Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye opens with a small narrative from the children’s book, Dick and Jane. The story as we know it makes us assume that Dick and Jane are happy, but Morrison highlights the unhappiness in this “perfect” family. While we all make up this idea in our minds that their world is better, we learn that Dick and Jane are in fact, unhappy. We preconceive the notion that the family that lives in the green and white house are perfect, but Jane is isolated from her family. The story proclaims that the mother is very nice, but when asked to play with Jane, she laughs. When the father is asked to play with Jane, he smiles. The dog runs away from Jane. In an attempt to analyze the situation, Jane is actually in the backwoods.
The story telling throughout the book evokes the story of Dick and Jane and how life is supposed to be. The family remains on the surface, always smiling and always happy. As a child reading the story, one may not question the isolation of Jane. To Pecola however, the story telling evokes a sense of escapism. The fact that Morrison distorts the story with run on sentences and no punctuation, we can assume that ultimately the life of Jane was distorted as well and not as perfect as we think.
Jane’s relationship with her family foreshadows the lack of communication and isolation within the characters in the novel. In the beginning, Claudia states the lack of communication when she says, “Adults do not talk to us…” ( Morrison, 10) “No one speaks to me or asks how I feel.” (Morrison, 11)
Claudia sometimes tells the story from a child’s perspective and other times from the perspective of an adult. Pecola is a mysterious character, while we are introduced to her through other characters and the points of view of other characters, never fully knowing how Pecola felt. We do know however that Pecola faced abuse. She was forced further into this fantasy world, which was her only escape against her existence, the things she was forced to see and the way people viewed her. She truly believed that if she was granted blue eyes that would change things. The blue eyes were supposed to symbolize beauty and happiness. It is very common to see white people with blue eyes, providing us with the ideal that white is beautiful and black is not. The characters in the book suffer from racial beauty, insecurity, self hatred and belief in their own ugliness. Pecola is constantly reminded of her ugliness through her family, when the boys make fun of her and light-skinned Maureen, who temporarily befriends her. Maureen is associated with beauty because she is light-skinned. In an attempt to degrade Pecola, Maureen says “I an cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly e mos. I am cute!” (Morrison, 73) We assume that being cute is defined as being white or close to white. In this situation, what society says is beautiful is being replicated. Even though Maureen is black, she is thought to be better because of her skin tone, thus oppressing her own race. This can also be closely associated with the binary of being on top; in order for someone to be on top, someone has to be on the bottom.
While beauty is a very prominent theme in the book, we also learn how some of the other characters struggle with beauty. Cholly was ugly because of his behavior. Mrs. Breedlove handled her ugliness for the articulation of character while Sammy used his as a weapon to cause others pain and Pecola hid behind hers. The conviction of being ugly was self inflicted. The difference between Pecola and Claudia’s family is internalization. While the Breedlove family internalizes their ugliness, Claudia’s family does not fall subjective to society’s standards.
When Pecola moves back with her family after first staying with Claudia’s family because her father burned down the house, we see that Pecola lives quite a difficult life. Her parents have a love-hate relationship and her mother, Pauline is most happy when she is at work, cleaning the home of a white woman. She grows to love the home and despises her own. She referred to the members of the family as being “affectionate, appreciative and generous” (Morrison, 127) The way she cared for the little Fisher girl differed from the lack of affection and tenderness that she provided her own daughter with. This private world put meaning to her life, and she was ashamed of what she had to go home to.
Even though I did not mention all the events that took place in the novel, the main theme of beauty was addressed. This novel provides many ways in which the black community internalizes beauty in a white society. Many characters in the story share the conviction of being ugly but Claudia remains carefree and she imagines Pecola’s child to be beautiful in its blackness.