November 8th, 2012
Effects of Racism on Sexual Lives of Characters in The Bluest Eye In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, we are introduced to the adverse circumstances that surround the characters involving sex. We are asked to recognize that the major male characters—Cholly Breedlove, Mr. Henry, and Soaphead Church—are all attracted to young girls and the majority of these young girls are all victims in a short scholarly essay “The Bluest Eye Theme of Sex”. Cholly rapes his daughter Pecola, Mr. Henry fondles Claudia’s sister Frieda, and Soaphead acts on his eroticized thoughts towards children, especially little girls. This connection helps illuminate one of the more subtle facets in this novel: racism—particularly “white ways” and early experiences with sex are what deeply influence the sexual practices of the characters in the novel and eventually destroy their family units and lives. One of the first examples of “white ways” we are introduced to in The Bluest Eye is a scene where a neighbor of Claudia and Frieda tells them that they cannot walk into the Greek hotel lobby. This is Claudia’s reaction: “We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more than that wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth. When she comes out of the car we will beat her up, make red marks on her white skin, and she will cry and ask us do we want her to pull her pants down. We will say no. We don’t know what we should feel or do if she does, but whenever she asks us, we know she is offering us something precious and that our own pride must be asserted by refusing to accept” (9). Claudia is aware of her neighbor’s pompous attitude and is enraged, inclined to hurt her the moment she steps out from the safety of her car. She is also cognizant of the fact that her neighbor’s attitude and associates it with the whiteness of her skin, considering that Claudia wishes to make visible red marks on it, as if to ruin her complexion. She also mentions that, in desperation, the woman will cry out and ask if the girls want her to pull down her pants. It is frightening that Claudia, at such a tender age, would understand the concept of sexual abuse. She isn’t sure what to feel if the woman does ask them this but she feels inclined to turn the offer down in order to impose their pride. Claudia does understand that sexually threatening someone is to be in a position of power; she knows that something “precious” is being offered to her—something intimate and private—if the woman ever does pull her pants down. While the woman’s dignity and pride has been stripped from her, Claudia feels that their pride has been increased. Like most victims in the novel, sexual abuse is used in order to give the abuser a sense of empowerment. Little does the white race know (especially white men) that they have so precariously tossed around the notion of sexual abuse as a tool of humiliation and as a threat.
While on the subject of humiliation, another vivid example that “white ways” have threatened the well being of black people in this novel is through sexual repression. The “white ways” included inflicting their repressions on blacks in order to rid of their imperfections. In order to caste blacks as inferior, they utilized tactics such as making blacks feel ashamed of their sexuality—blacks were animalistic in their ways and chastised for expressing their desires. Because whites often repressed their own sexual desires, they returned in vicious, twisted manners. One example from the text is when Pecola gets her first period and realizes that she can now bear children. Then the little girl Rosemary, their neighbor next door, notices the girls “playing nasty” and shouts it out to Claudia’s mother. Pecola only happened to have her period and in the midst of attempting to bury her bloody pants, Claudia’s mother storms out, whipping the three of them (27-31). These young...
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