In the Bluest Eye, ToniMorrison writes a story about Pecola, a young African American and thestruggles she faces through-out the novel facing issues including society’sstandard of ‘beauty’ of a young black woman in the late 1940s. The main themeportrayed in this novel is beauty.
In the Bluest Eye, the upper class creates astandard on what “beauty” is. Which makes society questions whether they fitthe standard of ‘beauty’ or not. In the novel, the standards of beauty arebeing advertised through media outlets, like television and even magazines. TheBluest Eye demonstrates what society’s idea of what beauty was in the 1940s. In the novel, beauty affects almost every character’sself-esteem because of the media outlets definition on what beauty is duringthe 1940s. In the section Autumn, stated on page 20, “Adults, older girls, shops,magazines, newspapers, window signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed,yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.
” This isan example on what the epitome of beauty is that the media has created. Theoutlook Claudia sees on the ideal beauty standards shows the struggles sheendures of idolizing the idea of beauty, even though it will not changeanything. Toni Morrison uses imagery to describe society’s ideal version ofbeauty by saying that all girls ever wanted was “a blue-eyed, yellow-haired,pink-skinned doll” that every girl would treasure.
This ties to the theme ofbeauty standards because, due to the expectations that society gives off, everygirl wants to be the perfect ‘blue eyed, yellow haired, pink skinned’ girl. Based on what the definition of what beauty is in the1940s, African Americans lack attractiveness. “Except for the father, Cholly,whose ugliness (the result of despair, dissipation, and violence directedtoward petty things and weak people) was behavior, the rest of the family—Mrs.Breedlove, Sammy Breedlove, and Pecola Breedlove—wore their ugliness, put iton, so to speak, although it did not belong to them” (38). Pauline, who isPecola’s mother, tries to mimic what she thinks is categorized as society’sideal form of beauty shown through media outlets.
However, she discovers thatsociety’s ideal form of beauty is unreachable because of her differentfeatures, hair, and skin. In the novel, African Americans define beauty of the “whitesupreme” culture and those who match the ideal standards of beauty, similar toMaureen Peal. Communities such as Maureen Peal, who was a light skinned, richgirl, isolated the rest of society who did not match the ideals of beauty, likePecola. Additionally, Mrs. Breedlove accepts the fact that herdaughter, Pecola is ugly, so Geraldine curses her because of her blackness. Thebelief that ugliness within people different of society’s view on beauty isshown early in the novel with Mrs. Breedlove’s family.
“You looked at them andwondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find thesource” (39). This is saying that the Breedlove family did not inherentugliness, but that they were driven to believe that they were because of what society’sstandard on beauty was set out to be. In a society that adores blonde and blue eyes, being alittle black girl Pecola believes that she is ugly, because of what society setthe standards of beauty as. As Pecola stares into a mirror, she tries todictate were exactly the ugly came from. She is sympathetic of the dandelionsbecause she knows what it feels like to be disliked based of society’s ideals. “Theyare ugly.
They are weeds.” (50) Toni Morrison uses a metaphor to compare theugliness of the dandelions to weeds. The dandelions “yellow heads” ties to theideal blond-haired girls, which answers Pecola’s unasked question as to whyblack women throw the dandelions away.
To Pecola, gaining blue eyes means thatsociety will see her as beautiful, and that society will finally change, justbecause she has blue eyes. “She owned the crack that made her stumble; sheowned the clumps of dandelions whose white heads, last fall, she had blownaway; whose yellow heads, this fall, she peered into. And owning them made herpart of the world, and the world a part of her” (47-48).
A hyperbole is used toexaggerate what Pecola thought as she was walking into the convenience store.To Pecola the dandelions are weeds because they are unwanted and the cracks onthe streets look unpleasant, so it can make someone trip. Pecola ‘owns’ thedandelions and the cracks because they have been considered unwanted and ugly,like her. Later on, however she realizes that she hates them because it doesnot feel good to be hated and unwanted, comparable to the dandelion and thecracks on the streets. In the 1940s, society icon is Shirley Temple, because shehas society’s ideal characteristics of beauty, a white girl with blonde hairand blue eyes.
“But before that I had felt a stranger, more frightening thingthan hatred for all the Shirley Temples of the world.” (19) Claudia isexplaining the feelings she has towards Shirley Temple similar to the envy shefeels towards girls like Shirley Temple who are beautiful. Although Frieda andPecola adore Shirley, Claudia despises her with envy. This helps demonstratethat, because of the standards society set as beauty, Claudia envy’s those whofit the ‘standards’ of beauty. Given these points on the beauty standards shown in thenovel, society’s ideals of beauty have greatly affected majority of thecharacters.
Beauty is a major theme in this novel, and one day in the futurehopefully we will not have to deal with problems like beauty standards. Throughoutthe novel some symbolism is shown, for example when Pecola sees her parents fightingit is them when she wishes for blue eyes. She thinks that if she is white or hasblue eyes, her parents will be nice to one another and other people will like her.Beauty standards greatly affected Pecola.