Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1272
Chapter11 (Looklookherecomesafriendthefriendwillplaywithjanetheywill playagoodgameplayjaneplay)
Claudia and Frieda are delighted to receive the packages of seeds that they had been waiting for all spring. They hope to sell enough seeds to earn a bicycle, so they begin to knock on the doors of their neighbors. They begin to pick up some gossip and eventually realize that Pecola is pregnant by Cholly. They are hurt and ashamed for their friend, but they are hurt even more when they find out that no one seems to care about Pecola, and everyone hopes that the baby will be stillborn. Frieda and Claudia decide that they must want the baby to live in order “to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals.” They decide to say a prayer and sacrifice the seeds. They will bury the seeds, and if the seeds blossom, they will know that Pecola’s baby will live.
The seeds do not blossom. Pecola’s baby is born prematurely and dies. Cholly and Sammy leave, while Pecola and Mrs. Breedlove move into a little house on the edge of town. As the years pass, Pecola spends most of her days roaming the streets and the dump, the laughingstock of the entire town. The only thing she talks about now is her blue eyes, and she lives in fear that someone will have eyes that are “bluer” than hers. Claudia, now an adult, comments on how the people of Lorain used to make themselves feel better at Pecola’s expense. Claudia used to blame herself for letting the seeds die in the ground, but she has come to the understanding that it “was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town.” In a cruel world, some people manage to survive, but for Pecola, “it’s much, much, much too late.”
The outcome of Pecola’s life is tragic but not surprising. Morrison provokes controversy by having one of the women discussing Pecola claim that “she ought to carry some of the blame” for being raped by Cholly. While that statement is outrageous, it is also true that Pecola is not blameless for her descent into madness. Pecola has reacted to every injustice and attack by retreating into a fantasy world of blue eyes and beauty. It is true that the pain she felt at the hands of the other children was horrible. Maureen Peal insulted her to feed her own ego. Louis Junior hurt Pecola out of hatred for his own mother, and Geraldine was cruel to her out of hatred of dark-skinned black people. Mrs. Breedlove ignored her in order to live a life in her own fantasy world, and when Cholly tries to give her the support that she had needed, he ends up raping her on the kitchen floor. All of this does not cause Pecola’s madness. Pecola goes insane because she had devoted her life to obtaining that which she could never have. Her obsession with blue eyes leads her to Soaphead Church, who deludes her into believing she has them. Rather than deal with the horrible things that have happened to her, Pecola decides to retreat completely into her fantasy world. It is not a fair choice for a twelve-year-old girl to have to make, but it is still her choice.
Pecola walks around town with a mirror, looking at her own eyes. When people look away from her, Pecola attributes these reactions to jealousy. Her actions are a grotesque parody of Maureen Peal and what she imagines other beautiful girls must be like. Pecola’s imaginary friend is a manifestation of her madness; she needs a friend in order to justify her delusion of blue eyes. This is consistent with Pecola’s idea that if she had blue eyes, she would become popular. If she did not have new friends, then it would mean that her eyes were not blue and Soaphead Church was a fraud. So Pecola creates a new friend in her mind in order to keep up the illusion that she has blue eyes. The conversation with her friend shows that Pecola has completely detached herself from reality. She refuses to acknowledge any of the previous events in her life, even though her friend teases her with sly references to Cholly and Maureen Peal. As much as Pecola represses these events, they will still occasionally surface. Pecola will nevertheless find a way to keep these traumas hidden in her imaginary blue eyes.
Now that the novel has been read, the “Dick and Jane” passage at the beginning finally becomes clear. The structure of The Bluest Eye is parallel to “Dick and Jane”; each sentence from the passage introduces a new chapter in the novel. Elements from the passage are explored in each chapter; “Seethecat” features the cat used by Louis Junior to hurt Pecola, “Seethemother” is the chapter that focuses upon Mrs. Breedlove, and “Looklookherecomesafriend” introduces Pecola’s imaginary friend, the friend that will finally play with her. Morrison uses this parallel development to show how far removed fantasy is from reality, and to paint a cold, cruel world in which children cannot simply play with others. Every person and object from “Dick and Jane” is cruel to Pecola in The Bluest Eye. It is not a surprise that Pecola would choose to hide in a world of fantasy.
The only person who understands why the people of Lorain are so cruel is Claudia. Claudia realizes that those that hurt Pecola were looking for a distraction from their own shortcomings. Claudia mentions how every member of Lorain is able to make themselves feel better at Pecola’s expense:
“All of us—all who knew her [Pecola]—felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor.… And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt.”
Claudia mentions near the novel’s end that “the soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers.” The earth becomes a symbol for the environment in which Claudia, Frieda, and Pecola were forced to live. Claudia is angered at the fact that she had to be strong in order to survive her childhood. The injustice that the children have had to live with throughout their lives is a burden that no child should endure. While it is implied that the town had contempt for Pecola because she was weak, the sad truth is that society put this crushing responsibility on her in the first place. Pecola searched for blue eyes because she could not deal with this responsibility on her own terms. She is guilty of weakness, but this weakness should not have led to insanity. She was forced to be responsible for herself, but society had left her unable to take care of herself. Claudia has discovered that “when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.” Claudia survives because she was strong, while Pecola takes refuge under wishes and fantasies, a shelter that eventually collapses over her. In a more loving world, Pecola would never have wanted or needed blue eyes. The Bluest Eye has illustrated that a loving world cannot be counted upon. Claudia finally understands that “we are wrong” to place such a burden on children, but she doesn’t care anymore because she had only wanted to help Pecola, and it is “much, much, much too late” to save her.
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