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