Quest for Personal Identity in Toni Morrison's the Bluest Eye

Topics: Black people, White people, African American, Columbia Records albums, Eye color, Toni Morrison / Pages: 12 (2862 words) / Published: Oct 9th, 1999
Post World War I, many new opportunities were given to the growing and

expanding group of African Americans living in the North. Almost 500,00

African Americans moved to the northern states between 1910 and 1920. This

was the beginning of a continuing migration northward. More than 1,500,000

blacks went north in the 1930's and 2,500,00 in the 1940's. Life in the

North was very hard for African Americans. Race riots, limited housing

resulting in slum housing, and restricted job opportunities were only a few

of the many hardships that the African American people had to face at this

time. Families often had to separate, social agencies were overcrowded with

people that all needed help, crime rates increased and many other resulting

problems ensued. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison takes place during this

time period. A main theme in this novel is the "quest for individual

identity and the influences of the family and community in that quest"

(Trescott). This theme is present throughout the novel and evident in many

of the characters. Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, and Pauline

Breedlove and are all embodiments of this quest for identity, as well as

symbols of the quest of many of the Black northern newcomers of that time.

The Breedlove family is a group of people under the same roof, a family by

name only. Cholly (the father) is a constantly drunk and abusive man. His

abusive manner is apparent towards his wife Pauline physically and towards

his daughter Pecola sexually. Pauline is a "mammy" to a white family and

continues to favor them over her biological family. Pecola is a little black

girl with low self esteem. The world has led her to believe that she is ugly

and that the epitome of "beautiful" requires blue eyes. Therefore every

night she prays that she will wake up with blue eyes.

Brought up as a poor unwanted girl, Pecola Breedlove desires the acceptance

and love of society. The image of "Shirley Temple beauty"

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