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The Main Characters and Themes of The Bluest Eye Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2020


At the heart of The Bluest Eye lies a personal tragedy of an eleven-year-old African-American girl, Pecola Breedlaw. Living in the world owned by whites, the protagonist believes that her life would be more comfortable if she looked unique: blue eyes become a symbol of the desired appearance. After experiencing several terrifying incidents, such as incest, bullying, death of the unborn child, Pecola becomes mentally ill and makes herself believe her eyes changed to the color of the sky. The Blue Eyes not only expounds the cruelty and violence in the life of little Pecola but also explains why it happens. This essay discovers the child’s view of the problems of racism, poverty, incest, and the inability to love.

The Main Characters and Themes

Pecola vs. Claudia: The Girls’ Views on Beauty

Pecola and Claudia are both young black ladies and best friends, yet they possess strikingly contrasting opinions about beauty. For instance, at the beginning of the novel, Claudia destroys her light-skinned dolls out of internalized contempt for white individuals. The girl clarifies that she is courageous since she has not learned self-hatred yet, what is a problem of numerous grown-ups within the Afro-American community.

On the contrary, the protagonist reliably acts on her craving to realize American excellence benchmarks and aspires to attain the bluest eye. According to Morrison (2014), “Thrown, in this way, into the binding conviction that only a miracle could relieve her, she would never know her beauty” (58). In other words, Pecola possesses low self-esteem and does not embrace the features of her appearance. Thus, even though both of the girls share the same skin color and community they live in, their reaction to social stigmas differs.

Proper Family Upbringing as the Foundation for Raising Strong Personalities

Claudia and Pecola possess different family backgrounds, which undeniably impacted their behavior in society. Claudia, as Pecola, suffers from social pressure and beauty stereotypes, but she is growing up in an adoring and caring family, which makes all the difference for her. The protagonist, however, is facing challenges in relationships with parents, such as incest and humiliation. Consequently, in critical situations, Claudia presents herself as a fighter, whereas Pecola behaves passively and vulnerably. For instance, according to Morrison (2014), when Claudia watches a bunch of boys teasing Pecola, she assaults them. Thus, a caring family is a solid foundation for bringing up an individual who can withstand social pressure.

Unhealthy Family Relationships as the Cause of Psychological Damages

The protagonist grew up in a poverty-stricken abusive family and has consistently observed her parents fighting. The girl’s mother disgracefully calls her daughter “little black bitch” and convinces her that she is ugly. Furthermore, Pecola’s father, Cholly, not only sexually assaulted the girl twice but impregnated her. Consequently, a healthy individual cannot be raised in such a toxic environment, inflicting numerous psychological traumas on a delicate child’s mind. The rape produced traumatizing psychic experience, destroying her connection with reality. Therefore, the young lady starts to blame her brown eyes, which she considers gruesome, for not finding freedom and later becomes convinced her eyes have turned blue. This is an appeal to the invisible forces to find admiration and approval of others, which she failed to receive from people who are usually the closest ones – the parents.

Cholly’s Projection of Pain

Cholly is the father of the Breedlaw family and the one who took advantage of his underage daughter. The man is depicted not so ugly outwardly as morally, the result of despair, laxity, and dissatisfaction in his own life. He represents a “little” person trying to control everyone by spreading his power and ugliness on the members of his family. Cholly did not rape Pecola out of lust, but the mixed feelings of sadness, hatred, and care. Drunk, he observed his daughter, scratching a leg while washing dishes. This picture reminded him of his past, the first meeting with his lame wife, Pauline. Consequently, with guilt and nostalgia, nothing other came to his head then, except for sexually assaulting his offspring (Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015). Such Cholly’s depravity illustrates projecting his pain on Pecola, trying to return a sense of freedom.

Racial Self-Hatred as the Fundamental Part of Growing up

The Bluest Eye gives an amplified delineation of how internalized white superiority measures misshape the lives of Afro-American girls and women. Verifiable messages that whiteness is predominant can be found throughout the novel, including the idealization of light-skinned Maureen and Pauline Breedlove’s inclination to her daughter (Gayathri, Balachandran, and Sreenath Muraleedharan 2018). As stated by Abbasi and Bhatti (2017), “racial inequalities and poverty paved ways to the reduction of blacks’ self-image, self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem with no courage and valor” (137). Consequently, adult black ladies, having learned to loathe the darkness of their bodies, take this contempt out on their children. Thus, self-hatred was not only a challenge for the Breedlaw family but all-female representatives of the black community after the Great Depression.

Personal Opinion

There is no shortage of debates on whether the mental illness of the protagonist serves as a particular psychological technique for disclosure of social problems or not. As far as I am concerned, the craziness of Pecola Breedlove is filled with psychologism and meaning, as it gives an example of how society impacts a child’s worldview. The author makes evident to the reader the reasons for the young lady’s mental disorder: low self-esteem due to social pressure, molesting, pregnancy and death of a child, racial hostility, dreams of blue eyes – they are all distorted in her consciousness. However, this craziness is not clinical as Pecola accepted herself “renewed” with pleasure and sincerely wanted to believe she measures up to expectations of a beautiful individual. Moreover, proof of her sanity is found on the last pages of a novel where a girl was talking to herself, simultaneously admiring the blue eyes (Morrison 2014). From my perspective, she became a kind of the impetus for others, who launched the evaluation mechanism, thanks to which the readers can stop and re-think their behavior.


The Bluest Eye is about what poverty, ignorance, and inability to love do to humans. Pecola, the protagonist, became the embodiment of ugliness for people, including her parents and classmates. However, they could not imagine that beauty that was found inside this young lady, as she finally succeeded at finding her beauty, even though by owning imaginable pair of eyes. If Pecola was not in the novel, the plot could have been described as follows: Black families whose children go to school, domestic affairs, family disputes. However, here, with the young Mrs. Breedlove, everything changes dramatically. It is undeniable that Pecola is the one who contributed to a greater understanding of howling problems of pedophilia, family, and moral values. Moreover, precisely the madness of eleven-year-old Pecola reminds others about their own “non-normality. ”


Abbasi, Muhammad Ismail, and Shaheena Ayub Bhatti. 2017. “White Linguistic Violence and Black Americans: A Textual Analysis of The Bluest Eye.” Journal of Research in Social Sciences 5 (1): 135—143.

Gale, Cengage Learning. 2015. A Study Guide for Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’. Farmington Hills: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Gayathri, A. R., Devika Balachandran, and K. Sreenath Muraleedharan. 2018. “Objectification of African American Women in The Bluest Eye.” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics 119 (12): 2769—2777.

Morrison, Toni. 2014. The Bluest Eye. New York: Random House.

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