she is never satisfied. Pecola feels that beauty is the only way to solve all of her problems. She feels that if she becomes beautiful, her parents will no longer fight, her family will not be poor, and her father will no longer be a rapist. Pecola reached this mindset through minor and extreme events in her life. One of the subtler of these events is her purchase of a Mary Jane candy bar. When Pecola approaches the shopkeeper to buy some candy, the man does not even bother to look at her. To him, she is so sub-human that he does not feel that she deserves to be acknowledged with a glance. Although this does not seem important to the man behind the counter, Pecola picks up on and understands all of his movements and thoughts. She knows that he does not even recognize as a human being worth looking at, because she is ugly. This reinforces her attitude that beauty is the only way to gain any respect from others. Pecola's meeting with Geraldine is also an example of the basis for her attitudes. When Pecola is seduced into Junior's house, and he kills his cat, Pecola is thrown out by Geraldine, Junior's mother. Geraldine thinks that Pecola killed that cat because Pecola does not fit the standard of beauty. Geraldine does not even bother to ask Pecola what happened, she simply assumes that Pecola is bad, and throws her out. This also reinforces Pecola's view that physical beauty is a means of being respected and treated well. These seemingly minor occurrences had a great effect on Pecola's mindset. At the other end of the spectrum is the treatment that she receives from her father. He treats her as if she were a toy that he can use as he pleases. Cholly, Pecola's father, rapes her without any real concern for her feelings. He does not care what happens to her or how she responds, he is simply looking to fulfill his own desires. He has so little disregard for Pecola's feelings, that he rapes her on multiple occasions. Pecola thinks that her father does not care about her because she is not beautiful. She becomes convinced that beauty would make people respect her, and would solve all of her problems. Most important, is the fact that Pecola is not content even when she thinks that she has become beautiful. She becomes obsessed with being the most beautiful person possible. Pecola does not realize that beauty is not the answer to her problems, even when she achieves it. When, after thinking that she has blue eyes, no real changes occur in her life, Pecola starts wishing for even bluer eyes; even more beauty. Through the treatment that she has experienced, Pecola is now trapped in a race to become more and more beautiful, even though this does not really make her happier in the long run.
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Beauty in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Essay
613 Words3 Pages
Beauty in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Some people will argue with you that there is always an ugly duckling somewhere in a family. I see it different, I see these people as unique. In Toni Morrison's book, The Bluest Eye there is the issue of being beautiful and ugly. In this essay I will discuss how Toni Morrison book The Bluest Eye initiates that during 1941 white was beautiful and black was ugly in the surrounding of two families. The issue of beauty versus ugliness is portraying through out this book. I found nine different segments of beauty in Toni Morris's book The Bluest Eye. The first part of beauty that's reflected in Morrison's book, is when Claudia is constantly faced with the society's views of beauty. The…show more content…
Pecola thought if only her eyes were blue, then her problems according to white American standards would go away, and therefore she would be beautiful and her life would be beautiful.
For one year, Pecola prays that her eyes will turn blue. Being a black little girl in a society that idolizes blonde-haired blue-eyed beauty, Pecola thinks she is ugly. Pecola stares into the mirror trying to find exactly were the ugliness comes from. She sympathizes for the dandelions because she knows what it is like to disliked. Pecola states that "they are ugly[,] [because] they are weeds" (50). She finds beauty in the weeds, because she thinks that people see her as a weed. A new little girl, named Maureen Peal, comes to Claudia and Frieda's school. Maureen is popular for her looks, which people see as beautiful. She has lighter skin and eyes than most of the other children, and everyone adores her because of this. She is looked upon as beautiful because her characteristics are somewhat more "white" than other black people's. This causes many to be jealous of her. However, Claudia and Frieda are not jealous. They see through the standards placed on beauty, and if Maureen is what is beautiful, this means that they are not beautiful according to society. When the girls are walking home from getting ice cream after school, they pass a movie theater with a picture of Betty Grable on the building. Maureen and Pecola both say that they