The racialized beauty status from W.E.B Dubois’s lens of double consciousness significantly plays a major role in the dehumanized and demonized state of black characters within The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Dubois employs this term to explore the peculiar state that African Americas find themselves in and the specific tools they can use to elevate their circumstances (Pittman, 2016). Basically, double-consciousness is a form of living behind the veil where one becomes segregated from certain privileges enjoyed by those on the other side of the veil (Pittman, 2016). This concept is experienced by an individual who finds themselves in both sides of a similar coin and their limitation to the social realm is based on the dominating systems in place. Because of their skin color, African Americans are unconsciously forced by their society to stick and continually live within their self attained definitions (Boxill, 2020). This condition happens while they still get to experience lots of opposition and hostility in their quest for freedom of expression and absolute enjoyment of equal rights like their white counterparts.
Blacks have been forced to live within the societal limitations and boundaries that are not only defined but controlled by white supremacy (Pittman, 2016). Attaining equality and even being accepted into these white-dominated societies is a struggle that never seems to end. Racism and sexism advanced by the white supremacist society seem to always have the upper hand in the self-actualization journey of the black man (Meer, 2018). The black person is left to gamble between loosely defined, undefined, and overlapping definitions about himself. Eventually, the black individual has no choice but to settle for these uniquely perceived positions (Meer, 2018). The Bluest Eye presents this corrupted view of beauty among its thematic issues that breeds thoughts of self-hatred and internalized racism. This is because it renders one incapable of measuring up to the dominant group’s socially acceptable status. Among other characters, Morrison’s analysis encompasses one particular character, Pecola, who weighs out her beauty relative to her white peers. She believes that the only way she could shed off her ugliness is by having blue eyes. This view separates her from the realities of life and contributes to her descension into madness. This essay will analyze the concepts of double consciousness and misogyny as applicable in Tony Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye, emphasizing Pecola’s story.
Double Consciousness And Misogyny In Tony Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes
Pecola Breedlove faces the negativity of double consciousness and misogyny both from her black community and white people alike. She is inclined to believe that she faces abuse, prejudice, and racial discrimination because her skin was dark. Morrison narrates, “She yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl. And the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment” (Morrison, 204). Pecola feels that to counter all these social evils directed at her, she needed to get blue eyes. Consequently, the community around her, her parents, classmates, and neighbors would love her in equal measure to the white girls who possessed blue eyes. This corrupted perceptive presents a child and a community struggling with double consciousness. Such that the measure of beauty and status should be mirrored through the eyes of another person. The genesis of Pecola’s plight can be linked to her parent’s dislike of her since birth. Her mother, Pauline, not only shows discomfort in her darkness and untidiness but also her ugliness. Her childhood is terrible to the point that nobody loves her, including her parents. Like her mother, she equally faces physical, mental, and emotional torture from her drunkard father, Cholly Breedlove. Dubois’s double consciousness is also evident when Pecola shows admiration and envy for the lives of the white girls with blue eyes. Life was just too kind and lovely to them. This feeling drives her to pray to God to give her blue eyes with the thought that the world will view her differently. Even with the friendship, love, and emotional support from her friends, Frieda and Claudia, she was still discontented with her appearance. Claudia is sympathetic to the self-hatred that Pecola with her family was suffering from. She attributes the Breedlove’s deplorable lifestyle, not on their poverty status but to their double consciousness mindset concerning perceiving themselves as ugly relative to their white neighbors. “Their poverty is traditional and stultifying: it is not unique. But their ugliness is unique” (Morrison, 38). This reasoning points out Breedlove’s responsibility for their thought processes.
Pecola facing misogyny has more to do with her view of racialized beauty rather than her dark-skinned complexion. Without uttering any words, the shopkeeper’s angry look at her sends a message of hate and distaste to her because of her darkness. “It has an edge; somewhere in the bottom lid is the distaste. She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness” ( Morrison, 48). Pecola’s divided outlook of life was so distorted that when she buys Mary Jane’s candy, a white girl printed on the wrapper, she eats it as if she was eating her eyes. Her actions portrayed an obsessive passion for white girls with blue eyes. The author describes her insatiable feeling, “Three pennies had bought her nine lovely orgasms with Mary Jane. Lovely Mary Jane, for whom a candy is named.” ( Morrison, 50). One can argue that the double consciousness and, more so, the misogyny effect on Pauline had immensely affected Pecola and shaped her terrible childhood. Pauline is a victim of abuse from her husband. She assumed servitude to the whites by taking the maid roles, neglecting her home, children, and husband. “She finds beauty, order, cleanliness, and praise in her white master’s household” (Marrison, 112). Therefore, the narrator portrays an escapist trait by Pauline from the inferior culture, which her daughter, Pecola, also emulates.
From Morrison’s statement that “I tried to avoid complicity in the demonization process, Pecola was subjected to. I did not want to dehumanize the characters who trashed Pecola and contributed to her collapse”, one can argue that she wanted to be realistic with the characters who would shape the decision path of Pecola. Essentially, the characters needed to portray a contemporary society where an average black family could relate to the plight of the Breedlove. So while displaying the attributes of racial, social, and domestic aggression, her readers can resonate and relate her story with their contemporary society. The importance of such an approach would make her narrative applicable to the weighty sexism and racial discrimination issue faced by blacks of all gender and class while still maintaining its relevance and realism into the future. In essence, one can argue that she wanted it to be a masterpiece to address the plight of a young, delicate and vulnerable black child without being fictitious. Hence, such an attack on Pecola could stir modern society to act against the perpetrators of misogyny and racism.
A modern African American still has to endure the self-perception imposed by the hostile white Americans while maintaining their convictions and beliefs. Regardless of legislation on these social disorders and thorough public awareness, blacks are still subjugated to the internal struggle of accepting oneself as an American with an additional negative clause that expounds on one’s actual American status’s origin in Africa (Pittman, 2016). Though this concept of double consciousness has helped to unravel the under-explored interracial dynamics in the United States, black people still have a long way to achieve total self-acceptance and admiration away from the whites’ perspectives (Pittman, 2016). Even with nationwide campaigns to sensitize people and familiarize them with racial dynamics, positions, and tensions, the racial struggles bred from sexism and double consciousness of the black people are always lurking within.
Due to the damaged self-perception, black people have been forced to come up with several ways of changing this inferiority narrative (Boxill, 2020). One such act of dealing with this vice has been through mobilizing public activists and people who champion the rights of the black people in the national platform to help them achieve equal representation. Equality will induce a positive outlook that broadcasts the view that even people of color can take up critical leadership roles and be envied in a first-world nation. Elected leaders in the United States Congress and other public offices fed up with the marginalization of black people should be instrumental in coming up with rules and regulations that counter instances of sexism and racism to offset the negatives of double consciousness. Kids should be sensitized to the dangers of these social ills at an early stage in their education. But generally, in my opinion, I believe the validation process of double consciousness for a black individual occurs within their thought process (Boxill, 2020). The fight to be viewed differently by the outside world is won by changing the lived experiences in the mindset of a black person. A black person can only elevate his status by oppressing the labels placed on him or her by the white mind (Boxill, 2020). Suppressing these thoughts is always one of the significant ways towards personal liberty.
In conclusion, the black person still finds himself placed racially inferior in the white supremacist society partially because of the color of their skin. But more importantly, he or she is placed in such a position because of the negative double consciousness imposed on him by the white mind. Morrison’s work in The Bluest Eye has been critical in exploring the plight of individuals living in such racial societies. One such vulnerable and delicate character who faces the dehumanizing state of misogyny and racism is Pecola. Pecola’s reactions to her plight are connected to her constant internal conflict of achieving beauty which she feels will ultimately make her socially appealing. The beauty standards set by the white Americans and how her black community reciprocatively lived a repressed life of self-contempt stirs Pecola to have a different perspective of life. Eventually, though she gets her desire for blue eyes fulfilled, it comes at the cost of making her mentally insane.
Boxill, B. R. (2020). W.E.B. Dubois and William James on double consciousness. Journal of Social Philosophy. https://doi.org/10.1111/josp.12329
Meer, N. (2018, April 19). W. E. B. Du Bois, double consciousness and the ‘spirit’ of recognition -Nasarmeer,2019.SAGEJournals. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0038026118765370
Morrison, Tony. The Bluest Eyes. US: Vintage International, 2007.
Pittman, J. (2016, March 21). Double consciousness (Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-consciousness/