Discussion Topic

Pecola Breedlove's significance as the central character and the symbolism of "blue" in The Bluest Eye

Summary:

Pecola Breedlove's significance as the central character in The Bluest Eye lies in her embodiment of societal and racial self-loathing. The symbolism of "blue" represents her desire for blue eyes, which she equates with beauty and acceptance. This yearning highlights the destructive impact of internalized racism and the longing for societal validation.

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Discuss Pecola Breedlove's role as the central character in The Bluest Eye.

Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year old, poor Black American girl, is the central character of Toni Morison’s The Bluest EyeNote that the novel’s title is, in fact, based on Pecola’s deep longing for blue eyes. Pecola wants to be loved by everyone and thinks that this will happen only if she has blue eyes. She thinks if she has blue eyes (in fact, bluest of all eyes), she will look very beautiful and all her sufferings will end. This notion comes from the pressures of White standards of beauty (white skin and blue eyes) on the Black community.

The novel’s entire plot revolves around her. We see, everyone in the community tortures Pecola. She is raped and impregnated by her own father. She has an unloving mother who uses harsh words for her. The schoolboys tease her. The end of the novel is even more depressing. Pecola is fooled by Soaphead Church who tells her that her wish of getting the bluest eyes has been granted, and this ends up with Pecola losing her sanity. We are told that Pecola becomes the scapegoat for the entire Black community. Her ugliness makes others feel beautiful and her suffering makes others feel blessed. Through Pecola, Morison presents a devastating example of Black American community’s self-hatred, self-disrespect and self-contempt, arising due to their disbelief in their own beauty.

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Discuss Pecola Breedlove as the central character of The Bluest Eye.

It is interesting to note how Pecola occupies central significance in Morrison's novel as the universal victim.  Pecola is the ultimate embodiment of victimization while remaining as the central character of the novel.  As the central character, she becomes the prism by which we understand the other characters.  They become more understandable in how they abuse Pecola. Cholly's frustration and anger in the world is evident in the way he rapes and impregnates her.  Pauline's neglect and cruelty which are fueled by her own resentment are evident in how she discards Pecola. Soaphead Church's weird desire to advance his own agenda at any costs is evident in how he manipulates Pecola.

In the end, Pecola is the central character of the novel precisely because one understands the motivations and traits of the other characters through their abuse of Pecola.  She is the prism of sadness and hurt by which others can be understood.  The desire for "blue eyes" becomes the ultimate statement of how cruel the world is for someone like Pecola, who only wishes to be seen as beautiful by someone, anyone.  In making her the central character of the novel, Morrison not only gives the sadness of the world a definable countenance but also gives a voice to one who lost their voice a long time ago.

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Comment on the character of Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye.

The character of Pecola Breedlove is an extremely disturbing example of how the members of the black community in this novel are shown to view themselves in a context of racial segregation. This is shown most clearly in Pecola's belief that if she had blue eyes her life would be alright. All of the black characters in this powerful novel subconsciously or consciously see themselves as ugly and hate themselves, and Pecola's character becomes a kind of symbol for this self-hatred and poor self-image. This is an emotion that some characters take out on Pecola, such as her mother, father and Geraldine. The end of this novel makes this symbolic purpose explicit, as the narrator indicates that Pecola has become a kind of scapegoat for her community. Note how Claudia describes Pecola's madness in the final chapter:

The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world—which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us.

Temporarily at least, her pain and suffering has made them see themselves as fortunate and her ugliness makes them feel beautiful. However, Pecola's fringe existence on the edge of town at the end of the novel points towards the ephemeral nature of such feelings. Her presence acts as a constant reminder of the community's repressed hatred and ugliness and she becomes a visual representation of the community's own violence and evil.

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What does the word "blue" signify to Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye?

What blue represents to Pecola in this novel is the middle-class, white existence that is completely barred from her because of her blackness and her family background. Pecola comes to the conclusion early on in the novel that if her eyes were different she would be different, and would become more beautiful. She believes that her appearance can impact her psychological condition and her self-beliefs. The colour blue is repeatedly linked to the Dick and Jane narrative that opens this book. The book that is presented gives an image of a perfect world, where white children with blue eyes play together in harmony and peace with loving parents. This of course is a massive difference from Pecola's own experience of family and of herself. Note how Pecola is presented later on in the novel when she admits her desire to have blue eyes to Soaphead:

Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty... A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes.

The language of this quote is particularly fascinating. Note how the skin colour of Pecola is described as a "pit" in which she is trapped. However, "seeing the world with blue eyes" is equated to "rising up out of the pit." Blue therefore represents to Pecola nothing more than freedom from the squalour and self-loathing of her own position and identity.

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