Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Jealousy

By Toni Morrison

Jealousy

Prologue, Part 1
Claudia MacTeer

We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more than that wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth. (Prologue)

Frieda and Claudia exhibit working-class envy of their snotty neighbor.

Autumn, Chapter 1
Pecola Breedlove

She eats the candy, its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. (1.3.33)

Pecola's childlike thought patterns reveal themselves here: she believes that eating the eyes of a white girl could lead to becoming the white girl.

Claudia MacTeer

But the dismembering of the dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. To discover what eluded me: the secret of the magic they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say, "Awwwww," but not for me? The eye slide of black women as they approached them on the street, and the possessive gentleness of their touch as they handled them. (1.1.43)

Here Claudia uncovers one of the reasons for dismembering the white dolls – she is truly envious of their allure. As we see throughout the novel, Morrison complicates a simple emotion like jealousy by linking it to something else: curiosity. Claudia's envy isn't detached or simply emotional; jealousy drives her curiosity to know why exactly one set of racial features would be privileged over another.

Autumn, Chapter 2
Claudia MacTeer

When she was assigned a locker next to mine, I could indulge my jealousy four times a day. (2.4.6)

This is a great moment, where Morrison nails just how perversely pleasurable jealousy can be. Although it drives Claudia nuts, she also really likes plotting against Maureen. Jealousy is a guilty pleasure, like emotional ice cream.

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)

The girls are jealous of Maureen's beauty, but also her proximity to whiteness.

Autumn, Chapter 3
Pauline Breedlove

Pauline felt uncomfortable with the few black women she met. They were amused by her because she did not straighten her hair....Their goading glances and private snickers at her way of talking (saying "chil'ren") and dressing developed in her a desire for new clothes. (3.7.18)

Pauline's jealousy is aroused by other black women judging her. Like her daughter, Pauline believes that if she alters her appearance people will treat her differently.

She came into her own with the women who had despised her, by being more moral than they....She joined a church where shouting was frowned on....She stopped saying "chil'ren" and said "childring" instead. She let another tooth fall, and was outraged by painted ladies who thought only of clothes and men. (3.7.25)

There is a trend in the novel of characters starting in one emotional state (say, Cholly's anger at the white men who humiliate them) and sublimating those emotions into ones that are easier to handle. Here Pauline takes her jealousy of other women and turns it into martyrdom.

Then the screen would light up, and I'd move right on in them pictures. White men taking such good care of they women, and they all dressed up in big clean houses with bathtubs right in the same room with the toilet. Them pictures gave me a lot of pleasure, but it made coming home hard, and looking at Cholly hard. (3.7.23)

Pauline envies the lives of white people as she sees them portrayed in the movies. In particular, she envies the monetary security, comfort, and romance she finds in them.

Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. (3.7.22)

Romantic love seems to feed on jealousy.

"Oh, Claudia, you're jealous of everything." (3.6.8)

Claudia gets upset when Mr. Henry touches Frieda instead of her, revealing a key aspect of her character. Claudia is consistently inquisitive and hungry for new experiences throughout the novel. We aren't quite sure if she wishes this had happened to her or if she wishes there were some magical way that she could know what it felt like.