The Cholly, her own father. Her mother
The major characters in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison were Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Claudia MacTeer, and Frieda MacTeer. Pecola Breedlove is an eleven-year-old black girl around whom the story revolves. Her innermost desire is to have the “bluest” eyes so that others will view her as pretty in the end that desire is what finishes her, she believes that God gives her blue eyes causing her insanity.
She doesn’t have many friends other than Claudia and Frieda. Throughout the book we see how Pecola is picked on by other children her age and then later on abused by Cholly, her own father. Her mother doesn’t care for her either her actions toward Pecola are not without contempt.
Cholly Breedlove is Pecola’s drunken father. He has never known a loving family; his father deserted him and his mother who then left him to die in a garbage can. His great aunt saves him and raises him until her death, which occurred when Cholly was only thirteen or fourteen years old. Cholly himself deserts his family, not physically but he is always in a drunken state and doesn’t provide the family with the barest necessities. Cholly dies alone in a warehouse. Claudia MacTeer is the main narrator in the story.
She is about nine years old when they story takes place, she is remembering the story. Claudia is black and doesn’t see anything wrong with that. She isn’t like the other girls who think it would be better if she was white, she doesn’t buy into that idea, she destroys the white dolls that she receives for Christmas. Claudia has learned from her mother how to be a strong black female and express her opinion in a white dominated society.
Frieda is a lot like her sister and had the same morals imposed on her by her mother. Frieda is about ten years old when the story takes place. The book The Bluest Eye is not told in chronological order and skips from the story to a look into the past of certain characters.
There are two narrators, Claudia MacTeer is one who tells the actual story but there is also an omniscient narrator who tells us about the character’s lives. The book starts in the fall of 1940 and Claudia and Frieda have just gone back to school. Their family is having some troubles paying the bills so they rent a room out to Mr.
Henry but then find out that they will have another guest soon because Pecola Breedlove is going to come stay with them because her father has just burned down their house. We then hear memories about the time when Pecola is living with the MacTeers and then the second narrator comes in and gives us some background on the Breedlove family. This is when we find out about Pecola’s wish for blue eyes and her living situation before she came to the MacTeers. The next season we hear about from Claudia is winter.
She tells us about a girl named Maureen who is “perfect” in the eyes of all the other students and teachers. Claudia, Frieda and Maureen are walking home together, even though Claudia and Frieda don’t like her, when they see Pecola getting harassed by some boys in the school yard and they rescue her. Maureen tries to befriend Pecola but only to torture her some more. Frieda stands up for Pecola but then Maureen makes a comment on how the girls are black and therefor ugly which hurts Pecola even more.
Now we hear from the second narrator again about a woman named Geraldine and her son Junior. Junior sees Pecola and invites her into the house to supposedly show her some kittens and give her one. Junior kills his mother’s beloved cat and blames it on Pecola. Geraldine shoves Pecola out of the house calling her “black” as if it was an insult, which just adds to her harassment by others. We hear from Claudia again about the spring where the roomer Mr. Henry sexually harasses Frieda and about how the whippings they receive are worse in the spring.
Claudia and Frieda go to visit Pecola and find her at the home of the white people where her mother works. The omniscient narrator comes in again and tells us about Pauline Breedlove’s childhood and the beginning of her marriage to Cholly. We also hear about Cholly’s childhood. The next major event, whish is told by the second narrator, is when Cholly comes home drunk one day and rapes his own daughter and just leaves her lying on the kitchen floor. Again from the second narrator we find out about “Soaphead” Church who is “Faith Healer” he claims he speak to god. Pecola asks him for blue eyes and he has her kill a dog that he was too repulsed by to kill himself and says she will have blue eyes if something happens to the dog when she gives him the “food.” We now hear from Claudia again about the summer, when everyone finds out that Pecola is pregnant by her father.
Pecola has gone insane and she only speaks to her imaginary friend who she views to be real. Pecola believes that she has blue eyes. In the last section we find out that the baby dies because it was born prematurely and that Pecola lives with her mother on the edges of town, he father has died and her brother has left town.In The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison makes a judgement on the human condition.
Her opinion is that people depend on the world to find their self-value and their self-worth. This opinion has had a lot of truth in my life. I used to look at others to figure out how I should be feeling and what others saw of me I saw in myself. That view on life gave me a lot of problems. I believe that what Toni Morrison is saying about the human condition is true in some ways.
It’s sad that we rely on others to see what we should see in ourselves. The people who have gotten away from that trend have made a great improvement in their lives.There are many movies and t.v. shows that have this point of view because it is sadly a fact of life. The one movie that stands out in my mind is a French movie called “Le diner des cons.
” Which is about these friends who find the weirdest people to take to diner and the one who has the “weirdest” wins, this one guy thinks it is wrong yet to fit in with his “friends” he goes along with the scheme. The people who are chosen think they are really making friends but it is all a scam. There are many people who would do anything to fit in with the “cool” group. I think it is sad that we decide who we are by the group of people we associate with.Being a black child growing up in the 1940’s you faced a lot of criticism and harassment not only from the white children but also from other black children. Pecola Breedlove is a good example of the constant harassment.
She was hurt and harassed by everyone even her own parents. She had low self-esteem and a low self worth because of her surroundings while Frieda and Claudia thought more of themselves because of their upbringing. I liked The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, it isn’t my favorite book out of the ones that I have read but I enjoyed it, some parts were a little too graphic for me though. Even so this book is within the top five books that I have ever read.
Second Paper A Reality Of Presence In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison shows that anger is healthy and that it is not something to be feared; those who are not able to get angry are the ones who suffer the most. She criticizes Cholly, Polly, Claudia, Soaphead Church, the Mobile Girls, and Pecola because these blacks in her story wrongly place their anger on themselves, their own race, their family, or even God, instead of being angry at those they should have been angry at: whites.Pecola Breedlove suffered the most because she was the result of having others’ anger dumped on her, and she herself was unable to get angry. When Geraldine yells at her to get out of her house, Pecola’s eyes were fixed on the “pretty” lady and her “pretty” house. Pecola does not stand up to Maureen Peal when she made fun of her for seeing her dad naked but instead lets Freida and Claudia fight for her.
Instead of getting mad at Mr. Yacobowski for looking down on her, she directed her anger toward the dandelions she once thought were beautiful. However, “the anger will not hold”(50), and the feelings soon gave way to shame. Pecola was the sad product of having others’ anger placed on her: “All of our waste we dumped on her and she absorbed.
And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us”(205). They felt beautiful next to her ugliness, wholesome next to her uncleanness, her poverty made them generous, her weakness made them strong, and her pain made them happier.When Pecola’s father, Cholly Breedlove, was caught as a teenager in a field with Darlene by two white men, “never did he once consider directing his hatred toward the hunters”(150), rather her directed his hatred towards the girl because hating the white men would “consume” him.
He was powerless against the white men and was unable to protect Darlene from them as well. This caused his to hate her for being in the situation with him and for realizing how powerless her really was. Also, Cholly felt that any misery his daughter suffered was his fault, and looking in to Pecola’s loving eyes angered him because her wondered, “What could her do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her?”(161) Cholly’s failures led him to hate those that he failed, most of all his family.Pecola’s mother, Polly Breedlove, also wrongly placed her anger on her family. As a result of having a deformed foot, Polly had always had a feeling of unworthiness and separateness.
With her own children, “sometimes I’d catch myself hollering at them and beating them, but I couldn’t seem to stop”(124). She stopped taking care of her own children and her home and took care of a white family and their home. She found praise, love, and acceptance with the Fisher family, and it is for these reasons that she stayed with them.
She had been deprived of such feelings from her family when growing up and in turn deprived her own family of these same feelings. Polly “held Cholly as a mode on sin and failure, she bore him like a crown of thorns, and her children like a cross”(126).Pecola’s friend Claudia is angry at the beauty of whiteness and attempts to dismember white dolls to find where their beauty lies. There is a sarcastic tone in her voice when she spoke of having to be “worthy” to play with the dolls.
Later, when telling the story as a past experience, she describes the adults’ tone of voice as being filled with years of unfulfilled longing, perhaps a longing to be themselves beautifully white. Claudia herself was happiest when she stood up to Maureen Peal, the beautiful girl from her class. When Claudia and Freida taunted her as she ran down the street, they were happy to get a chance to express anger, and “we were still in love with ourselves then”(74). Claudia’s anger towards dolls turns to hated of white girls.
Out of a fear for his anger the she could not comprehend, she later tool a refuge in loving whites. She had to at least pretend to love whites or, like Cholly, the hatred would consume her. Later however, she realizes that this change was “an adjustment without improvement”(23), and that making herself love them only fooled herself and helped her cope.
Soaphead Church wrongly places his anger on God and blamed him for “screwing-up” human nature. He asked God to explain how he could let Pecola’s wish for blue eyes go so long without being answered and scorned God for not loving Pecola. Despite his own sins, Soaphead feels that he had a right to blame God and ot assume his role in granting Pecola blue eyes, although her knew that beauty was not necessarily a physical thing but a state of mind and being: “No one else will see her blue eyes. But she will”(182).The Mobile girls wrongly placed their anger in their own race, and they do not give of themselves fully(even to their family). These girls hate niggers because according to them, “colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud”(87).
Black children, or they as Geraldine called them, were like flies: “They slept six to a bed, all their pee mixing together in the night as they wt their beds. . . they clowned on the playgrounds, broke things in dime stores, ran in front of you on the street. . .
grass wouldn’t grow where they lived. Flowers died. Like flies they hovered; like flies they settled”(92). Although the Mobile girls are black themselves, they “. .
.got rid of the funkiness. the dreadful funkiness of passion, the funkiness of nature, the funkiness of the wide range of human emotions,”(83) and most of all they tried to rid themselves of the funkiness of being black. They were shut off by the whites because they did not belong, but shut themselves off from their own black race.
To the blacks in The Bluest Eye, “Anger is better(than shame). There is a sense of being in anger. A reality of presence. An awareness of worth”(50). the blacks are not strong, only aggressive; they are not compassionate, only polite; they were not good, but well behave; they substituted good grammar for intellect, and rearranged lies to make them truth(205). Most of all, they faked love where felt powerless to hate, and destroyed what love they did have with anger. Toni Morrison tells this story to show the sadness in the way that the blacks were compelled to place their anger on their own families and on their blackness instead of on whites who cause their misery.
Although they didn’t know this, “The Thing to fear(and thus hate) was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us”(74), whiteness.Third Paper Quest For Personal Identity In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye Post World War I, many new opportunities were given to the growing andexpanding group of African Americans living in the North. Almost 500,00African Americans moved to the northern states between 1910 and 1920. Thiswas the beginning of a continuing migration northward.
More than 1,500,000blacks went north in the 1930’s and 2,500,00 in the 1940’s. Life in theNorth was very hard for African Americans. Race riots, limited housingresulting in slum housing, and restricted job opportunities were only a fewof the many hardships that the African American people had to face at thistime. Families often had to separate, social agencies were overcrowded withpeople that all needed help, crime rates increased and many other resultingproblems ensued. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison takes place during thistime period. A main theme in this novel is the “quest for individualidentity and the influences of the family and community in that quest”(Trescott). This theme is present throughout the novel and evident in manyof the characters.
Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, and PaulineBreedlove and are all embodiments of this quest for identity, as well assymbols of the quest of many of the Black northern newcomers of that time.The Breedlove family is a group of people under the same roof, a family byname only. Cholly (the father) is a constantly drunk and abusive man. Hisabusive manner is apparent towards his wife Pauline physically and towardshis daughter Pecola sexually. Pauline is a “mammy” to a white family andcontinues to favor them over her biological family. Pecola is a little blackgirl with low self esteem. The world has led her to believe that she is uglyand that the epitome of “beautiful” requires blue eyes.
Therefore everynight she prays that she will wake up with blue eyes.Brought up as a poor unwanted girl, Pecola Breedlove desires the acceptanceand love of society. The image of “Shirley Temple beauty” surrounds her. Inher mind, if she was to be beautiful, people would finally love and accepther.
The idea that blue eyes are a necessity for beauty has been imprinted onPecola her whole life. “If I looked different, beautiful, maybe Chollywould be different, and Mrs. Breedlove too. Maybe they would say, ‘Why lookat pretty eyed Pecola.
We mustn’t do bad things in front of those prettyblue eyes'” (Morrison 46). Many people have helped imprint this ideal ofbeauty on her. Mr. Yacowbski as a symbol for the rest of society’s norm,treats her as if she were invisible.
“He does not see her, because for himthere is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrantstorekeeper…
see a little black girl?” (Morrison 48). Her classmates alsohave an effect on her. They seem to think that because she is not beautiful,she is not worth anything except as the focal point of their mockery. “Blacke mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepsnekked.
Black e mo black e mo ya dadd sleepsnekked. Black e mo…” (Morrison 65).
Shouted by her classmates on such aregular basis, this scorn seemed not to penetrate anymore. As if it were notbad enough being ridiculed by children her own age, adults also had to mockher. Geraldine, a colored woman, who refused to tolerate “niggers”, happenedto walk in while Pecola was in her house. “‘Get out,’ she said her voicequiet.
‘You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house'” (Morrison 92). Byhaving an adult point out to her that she really was a “nasty” little girl,it seems all the more true. Pecola was never able to get away from this kindof ridicule. At home she was put through the same thing, if not worse because her familymembers were the ones who were supposed to love her. Her mother was not ableconceal her obvious affection towards a white girl over her. One day asPecola was visiting her mother at the home where she is working, Pecolaaccidentally knocked over a blueberry pie.
Obviously burned by the hotpastry, her mother completely ignored Pecola’s feelings of pain and insteadtended to the comforting of her white “daughter”. “‘Crazy foo..
.my floor,mess …
look what you…get on out.
crazy…my floor , my floor…
.’Her words were hotter and darker than the smoking berries. The little whitegirl in pink started to cry. Mrs.
Breedlove turned to her. ‘Hush, baby, hush.Don’t cry no more'” (Morrison 109). Her mother viewed Pecola as an obstaclethat had the potential to get in the way of her white charge’s happiness andconsequently her happiness.
Her mother refused to show any love to Pecolabecause it might interfere with more important things. For a little girl, thelove of her mother is the most important love she can receive. Without that,how can she think that she is worth anything at all? Finally the rape by her father is the last evidence Pecola needs to believecompletely that she is an ugly unlovable girl. While in most cases a fatherfigure is one who little girls look to for guidance and approval, Cholly isthe exact opposite. He hurts Pecola in a physical way that in one attemptmeasures up to the years of hurtful mockery. He took away from her the onething that was utterly and completely hers.
After the rape, Pecola was nevereven remotely the same: She was so sad to see. Grown people looked away; children, those who were notfrightened by her, laughed outright. The damage done was total.
She spenther days, walking up and down her head jerking to the beat of a drummer sodistant only she could hear. Elbows bent, hands on shoulders, she flailedher arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly. Beatingthe air, a winged but grounded bird intent on the blue void it could notreach-could not even see- but which filled the valleys of the mind.In short, after the rape, Pecola went insane.
Pecola’s search for identitywas defined by her everlasting desire to be loved. Her purpose in life was tobe beautiful and as a result of that to be loved. Her family and communitymade it impossible for her to ever be sanely content. Cholly Breedlove the father and eventually rapist of Pecola, is a bastard.He was born to an unwed mother; his father ran away the day of his birth andhis mother abandoned him three days later. This horrible beginning reflectshis everyday views and actions. His mother attempted to leave him alone inthe world. His father figure was an empty void in his life. After his legalguardian, his aunt, dies, Cholly decided that as an inner mission he needs tofind his father to find himself. To understand exactly who he is he needs tolook into his past. A long search ends in an extremely disappointing -crushing- experience. As Cholly tries to explain his identity to his father,he becomes flustered, “The man’s eyes frightened him. ‘I just thought… Imean my name is Cholly.'” His father’s face changes as he begins tounderstand. He shouts at Cholly, “Tell that bitch she got her money. Now, getthe fuck outta my face!'” (Morrison 156). This extremely embarrassingencounter with his father scars him for life. His only image of a fatherfigure is one who brings pain. Cholly’s sexual history starts off painfullyas well. His first attempt at sex was scorned, mocked and watched by twowhite police officers. “The men had shone a flashlight right on his behind .He had stopped, terrified. They chuckled. The beam of the flashlight did notmove. ‘Go on,’ they said. ‘Go on and finish. And, nigger, make it good.’ Theflashlight did not move” (Morrison 42). These first two episodes left a hugeimpact on him that eventually caused him to do something that would not havehappened had he had proper guidance in those areas. Cholly’s family (or lackthereof) and his community as a boy ultimately influenced the way he was as aman. Their effects on him molded his personality and as a result influencedhis identity. Another cause of his eventual downfall was the way the community perceivedhim. They treated him disrespectfully, talked about him behind his back, andmade a mockery of his name. After Cholly attempts to burn his own house down,he earns a reputation as being a scoundrel. Who, “having put his familyoutdoors, had catapulted himself beyond the reaches of human consideration.He had joined the animals; was indeed, an old dog, a snake, a ratty nigger”(Morrison 18). As long as society had an idea of who this man was and whathe stood for, it was impossible for Cholly to rise above them. While it ishard to make a good first impression, it is near impossible to change thatimpression. With that in mind he could go nowhere but down. Cholly’s ultimate downfall, occur simultaneously with the rape of Pecola: The tenderness welled up in him, as he sank to his knees, his eyes on thefoot of his daughter. Crawling on all fours toward her, he raised his handand caught the foot in an upward stroke…His mouth trembled at the firmsweetness of her flesh. He closed his eyes, letting his fingers dig into herwaist. The rigidness of her shocked body, the silence of her stunned throat,was better than Pauline’s easy laughter had been. The confused mixture of hismemories of Pauline and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him,and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length, and softeningthe lips of his anus. He wanted to fuck-tenderly. But the tenderness wouldnot hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soulseemed to slip down to his guts and fly out to her, and the gigantic thrusthe made into her then provoked the only sound she made-a hollow suck of airin the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.With this final act, Cholly lost all humanity conceivable. His search forhimself ended in destruction. Pauline Breedlove, wife of Cholly, mother of Pecola, is a servant in awhite household. The times she was there working for this family without anyreminder of her own failures were the only times that she felt truly happy .It was there and only there that she finally felt as if she were part ofsomething successful. In Pauline’s search for her identity and ultimatelyher happiness, she learned exactly what she would have to sacrifice so thatshe could be content, as well as the difference between herself and the restof society. The movie theater helped her realize the stark difference betweenher and other women. “Along with the idea of romantic love, she wasintroduced to another-physical beauty. She was never able, after hereducation in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category inthe scale of absolute beauty…” (Morrison 122). As Pauline learned whatphysical beauty was, she also learned for what it stood. In that timephysical beauty was the ideal of Shirly Temple beauty, the equation of blondhair and blue eyes to beauty. It signified equality, happiness, worthiness,and overall comfort. If you were a white woman with those qualities living innorthern America you were content, it was that simple. As Pauline learnedthese guidelines, she gave birth to Pecola and got a job as a black “mammy”to a white family. She quickly learned that when she was in the company ofher white family, who were equal, happy, and worthy in the eyes of society,it rubbed off on her and she felt as if she was part of all these positivevirtues. On the other hand, the more time she spent with her own blackfamily, the more time she realized how ugly, poor, and unworthy they were.It was as if “the master had said, ‘you are ugly people.’ They had lookedabout themselves and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact,support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, everyglance” (Morrison 39). In coming upon this realization, Pauline has adecision to make. She could have stuck with her biological family, continuedto be unsatisfied but be accepted as an equal, or she could completely giveup on her own family and devote all her time, energy, and love on her whitecharges. To Pauline this decision is obvious and she makes it hastily.Without a second thought she mentally leaves her family in place for her”Perfect Life”. However she fails to realize that by committing herself to aservant’s life that’s all she will ever amount to be – a black servant in awhite world. Have all of the characters found their identity? Pecola Breedlove yearnedfor blue eyes. At the end of the book she believes that she has those blueeyes. She believes that people treat her funny because they are jealous ofher blue eyes and she has learned to happily accept that. Pecola yearned forthe acceptance and love of society seen through her eyes. No matter if thatacceptance and love were really there, she thought it was and therefore wasable to survive. “I Soaphead Church, I have caused a miracle. I gave herthe eyes. I gave her the blue, blue, two blue eyes… No one else will seeher blue eyes. But she will. And she will live happily ever after” (Morrison182). Pecola found herself only by going insane. Although Pecola is notaccepted by society for reasons she does not understand, she puts herexclusion from society into terms she can comprehend. Society influences heridentity. They mold her into what she becomes by not giving her the guidanceand approval she needs. In the same way, Cholly found himself separated fromthe community. After the realization of the perception the community has ofhim, he is demoralized and does an act of inhumanity. He could not live withthe realization of the monster he had become and he disappeared. As a man hedid not know who he was. In a sense he needed an act that would completelyset him apart from the rest of the rational world for him to find himself. Hesanely found himself as Pecola insanely found herself. They finished withvarying results. While Pecola was separate but content, Cholly was separateand unsatisfied. Pauline, on the other hand, chose an identity she could becontent with. She had an option to become two very different people and shechose the one that seemed right for her. Her distorted view of reality madeit seem that the choice she made was accepted in society, and would allow herto increase her status in society. However, her overseer saw it anddescribed it in actuality. “We could never find anyone like Polly. She willnot leave the kitchen until everything is in order. Really, she is the idealservant” (Morrison 128). This twist of perspective shows how Pauline isreally accredited. Are they satisfied with what they have found? It seemsthat the only truly satisfied person is Pauline. Pecola is not content, shewill not ever be. Her father took away that option. Cholly is not satisfied.He can not handle the naked truth that he is a beast, and therefore retreatsfrom society. Pauline, though looked down upon by society was somehowsatisfied with her identity. Her twisted view of reality made her believethat she was accepted as an equal in society. The Breedlove family arerepresentatives of the black rising community in the north. Pecola a”dismissed, trivialized, misread” ( Morrison 216) child, was representativeof the younger Black population. While her ending does not conform tosocieties norm her story does. Cholly was a misunderstood Blackmale adult. Hewas a part of the generation that started the Black community in the north.For Cholly, the responsibilities of that were too great and he thereforeneeded to withdraw from society. Pauline was representative of the part ofthe Black — that tried too hard to conform to the White culture. She foundwhat she was looking for and was able to convince herself that she was happy,but she did not really have a place where she truly fit in. The Breedlovefamily is a black family living in the 1940s. They have to deal with thesame problems, situations, and dilemmas as do the rest of the rising Blackcommunity in the north. The Bluest Eye tells their story and offers theirexperiences.