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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Appearances

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. Af...

Race

Whiteness in The Bluest Eye is associated with beauty, innocence, goodness, cleanliness, and purity. Each of the characters who have internalized popular and cultural concepts of goodness, beauty,...

Women and Femininity

The Bluest Eye is mostly concerned with the experience of African-American women in the 1940s. It presents a realistic view of the options for these women: they could get married and have children,...

Jealousy

Feelings of jealousy and envy permeate The Bluest Eye. From Claudia and Frieda's jealousy of Maureen Peal to Pauline envying the uppity women of Lorain, Ohio, women seem to experience envy all day,...

Society and Class

Race and class are nearly inextricable in The Bluest Eye, since there were so many economic barriers for African Americans during this time period. The African-American citizens of Lorain that we e...

Love

Love is something that many characters in The Bluest Eye desire. Claudia admires the women in blues songs, pining after their lovers. Pauline spends countless hours daydreaming about love at the mo...

Sex

Sex in The Bluest Eye is awkward, humiliating, shameful, violent, and illegal – sometimes all at once. With the exception of Mr. MacTeer (whom we basically never see), all of the major male c...

Innocence

Innocence is yet another quality that is primarily associated with whiteness in The Bluest Eye. When readers pick up a novel about young girls, they may expect to read about harmless crushes, long...
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