The Bluest Eye opens and closes with Claudia MacTeer’s reflection on the meaning and significance of a little girl’s suffering and her community’s responsibility and obligation to her. Using marigold seeds as a metaphor for the affection that might have allowed her abused friend Pecola Breedlove to thrive, Claudia realizes that the failure of her seeds to sprout demonstrates that the soil of her community “is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear.” While Claudia MacTeer withstands that world’s harshness through the strength and love of her family, a fragile child such as Pecola has no chance.
Dark-skinned Claudia values herself more than the world does. Although kindly relatives and parents present her with fine white baby dolls for her to love and mother, she sees them only as something unlike herself, something to dismember, “to see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me.” Frighteningly, such destructiveness carries over to Claudia’s perception of real little white girls such as film star Shirley Temple; Claudia also resents her light-skinned African American classmate Maureen Peal, who possesses not only matching skirts and kneesocks, muffs to warm her hands, and beautiful, long, “good” hair, but also something that draws the attention of teachers and prevents the playground harassment of boys. In spite of all, Claudia remarks, “Guileless and without vanity, we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness.” That “Thing,” as Claudia calls it, that makes Shirley and Maureen and white baby dolls desirable and darker-skinned children not, the thing...
(The entire section is 782 words.)