She shows fearlessness when she stops the bullies from harassing Pecola and she has a presence that demands attention wherever she goes. Once the boys feel Maureen’s presence, they are suddenly “not willing to beat up three girls under her watchful gaze” (Morrison 67). The reason that Claudia and Frieda are drawn to Maureen stems from the fact that they do not have the same carefree attitude. Morrison establishes the worry free attitude in order to show how status in society has a major effect on the development of girls. Maureen has money and attention and most likely will crave such as an adult. Claudia and the others have minimal expenditures in this novel which signals that they will likely think of spending as a privilege and not a necessity in their adult years.
An important part of being a child is being accustomed to the way people interact with each other. This curiosity is universal among all girls. Girls in Morrison’s novel are constantly trying to solve problems on their own. One such incidence comes with Claudia’s knowledge of puberty. By experience, Frieda urgently tries to assist Pecola, while Claudia is ordered to hide the evidence from their mother. Claudia, however, has no idea of the circumstances and rushes her tasks insisting that she “had to stay behind and not see any of it” (Morrison 29).
Many would stay behind and clean instead of watch the operation that was necessary. Curiosity is also seen from the peripheral character of Rosemary in this scene. Rosemary gets caught spying on Frieda and Claudia in Pecola’s moment of distress. Rosemary, even younger than Claudia, ignorantly points out to Mrs. MacTeer that “they’re playing nasty” (Morrison 30). The girls in Morrison’s novel display curiosity to show that being a girl involves learning from experience, which ultimately implies vulnerability.
A major theme in The Bluest Eye centers on the vulnerability of young African-American girls. This novel, set in the 1940’s, illustrates how the oppression of the black community and the innocence from youth adds to the helplessness to which the girls had to overcome. Morrison uses the attribute of being vulnerable to reason why so many young girls are targeted as victims in rape. She also explains that without vulnerability, becoming open to the community is impossible.
Vulnerability goes hand in hand with being naïve and trustworthy. As children, many suspect that adults will protect them from danger regardless of relationship. In effect, children are programmed to act friendly towards others. All girls have the potential to end up as a happy adult, but many adults take advantage of the girls and greatly hinder the capability of becoming a good woman. The most obvious example is of Pecola.
Pecola is first introduced as a naturally shy girl. Morrison later reveals that Pecola is unhappy with herself. She explicitly asks for blue eyes from God.
By asking for the blue eyes, Pecola “would see only what there was to see: the eyes of other people” (Morrison 47) This is the result of the community constantly referring to Pecola as “ugly” and refraining from looking inside (Morrison 73). Morrison intensifies her depression by limiting her dialogue in the novel and focusing on how others perceive her. Morrison gives a very clear example of what the ideal girl should be like. She should be similar to Claudia: carefree, curious, and vulnerable. Although Maureen Peal has these characteristics, she lacks the level of curiosity that Claudia portrays.
Morrison could have told the story of Pecola in a manner similar to Maureen’s perspective. This novel would be void of the emotion and reflection that ultimately makes this a coming of age novel. Morrison chooses Claudia to narrate Pecola’s story because she possesses the qualities in a healthy ratio. One can see the reality of the hardships in a perspective reserved only for the most innocent of children. In a way, Claudia represents the ideal girl because she has the capacity to be the ideal woman.
What defines a woman is her ability to understand and reflect on her life. Morrison says that the ideal woman shows a sense of maturity, community, self-ownership, and independence. Most importantly the woman must be nurturing. Nurture goes along with being a good mother who can pass her life lessons down to her own children. Mrs. MacTeer demonstrates her maternal qualities throughout the novel. She eases her daughters’ transition into womanhood.
She does this by eliminating contact with those who are designated as bad influences. Mrs. MacTeer tells the children that these people are ruined. She explains that the three prostitutes are ruined, but intentionally does not say why. She sets a filter to avoid putting bad ideas into her girls’ minds. Mrs. MacTeer also proves her status as a good mother by kicking Mr. Henry out of the house after she finds out that he made ill contact with Frieda.
Mrs. MacTeer “hit him with a broom and told him to keep the Lord’s name out of his mouth” in concern for her daughter’s wellbeing (Morrison 100). Morrison makes it clear that Mrs. MacTeer thinks of her children and family before herself. The need to nurture is an essential part of being a complete woman and comes from maturity.
All of the older women in the novel except for Geraldine share the experience of maturing to become a better person. With maturity comes obligation and responsibility. This comes from reflection of oneself. Morrison employs Mrs. Breedlove to show maturity. Mrs. Breedlove takes a strict business approach toward life. She takes care of work before anything else because she understands that is what will pay for family expenses.
She knows that her responsibility is to maintain a steady income. Her family, however, becomes a liability and as a result, no longer important to her. She eventually takes more pride in serving the white family than spending time with her own blood. Mrs. Breedlove, like her daughter, longs for the ideal life even though it results in loss.
Ironically, Morrison gave the three most defining traits of being a woman to the characters with the least noble occupations. The only women in the novel who actually have power are the prostitutes. They are not mothers or wives, but they have all the qualities of the ideal woman. They have a balance between independence and community. Maturity is just the coating of understanding one’s life. All of the women in this novel rely on men to maintain a running household. The prostitutes only rely on the men’s capital, but are always in control of the relationship. In fact, Morrison says that all the men “came under their jaundiced eyes and were the recipients of their disinterested wrath” (Morrison 56).
By doing so, they have a sense of identity and independence. They do not have to adhere to another person’s rules. They respect themselves and are happy with the power that they have. This sense of identity and independence is balanced with the tight-knit community they share with each other. Being part of a community allows for a greater chance to prosper. By taking advice from others in the group and acting as an additional family, communities are always protected. Females that make a community are also able to live a life outside of their everyday family and make friends. The group that the prostitutes are a part of is especially effective.
Even though society has a very negative attitude toward their occupation, the individuals in the group are better off in terms of quality of life. Similar to Claudia being Morrison’s ideal girl, the prostitutes exemplify who Morrison would most likely consider the ideal women. The prostitutes have all of the qualities of ideal women and most importantly they understand this. Unlike the other women in this novel, the prostitutes are in control of their own destiny. They do not have a man who takes them downhill like many of the other women. The Maginot Line especially becomes a mother figure towards Pecola. Pecola enjoys being with Miss Marie because of the love she is given. Without their company Pecola would be an afterthought for her mother.
Even though the prostitutes are not mothers in the literal sense, they are maternal figures in Pecola’s life. They understand their individuality and their role in society. Their power comes from utilizing what makes them adults, the ability to reason. In no way do they think that selling their body is noble, but they do it in order to live another day of freedom. The three women know that with sacrifice comes benefit. Morrison gave women like the prostitutes and Mrs.
MacTeer qualities of the ideal woman and stripped some of these qualities from women like Geraldine and Polly. She wants the reader to learn that women with good transitions end up as ideal women, whereas those with bad transitions tend to rub the negativity onto their own children.Morrison allows the reader to assume that both the prostitutes and Mrs. MacTeer were able to find proper paths to womanhood. These characters have good nurturing capabilities, they have a network of friends that assist them, and most importantly they have made the transition from being a girl in a family, to being a woman in society. This transition from childhood to adulthood can be simplified into the evolution from being vulnerable, worry-free, and curious to a sense of community, maturity, and the ability to nurture others. A woman is not vulnerable to the negativity that society may push on her because she has community. With community comes loyalty and maturity that effectively eliminates the worry-free childhood that once was.
A woman has the responsibility to be loyal to the community that she builds. All of this equates to a nurturing and maternal female. The women in The Bluest Eye fight through all odds to become the best they can be. Their goal is not to make a name for themselves, but to instill the same values that they abide by in children who look up to them for guidance.
Oftentimes, this path is filled with dangers that young girls cannot escape. The females who fail to progress never manage to cope with reality as their entire lives are a “puree of tragedy and humor, wickedness and serenity, truth and fantasy” (Morrison 139).Morrison gives many examples of the girls who do not successfully transform into women. The two best examples are Geraldine and Polly. Morrison wants the reader to accept both as women, but she cautions that the two lack the tools to raise good children. Geraldine receives an educated approach to becoming a mother.
She went to school to learn how to take care of her family. This backfires on her when she realizes that she does not love the people who she considers family. The deficiency in love from her husband makes Geraldine look in other places for the same companionship. She overshadows her son Junior and passes her failure to love onto him. Geraldine’s plan was not to “indulge him in kissing bouts, but to see that every other desire was fulfilled” for Junior (Morrison 86). The audience watches as Junior inevitably becomes a bully and takes a step back from being incorporated into society. It is easy to see Maureen Peal following in Geraldine’s footsteps. Like Geraldine, Maureen grows up without the structure in life.
Both of the characters seem to look at the surface of problems and not the center. Polly Breedlove creates the same feeling of instability in her daughter Pecola. Deeply disturbed of Polly’s mismanaged family, Pecola becomes introverted and fails to join the community similar to Junior. Pecola also maintains the qualities of girlhood and cannot successfully become a woman.Another hamper on the transition from girl to woman is rape. Characters like Soaphead Church and Cholly Breedlove take advantage of girls at a very vulnerable stage in their lives.
Soaphead Church believes that his work helps the young girls mature. Morrison wants the reader to understand that Soaphead does the opposite; he stops the transition all together. Cholly similarly ends all chances of Pecola becoming a woman. Rape from a male is a metaphor for the lack of nurture from a female in The Bluest Eye. Morrison explains that individuals who cannot transition into adulthood greatly risk their children in failing to make the transition as well.
All of which is attributed to the cycle that keeps many families out of the safeness of a community.The Bluest Eye focuses on the difficulties of transitioning from child to woman. Morrison says that the ideal child is worry-free, vulnerable, and curious by introducing characters like Pecola, Claudia, and Jane. She contrasts the girls by giving adult qualities of maturity, the ability to nurture, independence, and community bonding.
In the form of rape or a lack of interest from mother figures, the feeling of being unloved is detrimental to girls in their transition. In order to make the transition a woman needs to find herself through community and family. Morrison reminds us that in reality the vital transition from childhood to adulthood is filled with barriers that many fail to overcome. Works CitedMorrison, Toni.
The Bluest Eye. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print.