In The Bluest Eye, how does Morrison's representation of a black family who has moved North from Alabama inform the reader's understanding of the ways that racism exerts its power?

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What is at once both fascinating and disturbing is the way that racism is presented as not just something that is imposed upon African Americans by a white-dominated society, but it is also presented as something that is taken by African Americans and internalised by them, leading them on to new levels of self-loathing and violence towards themselves and each other. Note, for example, what the narrator tells the reader about the Breedlove's residence and their reasons for staying there:

The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly.

This quote begins by stating that the poor economic situation of the Breedlove family is a result of their race and poverty, and of course the two are interlinked. Yet the final phrase of the sentence suggests that staying in such poor accommodation is a result of their own self-internalisation of what society tells them about themselves. Racism is presented therefore as so insiduous and so vitrolic that it causes African Americans to believe themselves the lies that society tells them about their own self-worth. This is shown throughout the novel by the ways in which various female characters see their blackness as a symbol of how ugly they are, and how then they internalise that ugliness in their lives. Morrison's achievement in this novel is to therefore enlarge and expand on the workings of racism.

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The Bluest Eye

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