In The Bluest Eye, why does Pecola pray for blue eyes?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pecola wishes that she could be "traditionally beautiful" in the story The Bluest Eyes . Having been raised in a very abusive environment and therefore having very low self-worth, she does not feel beautiful or loved in any way. Pecola wishes earnestly that she could have blue eyes so that...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Pecola wishes that she could be "traditionally beautiful" in the story The Bluest Eyes. Having been raised in a very abusive environment and therefore having very low self-worth, she does not feel beautiful or loved in any way. Pecola wishes earnestly that she could have blue eyes so that she could seem more beautiful; this desire derives from the idea of beauty that she has internalized by being given blonde haired, blue eyed dolls throughout her life.

This story illustrates racial relations in the Western world where beauty has come to be associated with the idealized features of white women. Pecola, like many girls, therefore develops an unhealthy self-image because she isn't white and doesn't have what are considered "traditionally beautiful" characteristics, such as blue eyes or blonde hair, which have been reinforced as desirable attributes throughout her life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pecola has internalized white society's ideal of what it means to be beautiful. And part of that ideal is the possession of blue eyes. Blue eyes, along with blond hair, is widely considered by white society to be the epitome of physical beauty.

Throughout the whole of her short life, Pecola has never felt beautiful. This is largely a consequence of the appalling sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. As a result, her self-esteem is in ruins; she desperately needs to feel loved and admired. Pecola gets it into her tortured mind that if she had blue eyes, that if she conformed to white society's ideals of beauty, then all would be well. She reasons that if people could see her as beautiful, then she in turn could see herself in the same way.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old African American girl living in Ohio, longs for blue eyes because they represent to her the freedom she imagines she would have if she were blonde and blue-eyed, all qualities of whiteness that represent beauty to her.

As a black child and a pregnant victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Pecola has a lot of reasons to need to escape into a fantasy life, where her own body doesn't even exist. This aspect to Pecola's wish for blue eyes may not be explicit in the book, but the color of Pecola's fantasy eyes are symbolic of her need to dissociate from her own life.

For Pecola to have blue eyes, her character would also have to be white, and it is true that if Pecola were white, everything would be different. Pecola's wishes, however, are unrealistic, obsessive, and representative of her unfairly hurt and damaged mind.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pecola believes that having blue eyes is the key to being beautiful and finding social acceptance.

Pecola prays for "the bluest eyes" because it represents "the answer" to the mystery of her life. Throughout the narrative, Pecola faces social rejection. A significant part of this repudiation is because of her appearance. Pecola cannot understand why she is deemed "ugly" and why she experiences such an intense level of social marginalization. She ends up viewing herself the way the same way the world views her. It is for this reason that she wants blue eyes:

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.

Blue eyes are associated with beauty. She internalizes the social standards that dictate beauty, norms that say "blue eyes" represent attractiveness. In order to be as loved like Shirley Temple, Pecola yearns for blue eyes. She believes that if "those eyes of hers were different" or if they could be seen as "beautiful," her life would be different. She believes that blue eyes would give her the belonging that she craves. In Pecola's mind, this desire forms the basis of her prayers because it is the answer to all of her questions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team