Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Race

By Toni Morrison

Race

Prologue, Part 2

It was their contempt for their own blackness that gave the first insult its teeth. They seemed to have taken all of their smoothly cultivated ignorance, their exquisitely learned self-hatred, their elaborately designed hopelessness and sucked it all up into a fiery cone of scorn that had burned for ages in the hollows of their minds – cooled – and spilled over lips of outrage, consuming whatever was in its path. (2.4.12)

The young boys on the playground taunt Pecola for being black as a way of angrily expressing their own self-hatred and internalized racism.

Autumn, Chapter 1

The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly. (1.2.1)

The Breedloves internalize black self-hatred.

Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment. (1.1.29)

The working-class African-American characters in the novel just barely struggle to survive.

Claudia MacTeer

I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me. Instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels. (1.1.35)

Claudia revolts against the tyranny of Shirley Temple and white beauty.

Autumn, Chapter 2

The line between colored and n***** was not always clear; subtle and telltale signs threatened to erode it, and the watch had to be constant. (2.5.14)

Geraldine teaches Junior how to examine other black people in order to separate the "good" ones from the "bad" ones. This method isn't foolproof, however.

His mother did not like him to play with n*****s. She had explained to him the difference between colored people and n*****s. They were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; n*****s were dirty and loud. (2.5.14)

Geraldine internalizes, and teaches, a racial hierarchy.

Autumn, Chapter 3
Cholly Breedlove

Never did he once consider directing his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, helpless. His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess – that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal. (3.6.61)

Cholly is unable to hate the white men because hating them would have destroyed him, as they are socially and legally more powerful than him. Instead, he transfers his hate to the women in his life.

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)

This passage fleshes out Soaphead's character a bit and suggests that he has a great capacity for empathy. It also reminds us of Soaphead's own racial self-hatred, so we can see why he would be inclined to try to help Pecola battle her feelings of ugliness.

Pauline Breedlove

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 constantly compares her life as an African-American woman with the lives of the white women she sees onscreen. Movies have the ability to show us other worlds and create feelings (in this case, envy) that may not have existed otherwise.

Winter, Chapter 4

The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world – which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. (4.11.5)

This passage suggests that the townsfolk of Lorain have used Pecola and her family as a kind of emotional landfill. They took all of their negative emotions about their race and social position and dumped them onto Pecola, with tragic results.