Discuss Claudia’s reactions to representations of beauty in her culture. To what extent does she rebel against what the dominant culture regards as beautiful? To what degree is she complicit in the social prejudices and prejudgments that she grows up with?
Claudia shows clear signs of rebellion towards what the dominant culture regards as beautiful: how white people look like - blue eyes, yellow hair and pink skin. While Pecola submits to the prejudiced beauty standards, Claudia fights against them. She rebels by hating anyone or anything that is labeled as ‘beautiful’ by her society. She finds herself imagining and sometimes even engaging in acts of violence towards these people. She also attempts to find flaws in these ‘epitomes of beauty’ to resist how ‘beautiful’ they were labeled and seen.
The scene of Claudia destroying her dolls at the very beginning of the novel gives us the first hint of Claudia’s rebellion against the rigid, racist beauty standards. “The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll”, Claudia is seen to say to herself. Claudia’s emphasis that the doll is seen as something that is really special and precious hinted of her jealousy towards the doll (or people who look like it). She then tries to find reasons to back up her dislike for the doll: the round, moronic eyes, the hard, cold limbs and the irritating gauze or lace on the cotton dress. However she does not realize that it is childish on her part to come up with excuses to cover up her jealousy for the doll. Eventually, she finds satisfaction in dismembering the white baby dolls – her way of rebelling against the stereotypes that she knew even then were wrong and unfair.
Similarly Claudia also demonstrates violent intents towards little white girls who are regarded as the epitomes of beauty. “What made people look at them and say, ‘Awwww’, but not for me?” she ponders, again green-eyed of the attention and admiralty shone on white...