Although my students were unaware of it, in a sense what they were questioning from the standpoint of literary criticism is not only the theory of postmodernism with its emphasis on race, class and gender, but the theory of naturalism as well: the idea that one 's social and physical environments can drastically affect one 's nature and potential for surviving and succeeding in this world. In this article, I will explore Toni Morrison 's The Bluest Eye from a naturalistic perspective; however, while doing so I will propose that because Morrison 's novels are distinctly black and examine distinctly black issues, we must expand or deconstruct the traditional theory of naturalism to deal adequately with the African American experience: a …show more content…
The novels may focus on individual characters like Milkman and Jadine, but the salvation of individuals is not the point. Rather, these individuals struggling to reclaim or redefine themselves, are portrayed as epiphenomenal to community and culture, and it is the strength and continuity of the black cultural heritage as a whole that is at stake and being tested. (93-94)
What is "at stake" in Morrison 's novels and in black fiction in general is a consistent emphasis on the need to resist forces stemming from society which may serve to destroy "continuity of the black cultural heritage" by a conscious embracing of the past combined with a concurrent quest for identity. When analyzing this pattern of creative reSistance of outside forces and rebuilding of the self in Morrison 's novels, one can perceive a distinct echo of naturalism. The word "echo" is significant because Morrison 's novels are not strictly naturalistic. While Morrison 's works do exhibit naturalistic tendencies, she presents them in a new way, illustrating different challenges specific to minorities and offering alternate ways of dealing with these challenges. Morrison 's protagonists face a world that is more complex, oppressive, and destructive than either Theodore Dreiser 's Carrie or John Steinbeck 's Tom Joad because Morrison 's
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One way she covers this is by highlighting Morrison’s disregard for censorship in her work. By presenting us with the raw truth, Morrison’s novel becomes all the more compelling. The author wants us to be condemned by her work; she inspires us to think deeper on its roots. Morrison accepts black history for what it is and therefore can use her work to express her opinion and take a stand for her beliefs. This article shows us the power of censorship and the strides we could potentially make if we were to cast it aside when dealing with things like
Toni Morrison, the author of The Bluest Eye, centers her novel around two things: beauty and wealth in their relation to race and a brutal rape of a young girl by her father. Morrison explores and exposes these themes in relation to the underlying factors of black society: racism and sexism. Every character has a problem to deal with and it involves racism and/or sexism. Whether the characters are the victim or the aggressor, they can do nothing about their problem or condition, especially when concerning gender and race. Morrison's characters are clearly at the mercy of preconceived notions maintained by society. Because of these preconceived notions, the racism found in The Bluest Eye is not whites against blacks. Morrison writes about
Throughout Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, she captures, with vivid insight, the plight of a young African American girl and what she would be subjected to in a media contrived society that places its ideal of beauty on the e quintessential blue-eyed, blonde woman. The idea of what is beautiful has been stereotyped in the mass media since the beginning and creates a mental and emotional damage to self and soul. This oppression to the soul creates a socio-economic displacement causing a cycle of dysfunction and abuses. Morrison takes us through the agonizing story of just such a young girl, Pecola Breedlove, and her aching desire to have what is considered beautiful - blue eyes. Racial stereotypes of beauty contrived and nourished by
According to Frederick Douglass, “it was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it (p.4).” Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison literatures examine the stigma of slavery, and the perceptions of its dangers. They illustrate what life was like and the mental as well social impact it had on enslaved African-Americans and their life after gaining freedom. Richard Wright convinces his audience in Black Boy that he was tired of the limitations and outcries in the South “I was not leaving the South to forget the South, but so that some day I might understand it, might come to know what its rigors had done to me, its children (284).” Alice Walker obtains her readers attention by transforming young women into their own characters with a voice using spiritual guidance. In Native Son, Bigger has achieved is lost after being apprehended and brought into captivity, as he transitions back into silence and passivity and begins to recover only in his final confrontation, whereas Douglass in the same prevailing convention, only heals after the regaining of his freedom. Through these literatures, and many others, African-Americans find multiple ways to alleviate and recover from the intensity of undesired bondage and bigotry.
In the novel, “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison the unorthodox structure and undermining content inspired and continues to inspire controversy. Morrison’s creative narrative approach addresses many issues of racism and identity. Through the course of the novel some vulgar subjects are also introduced, such as incest and pedophilia. In the book the point of view founded by the characters following their upsetting lives helps portray the theme of battling internal conflicts formed through extended metaphors and horrible societal circumstances.
Racist ideology is institutionalized when how people’s interactions reflects on an understanding that they share the same beliefs. However, in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, the topic of racism is approached in a very unique way. The characters within the novel are subjected to internalizing a set of beliefs that are extremely fragmented. In accepting white standards of beauty, the community compromises their children’s upbringing, their economic means, and social standings. Proving furthermore that the novel has more to do with these factors than actual ethnicity at all.
African-American author Toni Morrison, in her novel, Beloved, explores the experience and roles of black men and women in a racist society. She describes the black culture which is born out of a period of slavery just after the Civil War. In her novel she intends to show the reality of what happened to the slaves in the institutionalized slave system. In Beloved, the slaves working on the Sweet Home experiences brutality, violence, torture and are treated like animals. Morrison shows us what it means to live like a slave as she sheds light on the painful past of African-Americans and reveals the buried experiences for better understanding of African-American history. In the story of Beloved, special importance is given to the horrors and tortures of slavery to remind the readers about the American past. Morrison reinvents the past because she does not want the readers to forget what happened in African-American history.
Race often plays an important role in how an individual is viewed based on societal standards and quality of life. A vast majority of the characters in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye attribute the difficulties they face and the outcome of their lives to being African American in an era when people with dark pigmentations of skin were viewed as second class citizens. Morrison’s novel focuses on the different spectives of African Americans, both male and female, who differ in the standard by which they live their lives based on their experiences with racism following the depression era of the twentieth century. The issue of race and class is essential in understanding the mindset and actions of characters such as those in The Bluest Eye, the lengths the characters were willing to go to in order to conform to society, and how consequential decisions they made in order to endure and to survive had a lasting impact on the quality of their lives. Race and class defined how characters throughout the novel dealt with elements such as beauty, self awareness, ethnic identity, morality and the idea of society’s opinions.
Russell M. Nelson once said, “We were born to die and we die to live.” Toni Morrison correlates to Nelson’s quote in her Nobel Lecture of 1993, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” In Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, she uses language to examine the concepts of racism, lack of self-identity, gender roles, and socioeconomic hardships as they factor into a misinterpretation of the American Dream. Morrison illustrates problems that these issues provoke through the struggles of an African American community during the1940s. Through the characters’ challenges of being accepted by society, the reader can blatantly see corruption not only in America, but also throughout the entire world. Morrison uniquely applies multiple points of view to tell the story of a young black girl who desires blue eyes in order to be socially “beautiful”. The reason the book is so effective is that Morrison bases the themes on personal experiences. By the end of the novel, we do not directly gain a sense of hope, change and progress for the future, but instead raises awareness of racism, sexism and self-identity. To convey the importance of personal experiences vis á vis social issues, Morrison parallels crucial times in history to the novel. The author demonstrates how history affects her characters and how the characters’ lives in microcosm represent what was occurring globally at the time. The Bluest Eye offers the possibility for
However, the author raises the awareness of the contemporary issues and challenges of the black community, through the choice of narrative and key concepts that are essential for the genre. The novel explores many critical themes concerning the African-American
Slavery, segregation, and discrimination are commonly viewed as some of the primary struggles African Americans contended with. However, in Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eyes, it reveals struggles not commonly discussed about, such as internalized racism within black society and the internal conflict with one’s own blackness. Throughout the novel, characters repeatedly try to consume whiteness as a mean to escape their own blackness. They submerge themselves with the notion that the white, Eurocentric culture is the superior culture, and being white means being beautiful and powerful. In doing so, they gradually disconnect and disassociate themselves from their own African American heritage.
I have made mistakes along the way, but I remained true to my vision.” (Joseph, 279) African-American literature displays the struggle of identity for African-American people and why identity is important. The journey of identity is harder for African-American people because of the obstacles that are put in front of them by people in power. So the journey to self-discovery is that much more important in African American literature. An example of this is in Their Eyes WEre Watching God when Jamie finally finds peace with herself.
The Bluest Eye describes the insecurities and low self esteem of young girls. In the book, Toni Morrison writes through the eyes of a black girl in the 1940s named Pecola who wishes to be blue eyed and beautiful. As a naïve adolescent, Pecola believes that her physical appearance is the reason for problems in her life and if she looked better her life would be better as well. Though the novel particularly describes body image associated with race, this message is one that many readers, especially other girls, can relate to, too.
In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison develops character Beloved as an allegorical figure to embody slavery’s horrific past and the lasting impact that unresolved past trauma has upon the present. Morrison develops the character Beloved to represent all the unremembered and untold stories of slavery and to further the message that we must maintain a collective memory of slavery in order to pursue a hopeful future. Morrison develops Beloved as a character through her interactions with other characters in the novel and they way in which they interact with their past trauma. In Lina Krumholz’s The Ghosts of Slavery: Historical Recovery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, she comments on Morrison’s construction of a parallel between individual and community memories and the nature of history making as a healing process. Krumholz’s argues that the individual memories of the characters of the novel function as collective memories as well, just as slavery does in our history. It is both deeply personal while being a collective experience, the importance of community and of confrontation of the past therefore presents itself as the theme that Morrison hopes to further. Morrison therefore forms the tragedy of slavery into something that can be manageably remembered and able to handle, while also setting the tone for an optimistic future in the face of this rememory.
The middle class black society and the lower class black society, for example, are quite different from each other and are constantly conflicting. In The Bluest Eye, Morrison distinguishes these divisions and their tensions through characters like Geraldine, Junior, and Maureen Peal, who represent the privileged division of black culture. On the contrary, the less privileged division is represented by the MacTeer family and the “relentlessly and aggressively ugly” Breedlove family (The Bluest Eye 38). Tension between the divided African American society is clearly represented by such characterizations throughout Morrison’s novel.