Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye does not focus on direct white oppression of a black community, but rather how whiteness is ingrained in the minds of the black community and serves as a destructive force. There are few white characters introduced in the book, but whiteness and the culturally accepted ideal of whiteness as an indication or measure of beauty is ever present. Morrison's first page, The Dick and Jane story, is a clean, simple and perfect example of whiteness. Mother, Father, Dick and Jane are the family and they live in a pretty house with a cat and dog. This is whiteness. Whiteness is nice, clean, happy and simple. Turning the page we soon discover that perfect simplistic whiteness can turn chaotic and destructive. This first shocking introduction to whiteness not only foreshadows the end of the book, but is also the first of many direct examples of whiteness and its potential to consume the mind and destroy the spirit.
Within the first few pages of the book we find Shirley Temple and a white baby doll, both pretty with their blue eyes and creamy skin. That both of these symbols of whiteness are young and introduced to little black children is very significant. Whiteness is known and begins to warp around and take hold of them from the beginning. They are never allowed to entertain or contemplate their own beauty because they are shown early on symbols of pretty and they will never measure up. White baby dolls are loved and Shirley Temple is adored while their black skin, wool like hair and brown eyes are merely tolerated. We learn from Claudia's example that the only way to keep the whiteness from destroying y...
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...whiteness is potentially damaging. It is also effective because is demonstrates how black communities self imploded if they internalized the white ideal. This is very powerful. That notion that whites did not need to by physically present but merely symbolically represented in order to undermine the stability and self-image of a black community. Whiteness then did, and does, have the power to destroy if it is internalized and accepted as the ideal--an ideal that is unobtainable and therefor all the more damaging.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Davis, Cynthia. "Self, Society, and Myth in Toni Morrison's Fiction." Draper 222.
Draper, James P., ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. "Toni Morrison." Michigan: Gale Research Inc., 1994.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York, New York: Plume, 1994.
Steiner, Wendy. "The Clearest Eye." Draper 239.
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