In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, both racism and beauty are portrayed in a number of ways. This book illustrates many of the racial concerns which were immense issues in the 1970’s when the book was written, however not as much of issues in today’s current society.
Before you even open the book, both racism and beauty are revealed through the title of the book, The Bluest Eye. When the book was written, blonde hair and blue eyed people were the stereotypical portrayal of paramount flawlessness. Anybody that didn’t fit into this class was considered ugly. Even the dolls, such as Betsy Wetsy or Barbie dolls had the massive, round, deep blue eyes. Claudia, the narrarator, along with the other girls, looked up to these stereotypes of splendor and were also very envious of them. “I destroyed white baby dolls” Claudia said after describing the dolls with big, false blue eyes.
Even the adults admired the blue eyes, as shown when Mrs. Breedlove was working for the Fishers. She took pride to the way she kept their house, received a nickname, and comforted the little white girl, before her own daughter. When Pecola dropped the steaming blueberry pie on the kitchen floor, Mrs. Breedlove hit her daughter to the floor and calmed the young “beautiful” white girl.
Throughout the novel, Pecola was depicted as ugly because she was always miserable. She would always saunter around with a sad, grim look on her face, and rarely talked to anyone. The only time when she was content, however insane, was when she thought she had received her blue eyes towards the conclusion of the novel.
Maureen Peal was portrayed as beautiful because she was different. Maureen was a “high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care.” Maureen gave everyone a new light in the dead of winter, by wearing bright colors, and wearing expensive, stunning fur coats.
Toni Morrison especially integrated these themes into the novel to show that the stereotypes about blonde hair, blue eyed people were misleading, to show that all races are beautiful, and also to convey a story. These were the representations of racism and beauty when the book was published in 1970. However, society hasn’t changed very much since. There is a great deal less racism, and most races are publicized to be beautiful, however the media portrays models especially to be lean and anorexic, the stereotype of what everyone in society should look like. All men are supposed to be ripped, hairless and skinny and all women are supposed to be tall, skinny, and have long legs.
Racism and beauty played big roles throughout the novel. Toni Morrison’s intentions in writing this book were to show that racism and beauty are within the mind of the beholder.
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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Bluest Eye” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “The Bluest Eye” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Roles of Fantasies in The Bluest Eye
The backdrop of The Bluest Eye is, on a macro level, the Great Depression, and on a micro level, a Midwestern neighborhood that is rather non-descript. Clearly, the desire to escape poverty and the limiting circumstances of their social conditions is a common feeling among the characters in the novel. Several characters in Toni Morrison's novel, “The Bluest Eye” construct and perpetuate fantasies or beliefs about transcending their circumstances. For Pecola, a belief that if she had blue eyes she would have an ideal life guides her; for Pecola’s mother, movies provide that same hope and escape. Compare and contrast the roles that these fantasies play for both mother and daughter in “The Bluest Eye”. You may also wish to argue whether these fantasies are adaptive or whether they are unhealthy. Should you choose to do this, substantiate your argument with carefully selected quotes from the novel.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Self-Denial and Self-Hatred in “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
Many critics observe that Pecola’s wish for blue eyes is a form of self-denial and self-hatred. This claim seems to be substantiated by Pecola’s fate and the condition in which the reader encounters her at the novel’s conclusion. Consider whether you agree with this claim. If you do agree with this claim, write a persuasive essay on “The Bluest Eye” in which you state what you believe the author wished to convey to her reader by exploring the dynamics of self-denial and self-hatred. If you do not agree with the claim, write an argumentative essay on “The Bluest Eye” in which you explain Pecola’s fate relative to the self-denial/self-hatred claim.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Claudia McTeer as Pecola’s Foil in “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
Pecola is a character whose circumstances and fate are disturbing and even depressing to the reader. Yet Pecola’s character is contrasted by the character of Claudia McTeer, who serves as an alternative model of development for young black women. Write an explanatory essay in which you identify the significance of Claudia’s role in the text. Explain how Claudia serves as Pecola’s foil, and determine what her fate, relative to that of Pecola, signifies in the final analysis of “The Bluest Eye”. You may also wish to discuss how the novel would be different had Claudia’s character not been included.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 The Failures of Adults in “The Bluest Eye”
The Bluest Eye privileges the child characters with narrative authority. In addition to the influence of the children’s perspective on the reader’s interpretation of the adults’ roles in the novel, the reader also makes inferences and conclusions about the adults based on their actions. Consider the various failures of the adult characters in this novel: moral failures, the failure to parent well, and the failure to negotiate life successfully, to name just a few. You may choose to analyze only one character and his or her failures, or write a comparative analysis of several characters, but in any case, build an essay in which you posit reasons for the failures of adults to protect children and to offer hope to the next generation.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Defining Beauty
In one way or another, almost all of the characters are preoccupied with defining what beauty is. Not all of the characters are aware that this is their preoccupation, however. Examine one or more passages in which a character or the narrator addresses the notion of beauty directly, and determine what the “take-away" message about beauty might be. Consider whether there are competing or complementary notions of beauty that Morrison offers. Pay close attention to the matter of how the characters come to their understanding of beauty. Finally, address whether notions of beauty evolve, either positively or negatively, as a result of the experiences that the characters have over the course of the novel.
* For themes and possible thesis statements that intersect with ideas from the same author, check the PaperStarter entries for other works by Toni Morrison, including “Sula” and “Beloved” *
This list of important quotations from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Bluest Eye” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from “The Bluest Eye” contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the novel they are referring to.
“We stare at her, … wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth. When she comes out of the car we will beat her up, make red marks on her white skin, and she will cry…. " (9)
“Adults do not talk to us—they give us directions. They issue orders without providing information. When we trip and fall down they glance at us; if we cut or bruise ourselves they ask us are we crazy. When we catch colds, they shake their heads in disgust at our lack of consideration." (11)
“The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll….[A]ll the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured." (19-20).
“Had any adult with the power to fulfill my desires taken me seriously and asked me what I wanted, they would have known that I did not want to have anything to own, or to possess any object. I wanted rather to feel something…." (21-22)
“I destroyed white baby dolls….The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls." (22)
“[S]he went to the movies…. There in the dark her memory was refreshed and she succumbed to her earlier dreams." (122)
“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another—physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." (122)
“She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty…." (122)
“‘The onliest time I be happy seem like when I was in the picture show. Every time I got, I went….Them pictures gave me a lot of pleasure, but it made coming home hard…." (123)
“It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different." (38)
Reference: Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994.