Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Women and Femininity

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Women and Femininity

Autumn, Chapter 1
Claudia MacTeer

Their conversation is like a gently wicked dance: sound meets sound, curtsies, shimmies, and retires. Another sound enters but is upstaged by another: the two circle each other and stop. (1.1.19)

Claudia, eavesdropping, finds beauty in the sound of women talking.

Miss Marie

Marie sat shelling peanuts and popping them into her mouth. Pecola looked and looked at the women. Were they real? Marie belched, softly, purringly, lovingly. (1.3.47)

Marie defies all societal notions of femininity.

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. 'Here,' they said, 'this is beautiful, and if you are on this day "worthy" you may have it.' (1.1.38)

Women's culture promotes identification with whiteness.

Autumn, Chapter 2

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 light skin is associated with beauty and femininity.

Maureen Peal

I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute! (2.4.35)

Maureen insults Pecola, Frieda, and Claudia by using the same racially loaded language as the young boys.

Autumn, Chapter 3

She, like a Victorian parody, learned from her husband all that was worth learning – to separate herself in body, mind, and spirit from all that suggested Africa. (3.9.7)

Black women learn to dis-identify with blackness.

1She 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)

Hollywood films promote certain ideas of beauty.

Cholly Breedlove

Three women are leaning out of two windows. They see the long clean neck of a new young boy and call to him. He goes to where they are....They give him lemonade in a Mason jar. As he drinks, their eyes float up to him through the bottom of the jar....They give him back his manhood, which he takes aimlessly. (3.8.82)

Cholly presumably encounters Miss Marie, Poland, and China here, but the text leaves this ambiguous. He has fun with them and rediscovers his masculinity.

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 envies the lives of white people, as seen at the movies.

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