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Why do you think Claudia in The Bluest Eye says "I like Jane Withers"? (Shirley Temple...

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pashti | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 6, 2013 at 9:05 PM via web

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Why do you think Claudia in The Bluest Eye says "I like Jane Withers"?

(Shirley Temple was an extremely popular star of many films during the thieties. She often appeared with the black dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and with another child actress named Jane Withers. Withers portrayed nasty little girls who tried to get Temple into trouble.)

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 7, 2013 at 5:19 AM (Answer #1)

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It is important to see Claudia's remark in the context of the novel as a whole. What is key to realise is the way that Claudia, because she is much stronger than Pecola, with who she is compared, is a character who is able to consciously reject the way beauty is so strongly linked to Shirley Temple and whiteness. This is why she defies the trend of idolising Shirley Temple, in a way that Pecola does not, and tries to identify with other less popular figures, such as Jane Withers. Note what Claudia says in the following quote:

I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me. Instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels.

Part of her rebellion against the tyranny of white beauty is expressed in her self-confessed hatred of Shirley. The fact that she identifies more with Jane Withers, who as this question identified, played a much less popular character who tried to get the character that Shirley Temple played into trouble, is another statement of her hatred of Shirley Temple and her rejection of white beauty. It is important to remember, however, that Claudia is only able to think this because of her supportive and loving family environment. Pecola, who has no such support, finds herself particularly vulnerable to white beauty.

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