The Bluest Eye-Theme of Vision

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Toni Morrison’s highly acclaimed debut work, The Bluest Eye, is one of unquestionable beauty and intricately woven prose. As a fictional writer, Morrison avails herself of her literary faculties, using her mastery of description in order to convey an unusually lucid picture to the reader. The five senses seem to envelop a great deal of description in the novel, most notably that of sight. As has been discovered by virtue of studying the brain’s neural and cognitive machinery, vision occupies large regions of the brain. Although in a more abstract sense, vision’s disproportionate influence on the narrative and the story’s characters is greatly manifested in The Bluest Eye. One powerful way in which vision dictates many aspects of the novel is through the concept of aesthetic beauty. Throughout the novel, Morrison paints a detailed depiction of how African-Americans, especially young, amenable girls, are subject to the conventional indoctrination of beauty. Society has taught them to equate white with beautiful, and to go to considerable lengths to “whiten” themselves, such as in the case of women like Geraldine, who is described as sugar-brown in skin tone: “…they never cover the entire mouth for fear of lips too thick, and they worry, worry, worry about the edges of their hair” (83). Geraldine even goes as far as to inculcate this physical selfloathing in her own son, Junior: “…his hair was cut as close to his scalp as possible to avoid any suggestion of wool, the part was etched into his hair by the barber” (87). Any manifestations of stereotypical racial features, such as full lips and “wool-textured” hair are carefully concealed in an effort to adhere to the white ideal of what is beautiful. In the town of Lorain, Ohio, subliminal and implicit messages emphasizing whiteness as superior are found everywhere, and seemingly impossible to ignore. The quintessential white baby doll given to Claudia as a present, romanticism of Shirley Temple, the exaltation of the...
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