In The Bluest Eye, characters associate beauty with whiteness. The novel constantly refers to white American icons of beauty and innocence such as Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers, and Shirley Temple. African-American girls during this time period (the 1940s) were encouraged to aspire to be white; all of the female African-American characters in the novel have grown up in a society that does not find them beautiful or even worthy of being looked at. Pecola is constantly identified by her ugliness, and she fixates on what society deems to be a symbol of beauty and purity – blue eyes. Pecola's belief that blue eyes will make her beautiful shows two specific effects of racism on young African-American girls: low self-esteem and envy of whiteness.
While Pecola and Claudia both associate beauty with whiteness, Claudia views this association ironically and Pecola believes in it wholeheartedly.
Miss Marie and Claudia offer alternative concepts of beauty in the novel.