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The Bluest Eye: Life-altering Social Standard

Long until it becomes a standard, a worldwide norm, people start to consider

themselves black and white as ugly and beautiful. What is the secret that divides us, keeping

us away from what we all equally deserve? What is the element that made her beautiful, and

not us? Every minority, every black life are living within a harsh environmental condition

where black is considered as unwanted. Leading to the false perception of beauty, passing

through the mixing culture, which creates the feeling of inferiority of black lives in a big

society where white is dominant. Pecola Breedlove, a victim in 1940s African-American

society, has long wanted to not be an outsider, praying every day for an impossibility that one

day when she woke up, her eyes will turn blue, her skin will be painted in white, and her hair

will turn blond. This childhood daydream of hers later leads to a tragedy of an individual’s

life. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye reveals how an individual grows up to be a weak,

powerless, and less important person in effect of an unequal social standard between Black

and White people: affecting oneself, ruining a relationship, and revealing community

condition as a whole.

In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison reveals how social standard defines little black girl’s

perspective, making people of color feel weak. The novel firstly brings up the “predicament

of being a black female in the predominantly white America in the 1930’s and 1940’s,” where

it was the time racial tensions are overt and extreme. (Zebialowicz and Palasinski, 221) At

that time, the standard of color’s people is set: black—minority—and white—majority—are

unequal and will never be equal in every aspect of living. Pecola Breedlove, an example of

the damage caused by surrendering completely to a standard of beauty, is being raised up in a

community where black lives—including her—are considered as inferior. (n.d.) Throughout

Pecola’s life, she is being oppressed by surrounding condition where society tortured her,

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leading her to think of her own flaw growing up to be black; alternatively, the only solution to

the bad things happened to her will be solved when Pecola received a pair of blue eyes—the

symbol of social acceptance. Morrison supports, “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago

that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers

were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different,” as say that those eyes

are all Pecola will ever want in her lifetime, once in a blue moon, she just yearns for an

acknowledgement. (Morrison, 46) The feelings of ugliness enable and drives oneself to a

“persistent childhood fantasy” that she might one day woke up blond and blue-eyed.

(Rosenberg, 439) Put simply, black people are struggling as a consequence of endeavoring to

accept the standards imposed by white-dominated society. (Bloom, 90) As a result, it links to

a decline of self-esteem, adaptiveness, and well-being. (Zebialowicz and Palasinski, 221)

Morrison describes, “Each pale yellow wrapper has a picture on it. A picture of little Mary

Jane, for whom the candy is named. Smiling white face. Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue

eyes looking at her out of a world of clean comfort

To eat the candy is somehow to eat the

eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane,” in order to emphasize how hard Pecola

tries to reach the social standard of being white (Morrison, 50). No doubt, Pecola surrounds

herself with whiteness concerning to a belief that one day she will be like one; even in the

candy that she chooses, she picks Mary Jane’s candy, not because of its taste, but because of

its packaging in which it has a picture of blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful Mary Jane. Above all,

Pecola believes that she is one step closer to Mary Jane by consuming whiteness.

Additionally, Morrison conveys the destructive steps in which a black young girl takes in

order to conform to the idealized / accepted image of white beauty. (Bloom, 90) Her longing

for blue eyes eventually leads her to an unstoppable loop of imagination. Throughout the

story, Pecola has seen firsthand that little white girls have the acceptance and approval of

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society, “she seeks desperately, in any way that she can, to be at least close to them.” (Bloom,


Toni Morrison portrays how black lives are treated differently within a community in

accordance with their skin color in The Bluest Eye. A society, as defined as “a large social

grouping that shares the same geographical or social territory

and dominant cultural

expectations,” where Breedlove’s family lives in is primarily under a strong influence of an

expected culture of white supremacy (Merriam-Webster). Since the story begins, Morrison

depicts relationships of Pecola with other people in the community: friends, a teacher at the

school, neighbors, random shop owners, and Breedlove’s family. How Pecola is treated by

her surrounding people bring about dramatic changes since ugliness is definitive not only

regarding a person’s physical appearance, but also “race, socioeconomic class, educational

background, and actions, and the characters are inundated with images of white beauty in

popular culture.” (n.d.). Powerfully, association with others lowers her self-worthiness, more

demanding of having blue eyes. However, an individual’s skin color has much more

momentous consequences, which its consequences include social exclusion, scars, and

discrimination. The research shows that social rejection and exclusion ties itself with one’s

anxiety self-esteem. (Zebialowicz and Palasinski, 221) As Morrison displays, “She looks up

at him and sees the vacuum where curiosity ought to lodge

The total absence of human

recognition—the glazed separateness

she has seen interest, disgust, even anger ingrown

male eyes. Yet this vacuum is not new to her

She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all

white people. The distaste must be for her, her blackness,” to strongly depict a common

situation Pecolca has to confront. (Morrison, 48-49) Even though Pecola has never harmed

others, she is automatically received the feeling of rejection and disgusting. Since Pecola was

young, she is forced to believe that she is “no good and invisible,” she has no chance to prove

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and show her inner goodness because everybody perceives her value the same when they see

and get reminded of the dislike of her blackness. (Bump, 157) Literally, the encounter with

the store owner is a friendly reminder of her “ugliness” and “blackness.” (Morrison, 49) This

reinforces her attitude that: “beauty is the only way to gain any respect from others” (n.d.).

Simultaneously, Pecola questions about her beauty, “Long hours she sat looking in the mirror,

trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at

school, by teachers and classmates alike.” (Morrison, 45) This quote stresses about a fact that

Pecola’s conviction of her own ugliness is from the society’s judgment of her being

unattractive. (Bloom, 90) Altogether, The Bluest Eye “illustrates the great discomfort felt by

the black minority in the white-dominated society frequently denying them a sense of

equality and inclusion by imposing unfair and inherently subjective views of place and race

that become all involved.” (Zebialowicz and Palasinski, 222) At the end, Pecola’s unrealistic

expectations produce the illusion that the fulfillment of her wish would make her beautiful,

bring her respect, and thus a better life.

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes reveals a social standard that has long defined the

equality and quality of black’s beings since the post-war years. Racial discrimination has

been a huge difficulty that blocks good things away from black citizens. At the beginning of

the story, Morrison foreshadows on Pecola’s pregnancy as stated: “We had dropped our seeds

in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola’s father had dropped his seeds in his own plot

of black dirt.” (Morrison, 10) Pecola's pregnancy reveals the cruelty and irresponsibility of

the community towards black lives. The community feels no compassion for Pecola and

offers her no help. Pecola is forced to leave school because of her pregnancy and is isolated

from other children; moreover, she becomes a subject of gossip by the adults. (n.d.) As

Morrison explains, “They were disgusted, amused, shocked, outraged, or even excited by the

story. But we listened to the one who would say, “Poor little girl,”

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We looked for eyes

creased with concern, but saw only veils.” (Morrison, 190) “The destructive side of the

community” is illustrated continuously in response to Pecola’s conditions; a society continues

to treat Pecola as the outsider even when she is helpless and hopeless. (Bloom, 86)

Additionally, Pecola is being recognized as “the Other” owning to the facts that a standard of

beauty, that a society applied, condemns her to an extreme ugliness. (Bloom, 86) Analytically,

the community exposed how unequal they are in terms of giving a kid with basic education

and healthcare; Pecola’s child is another indirect repercussion of failure in community’s

standard, disclosing the disadvantages of being black. Unfortunately, the child died: the

whole reflection on ignorance toward two black lives even they are female and kids. To

clearly demonstrate black's inequality comparing to those of the white, statistics of mortality

rates display the different living conditions they have received. Around 1950, blacks died at a

rate that was 1.6 times higher than that of the white population; even now, a recent report

notes that this gap remained as same as 1995. (SoRelle) According to David R. Williams’s

studies, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, Williams notes: “these striking racial

differences in health and their persistence through time reflect, in large part, policies and

practices that are linked to the historic legacy of racism and that have created adverse living

conditions that are pathogenic for minority populations.” (SoRelle) Minority populations or

black citizens have been shown to live in a much poorer habitat—major drawback that black

people always long for unconditional fairness. Sooner or later, Pecola’s community fails her;

at her final stage of life, she despised herself because she doesn’t meet the requirement of

getting accepted according to white standards. Without social acceptance, Pecola starts

creating her own society, picturing of everything she constantly craves for. In her madness,

Pecola escapes to the world where she is beautiful, a world of pure imaginary wholeness. In

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her psychotic state, Pecola, finally, “obtains the object of her desire—the blue eyes.” (Harold,

86) Her fantasy builds her own community, separating her from cruelty she encounters in real

life, thereby succeeding in protecting her from pain. (Zebialowicz and Palasinski, 229) On the

other hand, it can be regarded as Pecola being trapped in a race where it pulls herself down

“in the long run.” (Bump, 152)

Toni Morrison communicates through The Bluest Eye to exhibit an individual’s life

that is changed correspondingly to the social norm of racial discrimination: the issue upsets

little black girl’s viewpoint, damages community interaction, and exposes the differing

quality of black’s life versus those of white’s. The ambition of the narrator is to allow others

to feel others’ “hatred for the thing we have no control over and cannot change.” (Morrison)

Being black is inescapable: a person shouldn’t be judged and a person’s life shouldn't be

ruined for the things she is born with—born to be black. Pecola, a young girl who is under

control of the white standard in the society. Pecola learned that her struggles in life with

herself, family, other people, and the society are all an aftereffect of her eyes that are not blue.

She believes that if she got blue eyes, her life would flip entirely. Her fault assumption leads

to the downfall in her life: losing her sanity. A life, even a single life, is worth more than to

just be threatened by another. By looking at a much wider outlook, a social standard not only

alters a single life in a world, it also makes alternations to us, a community, a nation, and the



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Morrison, T. (2007). The Bluest Eye. New York: Vintage International.

Bloom, H. (2007). Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations).

Chelsea House Publications.

Bump, J. (2010). Racism and Appearance in The Bluest Eye: A Template for an Ethical

Emotive Criticism. 147-171.

SoRelle, R. (2000). Gap Between Death Rates for Blacks and Whites Remains as Large as in

1950. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/101/12/


(2009). The Bluest Eye. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://


Zebialowicz, A., & Palasinski, M. (2009). Probing Racial Dilemmas in the Bluest Eye with

the Spyglass of Psychology. 221-233.

Rosenberg, R. (1987). Seeds in Hard Ground: Black Girlhood in The Bluest Eye. 435-445.