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Morrison's Bluest Eye Essay: The American Way

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The Bluest Eye: The American Way     


    Ownership, class structures, and consumerism go hand in hand. Morrison illustrates this throughout the novel and in the characters' identities. Many of the characters identify themselves based on material possessions: the simple ownership of a car, the use of consumer products, and property ownership. Although African Americans may take these things for granted now, in the early 1900's this would be considered a major accomplishment.

There is an apparent contradiction of class status among the characters illustrating how beauty determines social stratification. Morrison places each person in the class hierarchy based on how close they are to the white standard of beauty. The Fishers, the white family Pauline is employed by, are at the top of the class stratification. The only upper middle class family is white and they are the ultimate model of the blonde and blue eyed standard.

Rosemary, whom the girls also have a tinge of jealousy for, is on the same class level as Frieda and Claudia, except that her Italian features classify her as white. Rosemary's phenotype is white yet she is also a minority. In the opening scene of the novel she is "sitting in a 1939 Buick eating bread and butter." Claudia and Frieda are characterized as envious:

We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more

than that wanting to poke the arrogance out

of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership

that curls her chewing mouth. (12)

Morrison opens the novel with a feeling of envy, because she is depicting how consumerism and ownership evoke competition. Each character wants to be superior to the others. Rosemary views herself as better than the African American girls because bla...


... middle of paper ...


... Bluest Eye (New York: Washington Press, 1970).

Susan Willis, "I Shop Therefore I Am: Is There a Place for Afro-American Culture in Commodity Culture?" in Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticsm, Theory and Writing by Black Women, ed. Charyl A. Wall (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989): 173-95.

Elizabeth House, "Artist and the Art of Living: Order and Disorder in Toni Morrison's Fiction," Modern Fiction Studies 34(1998):27-44.

Bessie W. Jones, "An Interiew with Toni Morrison," in The World of Toni Morrision, ed. Bessie Jones and Audrey Vinson (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt, 1985).

Robert Stepto, " `Intimate Things in a Place': A Conversation with Toni Morrison," in Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship, ed. Michael S. Harper and Robert B. Stepto (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979).

 


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