The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: My Experience with Literacy

Published: 2021-07-05 06:40:05
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One experience I had in relation to literacy was in my junior year of high school when I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The book was about a black adolescent girl’s struggle to achieve white ideals of beauty and her consequent descent into racism that existed at the time. The society she lived in supported a specific standard of beauty and with that many believed that in order to be happy you must have beauty and respect. However, those who achieved the “true” standard of beauty and those who tried were never really satisfied with who they were. This never-ending race to become beautiful had devastating effects on the characters relationships and their own self-esteem.
Geraldine, a respected woman living in the community, did conform to the standard of beauty, and she felt that everyone else was greatly inferior. When the book was written, blonde hair and blue eyed people were the stereotypical example of prime flawlessness. Anybody that did not fit into that glorified class was considered ugly. Claudia, the narrator, along with the other girls, looked up to these ideas of beauty and were also very envious of them. Even the adults admired the blue eyes, which was shown when Mrs. Breedlove was working for a white family called The Fishers. Mrs. Breedlove took pride to the way she kept their house and received a nickname from the family. She took so much pride in the family’s home that she even ended up growing an attachment to the family’s daughter and comforted her more than her own daughter, Pecola. This is evident when Pecola accidentally dropped the freshly made blueberry pie on the floor. As a result, Mrs. Breedlove hit her and made her fall to the floor but calmed the young, beautiful white girl.Throughout the novel, Pecola was depicted as ugly because she was always miserable and did not fit the beautiful stereotype of the time. She was black, which was the biggest crime of all. She would always saunter around with a sad, grim look on her face and rarely talked to anyone. The only time when she was content with herself was when she thought she had received her blue eyes towards the conclusion of the novel. Although the idea was insane, it was an accomplishment that made Pecola feel relevant and equal to the society. Pecola longed to have, “the bluest eye”, and thus be acceptable to her family, schoolmates, and neighbors, all of whom had convinced her that she was ugly. While reading this book I felt like I could relate to Pecola and therefore decided to write about it. As I wrote about my relation to Pecola, I remembered feeling like I had to conform to society’s standards because if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have been accepted by my friends or classmates. The book made me realize how similar I was to Pecola. We had almost the exact thoughts and feelings about the world around us. In relation to Pecola I struggled with understanding why, up to this day, my skin color is still not accepted and why must I feel like I should be the one to change it. In Pecola, I saw a little bit of myself at the time, a little girl who was different and did not fit in. A feeling that almost every girl, especially black girls, have had this same feeling. I understood what Pecola was going through and her confusion with race, class, and oppression. The joining of all these things resulted in her being forced to reach the heart breaking conclusion that her blackness could be fixed. All Pecola wanted was the blue eyes, similar to me wanting curlier hair and clearer skin. Growing up, it was difficult to see myself as “desirable”. Whether that meant desired by my classmates in friendships, desired by males for a relationship, or accepted in a world full of restrictions as myself. My features and my distinct characteristics were not able to be recognized as “beauty” for as long as I can remember. My black, big lips and my dark Hershey tone were restraints on my life that I could never get rid of. The box that society tried to put me in was never a match for the blackness I hold, and it never can be. Before the current melanin obsession, a trend that is so widely appreciated, a movement that praises dark skinned women in bright colors, women accepting their different types of hair and body shapes, and men appreciating their black women. Before Lupita Nyong’o, no magazine covers praised blue-black skinned models, tones that are so overlooked that you’d think black people didn’t even recognize that as part of their race, I had to build the confidence and acceptance of my beauty from within. At times, it was a struggle. At times, it felt impossible, and like Pecola, I reached into my own imagination to create a world where I reigned supreme; untouchable and unreachable by the hate and confusion of the world in which I live. I remember reading The Bluest Eye and thinking to myself that if everybody read this book, and at least attempted to understand Pecola’s experience, then perhaps we would all understand what it’s like to be a woman of color. It is no secret that I have it the hardest. Not only am I a minority, but I am a woman. This is the exact combination that gives people the ignorance and “authority” to treat me like I am lesser. Perhaps everyone would be less judgemental and parochial – after all that is what the book did for me. It forced me to examine myself, to question my experiences, and to engage with who I truly am. It forced me to ask myself who’s truly responsible for the black human condition. How can we expect white people to respect our blackness, if we don’t truly accept it ourselves? How can we move past color restrictions, if we allow others, including ourselves, to teach us what’s beautiful and what’s not.
Toni Morrison provided me with many ideas that I could relate to, but through Pecola’s experiences, she taught me to engage with my humanity and most of all, to protect it. To protect it not only from white people, but to protect from anyone who tries to make me feel inferior to what I know is equal. It’s easy to blame white people for Pecola’s belief that she was ugly, but it is also fair to say that blacks have allowed themselves to become so impressionable that we can tolerate someone telling us what’s ugly and what’s not.

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