The Bluest Eye Essay

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Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970) takes place in Ohio towards the tail end of the depression. The story focuses on the character of Pecola Breedlove who wants to have blue eyes. Pecola becomes convinced that if she had blue eyes her life would be different. Through the eyes of our narrator, Claudia, and her sister Frieda we see the pervasive racism and abuse Pecola is subjected to. Claudia and Frieda act as witnesses to Pecola’s disintegration and as a result, they will spend the rest of their lives grappling with what happened to Pecola.
Towards the first third of the novel, Pecola goes to buy penny candy from Yacobowski’s Fresh Veg. Meat and Sundries Store. As she is walking to the store she notices the dandelions on the path and
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Bernstein and Morrison expertly shed light on the way children visually consume the culture around them. Consequently, when innocence is attributed to whiteness it dangerously allows for perceptions constructed by society to dictate one’s worth.
This scene can be interpreted through the argument Bernstein makes in Racial Innocence Performing Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, which is that innocence becomes a tool for dividing children into valued and not valued with race playing a large role in the deciding factor. Bernstein claims, “White children became constructed as tender angels while black children were libeled as unfeeling, noninnocent nonchildren” (33). We can see Mr. Yacobowski subscribing to a similar ideology where innocence is raced in the way that he is an implementer of pain for Pecola. He doesn’t see Pecola due to a set of beliefs that justify the exploitation of black children and in this instance Pecola, a little girl simply wanting to buy candy is deemed not worthy of respect and kindness. The perception of Pecola as not-innocent opens the door for Yacobowski to be a wielder of hurt. Pecola takes this hurtful treatment to be a direct result of the fact that she lacks blue eyes and is ugly. Pecola’s self-perceived ugliness allows her to identify

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