Blue Eyes for White Beauty
In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, three young African American girls (among many others in their society) struggle against a culture that defines them as ugly and/or invisible. They are regularly contrasted with symbols of whiteness and white icons: the white film star, Shirley Temple, the face of Mary Jane on candy wrappers, and the white baby dolls they are given as gifts and expected to love. The mothers of these girls contribute to the promotion of a cycle of self-hatred and to the conformity to white standards of beauty by admiring the young white girls in their community and in the media instead of finding beauty in their own black children. Their daughters, then, are faced with the harsh reality that they are inferior to the “beautiful” little white girls, and must decide whether to continue to yield to this cycle of degradation and oppression or to define beauty in their own terms. One character in particular, Pecola Breedlove, tragically succumbs to this system of oppression in a way that results in the dissolution of her identity. To Pecola, the acquisition of beauty signifies the potential to attain the things in her life that she has never had: attention, love, blue eyes, and ultimately, whiteness. In praying for...
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