How can the "Loss of Innocence" be explored in The Bluest Eye? What are some of the examples and/or quotes?
The most obvious factor that contributes to Pecola's loss of innocence is the fact that she is the victim of rape, having been assaulted by her own father, Cholly. This was made even worse by the fact that her mother, Pauline, did not believe Pecola when she told her what happened. When she becomes pregnant, Pecola eventually loses her baby, so she suffers further loss through the loss of her child—someone she could potentially have loved.
Another is in the fact that Pecola has such a strong desire for blue eyes. As a young black girl living in Ohio post-Great Depression, she has come to think her blackness is ugly, while white girls, like Shirley Temple, are the ideal of beauty. The fact that at such a young age, she is wishing for blue eyes like a white woman might have, shows that she is very aware of how negatively white society of her time views her. She has not been allowed to have a carefree childhood in any way, not even allowed to think she might be beautiful.
We can also see how abusive familial situations often grow from parents having lost their innocence at a young age as well. For example, when Cholly was young, he had a relationship with a girl named Darlene. Cholly and Darlene are caught having sex by two white men. The men force them to continue while they laugh, and thus this sexual experience becomes a traumatic one for both Cholly and Darlene.
In addition to the great response above that has much to do with the physical and/or sexual loss of innocence, the characters also experience the loss of innocence through self and societal perceptions. For example, early in the novel, Claudia says that she hates little white baby dolls because people love them. She furthers this by saying that she also hates Shirley Temple because Temple is seen as the quintessential little girl. Claudia realizes that she, her sister, and other little girls in her neighborhood look nothing like Temple or little white baby dolls, and Claudia must resist feeling like she is not as worthy as little white girls. Children in their innocence should feel like they are special and beautiful; however, Claudia has lost this because societal perceptions tell her otherwise.
When looking at the loss of innocence, the two girls become aware of what it means through the presence of Pecola. She comes into their home because she has no where to live. They know that her father had burned up the home so she has no where else to stay. They discuss how being put out is totally different than being put outdoors.
"If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go."(17)
Poland is talking to Marie about selling tail. She shares that the first time she had told her aunt that she had had sex her aunt whipped her.
"My auntie whipped me good that first time that I told her I didn't get no money. I said "Money?" For What?"(55)
Pecola is robbed of her innocence in many ways and by different situations.
When the light skinned new girl Maureen walks home with the girls she acts like she wants to be Pecola's friend. She buys her ice cream. Once she has baited her, she begins to question Pecola about seeing a naked man and questions her about seeing her own dad naked. It all hits before Pecola can really see it coming and it leaves her hurt and slumped.
Junior tricks Pecola telling her that he has a kitten. Pecola loves kittens and follows him to see it. He slams the door and shuts her in a room. Once she finds the cat in the room she is comforted. He then goes into the room and starts pulling on her clothing, but when his mother hears them they are struggling and the cat gets thrown and killed. Geraldine screams at Pecola and curses her. Pecola has lost another part of her innocence.
Pauline, Pecola's mother lost her innocence in her marriage to Choley and through having children. She had to go to work and work hard to provide for the family. Because of her loss of her own childhood that had slipped away, she developed a hatred for any thing such as dreams and mythical ideas.