Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Appearances

By Toni Morrison

Appearances

Prologue, Part 1

Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. (1.1.39)

American culture promotes the idea that whiteness should be desired.

Claudia MacTeer

Frieda and she had a long conversation about how cu-ute Shirley Temple was. I couldn't join them in their adoration because I hated Shirley. (1.1.35)

Claudia uses the example of Shirley Temple to differentiate herself from Frieda and Pecola, and what she perceives as their internalized racism.

Prologue, Part 2
Claudia MacTeer

Occasionally an item provoked a physical reaction: an increase of acid irritation in the upper intestinal tract, a light flush of perspiration at the back of the neck....The sofa, for example. It had been purchased new, but the fabric had split straight across the back by the time it was delivered. (1.2.6)

An ugly sofa becomes a symbol of poverty.

Autumn, Chapter 1
Pecola Breedlove

It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes...were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different." (1.3.18)

Pecola believes that physical appearance can alter one's psychological condition.

Thrown, in this way, into the binding conviction that only a miracle could relieve her, she would never know her beauty. She would only see what there was to see: the eyes of other people. (1.3.21)

Pecola lacks the self-esteem to not care what other people think.

They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly. Although their poverty was traditional and stultifying, it was not unique. But their ugliness was unique. No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly. (1.3.1)

Regardless of whether it is true or not, the Breedloves have internalized the belief that they are ugly.

Autumn, Chapter 2
Claudia MacTeer

This disrupter of seasons was a new girl in school named Maureen Peal. A high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care. The quality of her clothes threatened to derange Frieda and me. (2.4.3)

Maureen's skin color seems tied to her class status in complex ways.

They hold their behind in for fear of a sway too free; when they wear lipstick, they never cover the entire mouth for fear of lips too thick, and they worry, worry, worry about the edges of their hair. (2.5.4)

This quote shows how black women are taught to behave like middle-class white women.

Autumn, Chapter 3

She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen. (3.7.22)

This quote shows how popular films influence cultural and personal ideals of beauty.

In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap. (3.7.21)

Beauty gets associated with self-contempt here.

Soaphead Church

Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty. . . A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes. His outrage grew and felt like power. For the first time he honestly wished he could work miracles. (3.9.21)

Soaphead takes pity on Pecola when he sees the extent of her self-loathing.