The Bluest Eye, Themes, Motifs & Symbols Literary Devices

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Adult women, having learned to hate the blackness of their own bodies, take this hatred out on their children-?Mrs.. Overlooked shares the conviction that Pectoral is ugly, and lighter-skinned Geraldine curses Piccolo’s blackness. Claudia remains free from this worship of whiteness, imagining Piccolo’s unborn baby as beautiful in its blackness. But it is hinted that once Claudia reaches adolescence, she too will learn to hate herself, as if racial self- loathing were a necessary part of maturation. The person who suffers most from white beauty standards is, of course, Pectoral.

She connects beauty With being loved and believes that if she possesses blue eyes, the cruelty in her life will be replaced by affection and respect. This hopeless desire leads ultimately to madness, suggesting that the fulfillment of the wish for white beauty may be even more tragic than the wish impulse itself. Seeing versus Being Seen Piccolo’s desire for blue eyes, while highly unrealistic, is based on one correct insight into her world: she believes that the cruelty she witnesses and experiences is connected to how she is seen. If she had beautiful blue eyes,

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Pectoral imagines, people would not want to do ugly things in front of her or to her. The accuracy of this insight is affirmed by her experience of being teased by the boys-?when Maureen comes to her rescue, it seems that they no longer want to behave badly under Maurer’s attractive gaze. In a more basic sense, Pectoral and her family are mistreated in part because they happen to have black skin. By wishing for blue eyes rather than lighter skin, pectoral indicates that she wishes to see things differently as much as she wishes to be seen differently.

She can only receive this wish, in effect, by blinding resell. Pectoral is then able to see herself as beautiful, but only at the cost of her ability to see accurately both herself and the world around her. The connection between how one is seen and what one sees has a uniquely tragic outcome for her. The Power of Stories The Bluest Eye is not one story, but multiple, sometimes contradictory, interlocking stories. Characters tell stories to make sense of their lives, and these stories have tremendous power for both good and evil.

Claudia stories, in particular, stand out for their affirmative power. First and foremost, he tells Piccolo’s story, and though she questions the accuracy and meaning of her version, to some degree her attention and care redeem the ugliness of Piccolo’s life. Furthermore, when the adults describe Piccolo’s pregnancy and hope that the baby dies, Claudia and Fried attempt to rewrite this story as a hopeful one, casting themselves as saviors. Finally, Claudia resists the premise of white superiority, writing her own story about the beauty Of blackness.

Stories by other characters are often destructive to themselves and others. The story Pauline Overlooked tells herself about her own ugliness enforces her self-hatred, and the story she tells herself about her own martyrdom reinforces her cruelty toward her family. Saphead Church’s personal narratives about his good intentions and his special relationship with God are pure hypocrisy. Stories are as likely to distort the truth as they are to reveal it.

While Morrison apparently believes that stories can be redeeming, she is no blind optimist and refuses to let us rest comfortably in any one version of what happens. Sexual Initiation and Able_SSE To a large degree, The Bluest Eye is about both the pleasures and the perils of equal initiation. Early in the novel, Pectoral has her first menstrual period, and toward the novel’s end she has her first sexual experience, which is violent. Fried knows about and anticipates menstruating, and she is initiated into sexual experience when she is fondled by Henry Washington.

We are told the story of Schools first sexual experience, which ends when two white men force him to finish having sex while they watch. The fact that all of these experiences are humiliating and hurtful indicates that sexual coming-of-age is fraught with peril, especially in an abusive environment. In the novel, parents carry much of the blame for their children’s often traumatic sexual coming-of-age. The most blatant case is Schools rape Of his own daughter, Pectoral, which is, in a sense, a repetition of the sexual humiliation Coolly experienced under the gaze of two racist whites.

Fried’s experience is less painful than Piccolo’s because her parents immediately come to her rescue, playing the appropriate protector and underlining, by way of contrast, the extent of Schools crime against his daughter. But Fried is not given information that lets her understand what has happened to her. Instead, she lives with a vague fear of being “ruined” like the local prostitutes. The prevalence of sexual violence in the novel suggests that racism is not the only thing that distorts black girlhoods. There is also a pervasive assumption that women’s bodies are available for abuse.

The refusal on the part of parents to teach their girls about sexuality makes the girls’ transition into sexual maturity difficult. Satisfying Appetites versus Suppressing Them A number of characters in The Bluest Eye define their lives through a denial of their bodily needs. Geraldine prefers cleanliness and order to the messiness f sex, and she is emotionally frigid as a result. Similarly, Pauline prefers cleaning and organizing the home of her white employers to expressing physical affection toward her family.

Saphead Church finds physicality distasteful, and this peculiarity leads to his preference for objects over humans and to his perverse attraction to little girls. In contrast, when characters experience happiness, it is generally in viscerally physical terms. Claudia prefers to have her senses indulged by wonderful scents, sounds, and tastes than to be given a hard white doll. Schools greatest moments of appointees are eating the best part of a watermelon and touching a girl for the first time. Pipeline’s happiest memory is of sexual fulfillment with her husband.

The novel suggests that, no matter how messy and sometimes violent human desire is, it is also the source of happiness: denial of the body begets hatred and violence, not redemption. Motifs Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the texts major themes. The Dick-and-Jane Narrative The novel opens with a narrative from a Dick-and-Jane reading primer, a reiterative that is distorted when Morrison runs its sentences and then its words together.

The gap between the idealized, sanitized, upper-middle-class world of Dick and Jane (who we assume to be white, though we are never told so) and the often dark and ugly world Of the novel is emphasized by the chapter headings excerpted from the primer. But Morrison does not mean for us to think that the Dick-and-Jane world is better-?in fact, it is largely because the black characters have internalized white Dick-and-Jane values that they are unhappy. In this way, the Dick and Jane narrative and the novel roved ironic commentary on each other.

The Seasons and Nature The novel is divided into the four seasons, but it pointedly refuses to meet the expectations of these seasons. For example, spring, the traditional time of rebirth and renewal, reminds Claudia of being whipped with new switches, and it is the season when Piccolo’s is raped. Piccolo’s baby dies in autumn, the season of harvesting. Morrison uses natural cycles to underline the unnaturalness and misery of her characters’ experiences. To some degree, she also questions the benevolence of nature, as when Claudia wonders whether “the earth itself might have been unyielding” to someone like Pectoral.

Whiteness and Color In the novel, whiteness is associated with beauty and cleanliness (particularly according to Geraldine and Mrs.. Overlooked), but also with sterility. In contrast, color is associated with happiness, most clearly in the rainbow of yellow, green, and purple memories Pauline Overlooked sees when making love with Coolly. Morrison uses this imagery to emphasize the destructiveness of the black community privileging of whiteness and to suggest that vibrant color, ether than the pure absence of color, is a stronger image of happiness and freedom.

Eyes and Vision Pectoral is obsessed with having blue eyes because she believes that this mark of conventional, white beauty will change the way that she is seen and therefore the way that she sees the world. There are continual references to other characters’ eyes as well-?for example, Mr.. Wackiness’s hostility to Pectoral resides in the blankness in his own eyes, as well as in his inability to see a black girl. This motif underlines the novel’s repeated concern for the difference between how we see and how we are seen, and the difference teen superficial sight and true insight.

Dirtiness and Cleanliness The black characters in the novel who have internalized white, middle-class values are obsessed with cleanliness. Geraldine and Mrs.. Overlooked are excessively concerned with housecleaning-?though Mrs.. Overlooked cleans only the house of her white employers, as if the Overlooked apartment is beyond her help. This fixation on cleanliness extends into the women’s moral and emotional quests for purity, but the obsession with domestic and moral sanitation leads them to cruel coldness.

In contrast, one mark of Claudia trench of character is her pleasure in her own dirt, a pleasure that represents self-confidence and a correct understanding of the nature of happiness. Symbols Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The House The novel begins with a sentence from a Dick-and-Jane narrative: “Here is the house. ” Homes not only indicate socioeconomic status in this novel, but they also symbolize the emotional situations and values of the characters who inhabit them. The Overlooked apartment is miserable and decrepit, suffering from Mrs..

Overdose’s preference for her employer’s home over her own and symbolizing the misery of the Overlooked family. The Macerate house is drafty and dark, but it is carefully tended by Mrs.. Macerate and, according to Claudia, filled with love, symbolizing that family’s comparative cohesion. Bluest Eye(s) To Pectoral, blue eyes symbolize the beauty and happiness that she associates with the white, middle-class world. They also come to symbolize her own blindness, for she gains blue eyes only at the cost of her sanity. The “bluest” eye could also mean the saddest eye.

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The Bluest Eye, Themes, Motifs & Symbols Literary Devices. (2018, Apr 28). Retrieved from

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