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, and innocence tend to have some kind of obsession – whether covert or overt – with whiteness. Race is a powerful determinant in the novel. It is because Cholly is black that the white men humiliate him while he is losing his virginity. This in turn leads him to be somewhat repulsed by women and family, which leads to his alcoholism, which leads to his rape of Pecola. In a similar vein, Soaphead Church is raised in a family that marries light-skinned blacks in order to "whiten up" the family features. This leads him to an obsession with purity, both racial and otherwise.
Questions About Race
- Which characters in the novel worship whiteness? Which characters reject it?
- How is Pecola's blackness related to her ugliness, if at all?
- How do light-skinned characters in the novel get treated compared to dark-skinned characters?
Chew on This
All of the characters who internalize ideas of middle-class whiteness are obsessed with cleanliness, order, and/or purity.
Race and class are nearly impossible to separate in the novel.