Side course, the value system is also white-centered,

by side with the invisibility of blacks in the framework of a white-centered
country, the strongly fixed value system has another great impact in The
Bluest Eye. Of course, the value system is also white-centered, but
Morrison deals with this issue using not the whole country but inside the black
community as the background. It is natural because the trigger for writing this
story was her experience in her elementary school days, when she was astonished
by her friend’s implicit desire caused by the white-centered value system even
though the friend herself was also black. She seems to have no intention to
just blame white people as the accused, and she rather leads her reader to
detect the responsibility of her fellow community members. She had the main
narrator of the story, Claudia, say, “it was the fault of the earth, the land,
of our town.”(p.206) The country America has a hierarchy, and Morrison tells us
the black community is also a hierarchical society. So this chapter focuses on
how the white-centered value system erodes the black community, and how each
character reacts to it under the categories of mulattos and blacks.


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appearance of the McTeer’s house is old, cold, and green. In order to heat
their stove, they often go to the railroad tracks and pick up pieces of coal.
There are cracks in the windows of their house which they stuff with rags. Even
though Claudia is only 8-years-old, she knows that they belong to a minority in
both caste and class, and experience a “peripheral existence” (p.17) and she
has already learned how to deal with the situation. In these ways, the McTeer
family’s social class or economic background is not so very different from the
Breedlove family. Then what is the difference between the McTeer family and the
Breedlove family?

and Frieda Mcteer have impulsive natures, they assert their beliefs rather than
fawning upon others’ fixed ideas. Claudia felt discomfort when she was given a
blue-eyed Baby Doll because if she tried to take the role as a mother of the
doll, it was so hard, sharp, and cold to hug or sleep with. However, she knew
that all the other people believed that the doll was exactly what she wanted.
So she was bewildered, frustrated, and tried to “examine it to see what it was
that all the world say was lovable.” (p.21)            She
broke the doll apart to discover why everyone says, “pretty” to the doll or
white girls but not to her.  When Claudia
and Frieda see that Pecola is bullied by nasty boys, they fight against the
boys without fear in a hand-to-hand battle, and then when they see Maureen
harass Pecola, they join forces against her. Even though they are astonished by
Maureen’s devastating confidence in her own predominance, their self-esteem
does not waver. They believe in their value standards, and their own worth, so
they try to analyze and fight against the absurd value standards of beauty and
justice. They do not like Saturdays because they feel miserable when they have
to take a bath. They were still in love with themselves at that time. “We felt
comfortable in our skins, admired our dirt, and could not understand this unworthiness.
Jealousy we understood and thought natural — a desire to have what somebody
else had; but envy was a strange, new feeling for us.” (p.74). This metaphor,
that they “admired their dirt,” is in perfect opposition to the cleanness
fetishism of Geraldine and Soaphead Church (both of them are mulattos).

appearance of the Breedloves’ house, which was an abandoned store, produced an
irritating and melancholic atmosphere, out of harmony with the neighborhood.
Their poverty was unremarkable among other black families, but their ugliness
was extreme. “It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given
each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without
question,” (p.39) “Dealing with it each according to his way. Mrs. Breedlove
handled hers as an actor does a prop: for support of a role she frequently
imagined was hers — martyrdom. Sammy used his as a weapon to cause others
pain. Pecola hid behind hers.” (p.39)

Breedlove (Pauline) is a representative of ordinary black woman of those days,
but in comparison with Mrs.   McTeer, she
is the type who does not have a positive image of her own original identity,
and also failed to identify herself with sophisticated black people, or real
white people. This is symbolized by her handicapped foot, chipped teeth, and
the ill-suited urban-like make up and clothing, and, moreover, the reality that
she herself is not really interested in urban fashions. She just wants to feel
a sense of belonging to somewhere. She avoids facing reality in a constructive
manner, but sustains herself by a warped satisfaction of worth as a person. She
presumes she is not worthless but she is under an ordeal, and must withstand
the misfortune to reflect her devotion for God. However, her faith is warped so
she often needs to create artificial ordeals. When she first met with her
husband, Cholly, he was the first person to accept her total personality, and
even he frankly treated her handicapped foot as something to be admired. Those
days were the only time when she experienced real happiness, but after they
moved to an urban area, Cholly lost himself in the glitter of urban nights, and
Pauline was abandoned by him, and marginalized by the sophisticated black
people in the neighborhood. In order to earn their friendship, she frantically
tries to behave similar to them regardless of her own tastes. When she got
pregnant, she regained something of herself through her maternity and she
believed she could have something real to love and devote herself to. However,
her baby looked just like herself, it was natural. There was a great difference
from the world of Hollywood films which was the only consolation in her life.
She transferred the despair to her ordeal. Mrs. Breedlove often has severe
scuffles with her husband, Cholly, about domestic trivial things, and only
while fighting she felt her true self. While fighting she feels she is an
upright Christian, in a sense, so she needs Cholly’s sins. “Holding Cholly as a
model of sin and failure, she bore him like a crown of thorns, and her children
like a cross.” (p.127) Going to the church, and showing herself off as much
more religious and ethical than the other people who used to look down on her,
she exhibited her status in the black community. Then she found her worth as a
person in a white family’s house as a housekeeper.

Pecola, Morrison responded in an interview with Robert Stepto in 1976, that she
wanted to have her as a “total and complete victim of whatever was around her.” 11 What did she mean by saying,
“victim of whatever was around her?” Morrison’s insight is in complete
agreement with the psychologist Frantz Fanon’s analysis: that his black
patients’ cases involving extreme inferiority complexes towards whites is ingrained
in the society which needs an underdog to sustain its stability and
superiority. 12 Morrison refers in a lecture
that sometimes people creates pariahs to establish their identity as members of
a community.


Peal is a “high-yellow dream girl” (p.62) who transfers to the elementary
school in Lorain, and is as rich as the richest white girls, swaddled in
comfort and care. She becomes the star of the school, and teachers treat her
courteously, and boys never tease her, girls flatter her. One day Maureen
happens to protect Pecola from some naughty boys who are bullying her. However,
this is merely from her curiosity and caprice. Soon after she helped Pecola,
she attacked Pecola just for kicks by saying the same thing as the nasty boys,
“You saw your own daddy naked.”, and “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and
ugly black e mos. I am cute!” (p.73) As is often the case with other
novels or novelists, Morrison uses symbolism in selecting the names of the
characters in The Bluest Eye. “Peal” means a sudden loud repeated sound
of laughter or thunder. Until meeting Maureen, Frieda and Claudia had no
concept that they are ugly or inferior to whites or mulattos or that it is
shameful to see their father’s naked body. In this sense, Maureen’s entry into
their life is like a peal of thunder, and her ridicule of them with the perfect
assurance of being superior, though she is only an elementary school girl,
causes great mortification to them. Besides the general description of the
mulattos’ beauty and sophisticated demeanor, Morrison’s original descriptions
of ordinary mulatto girls are seen in the text: “they don’t have home towns,
just places where they were born. But these girls soak up the juice of their
home towns, and it never leaves them.” (p.81) This description contrasts the
unyielding earth under the black people. Nonetheless, Morrison does not seem to
mean that mulattos are rooted 14
in the real meaning.

go to land-grant colleges, normal schools, and learn how to do with the white
man’s work with refinement: home economics to prepare his food; teacher
education to instruct black children in obedience; music to soothe the weary
master and entertain his blunted soul. Here they learn the careful development
of thrift, patience, high morals, and good manners. In short, how to get rid of
the funkiness. The dreadful funkiness of passion, the funkiness of nature, the
funkiness of the wide range of human emotions. Wherever it erupts, this Funk,
they wipe it away; where it crusts, they dissolve it; wherever it drips,
flowers, or clings, they find it and fight it until it dies. They fight this
battle all the way to the grave. (p.83).

tendency of cleanliness-fetishism means self-negation of their roots, and this
tendency is similarly seen in Geraldine’s and Soaphead Church’s case, but is
completely opposite to the self-love of the McTeer sisters who love their skin
and dirt. This identity as a mulatto apparently seems to sustain the mulatto
character’s self-esteem, but unfortunately, it undermines their humanity at the
same time. This is clearly demonstrated in the parts about Geraldine and
Soaphead Church.

family lives in a beautiful house with a well-kept garden and graceful
furniture. Apparently, their domestic life is idealistic without a stain.
However, Geraldine’s most outstanding characteristic is her emptiness. She has
been brought up with elaborate parental care. Maybe it was her parents’ love,
but it resulted in bleaching out her black blood. She is a woman gifted with
both intelligence and beauty, but the only way for her to live is to be of use
to a white man. Her life is to serve her parents, then her husband, then her
husband’s son, Junior, and dedicate herself to making the next generation as
close to white society as possible. Her mission is to bleach their roots, and
her son’s roots. Her marriage is aimed at making a whiter child so that even
though she actually has a son, it has nothing to do with whether she loves her
husband and son or not. She does not have affection for her family or even
herself, and it is symbolized in her fetishism for cleanliness and hatred for
any contact with human physiological functions. Since this mission is deeply
imprinted in her, all her physical and mental actions are automatically
directed to executing her mission. So she does not have any personal wishes nor
even any awareness of her lack of wishes. So her life is apparently
comfortable, but vacant and filled with resignation in the deep meaning. Their
marriage was aimed at inheriting the white lineage. It is quite interesting and
ironical that this family is the only one whose family name is not referred to
in this novel. Their family is materially abundant, but essentially sterile.
The expression, “they don’t have home towns, just places where they were born,”
(p.81) symbolizes Geraldine’s life itself.

Church (Elihue Micah Whitcomb), though he is also a representative of the
mulatto category, he was brought up under a morbid parental control which
differs in meaning from Geraldine’s because he is a male. His family had an
ancestor who was from the English nobility. Since then they have regarded their
mission to be one of maintaining that high class genealogy. They believed in
“De Gabineau’s hypothesis that all civilizations derive from the white race,
that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant
only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it.”
(p.168) So his parents raise him up strictly to be British-like in both the
physical and mental aspects, and eliminate any and every aspect which might
suggest their roots going back to Africa. Especially, his father was a
doctrinaire religious fanatic, and also the principal of a school famous for
its severe corporal punishment. His mother died soon after his birth. His
grades at school were high, but he did not understand in the real meaning
except things which coincide with his own prejudices. While he bears a grudge
against his father who rules over him using severe corporal punishment and
ignoring his dignity, he grows up with a yearning for authority.

writes in an essay, “I have been thinking about the validity or vulnerability
of a certain set of assumptions conventionally accepted among literary
historians and critics and circulated as “knowledge.” 15 And her struggle to investigate the fixed idea
always appears in her novels. In The Bluest Eye, all the characters are
representative in showing us various ways of how the fixed value systems erode
the black community, and its influence on each character to build or destroy
one’s self concept. This issue has already been taken up by senior black
writers, but their analysis for the unreasonable value system fades out at the
political level and man-centered society. In the Invisible Man, Ellison
depicts the process in which the hero is under the control of his fellow men’s
(communist group) sweet words sometimes, but is tossed back and forth in the
riot and wanted as an accused by the group when the group’s policy changed.
Morrison’s outstanding point is that she digs into the familial environment to
look into the problems of women and children. So the next chapter will focus on
the parental influences on children.


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