“Anger is better than shame . There is a sense of being in anger. A reality of presence. An awareness of worth. ” 50 This is how many of the African Americans in Toni Morrison”s The Bluest Eye felt. They faked love when they felt powerless to hate, and destroyed what love they did have with anger. The Bluest Eye shows the way that the blacks were compelled to place their anger on their own families and on their own blackness instead of on the white people who were the cause of their misery.
In this manner, they kept their anger circulating among themselves, in effect oppressing themselves, at the same time they were being oppressed by the white people. The reoccurring theme in The Bluest Eye was the misdirection of anger in the African Americans and superiority of the white population that the African Americans admired so much even as to consider it the standard of perfection. The characters are a perfect manifestation of these two themes, and they take over and in some instances consume and destroy the characters. Pecola Breedlove was a young black girl, growing up in Lorain, Ohio in the early 1940″s.
Her life was one of the most difficult in the novel, for she was almost totally alone. She suffered the most because she had to withstand having others” anger dumped on her, had to internalized this hate, and was unable to get angry herself. Over the course of the novel, this anger destroys her from the inside. When Geraldine yells at her to get out of her house, Pecola”s eyes were fixed on the “pretty” lady and her “pretty” house. Pecola does not stand up to Maureen Peal when she made fun of her for seeing her dad naked but instead lets Freida and Claudia fight for her.
Instead of getting mad at Mr. Yacobowski for looking down on her, she directed her anger toward the dandelions that she once thought were beautiful. The dandelions also represent her view of her blackness, once she may have thought that she was beautiful, but like the dandelions, she now follows the majorities” view. However, “the anger will not hold” 50 , and the feelings soon gave way to shame. Pecola was the sad product of having others” anger placed on her: “All of our waste we dumped on her and she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us” 205 .
The other black people felt beautiful next to her ugliness, wholesome next to her uncleanness, her poverty made them generous, her weakness made them strong, and her pain made them happier. In effect, they were oppressing her the same way the whites were oppressing them. When Pecola”s father, Cholly Breedlove, was caught as a teenager in a field with Darlene by two white men, “never did he once consider directing his hatred toward the hunters” 150 , rather her directed his hatred towards the girl because hating the white men would “consume” him. He was powerless against the white men and was unable to protect Darlene from them as well.
This caused him to hate her for being in the situation with him and for realizing how powerless he really was. Cholly also felt that any misery his daughter suffered was his fault, and looking in to Pecola”s loving eyes angered him because he wondered, “What could he do for her – ever What give her What say to her ” 161. Cholly”s failures led him to hate those that he failed, like Darlene, and most of all his family. His self loathing and pain, all misdirected at himself, his family, and blacks in general, all contributed to his ultimate failure, his rape of his daughter.
Pecola”s mother, Polly Breedlove, also wrongly placed her anger on her family. As a result of having a crippled foot, Polly had always had a feeling of unworthiness and aberration. With her own children, she felt emotionless, only able to express rage, “sometimes I”d catch myself hollering at them and beating them, but I couldn”t seem to stop” 124 . She stopped taking care of her own children and her own home and took care of a white family and their home. She found praise, acceptance, power, and ultimately whiteness with the Fisher family, and it is for these reasons that she stayed with them.
The creditors and service people who humiliated her when she went to them on her own behalf respected her, were even intimidated by her, when she spook for the Fishers. ” 128. She had been deprived of such feeling from her family when growing up and in turn deprived her own family of these same feelings. Polly “held Cholly as a mode on sin and failure, she bore him like a crown of thorns, and her children like a cross” 126 . Pecola”s friend Claudia McTeer is angry at the beauty of whiteness and attempts to dismember white dolls to find where their beauty lies.
There is a sarcastic tone in her voice when she spoke of having to be “worthy” to play with the dolls. Later, when telling the story as a past experience, she describes the adults” tone of voice as being filled with years of unfulfilled longing, perhaps a longing to be themselves beautifully white. Claudia herself was happiest when she stood up to Maureen Peal, the beautiful girl from her class. When Claudia and Freida taunted her as she ran down the street, they were happy to get a chance to express anger, and “we were still in love with ourselves then” 74 . Claudia”s anger towards dolls turns to hated of white girls.
Out of a fear for her anger the she could not comprehend, she would later tool a refuge in loving whites. She had to at least pretend to love whites or, like Cholly, the hatred would consume her. Later however, she realizes that this change was “an adjustment without improvement” 23 , and that making herself love them only fooled herself and helped her cope. Had she allowed herself to continue to allow herself to get angry, she would have survived better, but it was to difficult, even for someone as strong-willed as Claudia, to stand up to this perfect oppression machine.
Soaphead Church wrongly places his anger on God and blamed him for “screwing-up” human nature. He asked God to explain how he could let Pecola”s wish for blue eyes go so long without being answered and scorned God for not loving Pecola. Despite his own sins, Soaphead feels that he had a right to blame God and to assume his role in granting Pecola blue eyes, although he knew that beauty was not necessarily a physical thing but a state of mind and being: “No one else will see her blue eyes. But she will” 182 . The Mobile girls wrongly placed their anger in their own race, and they do not give of themselves fully to anyone, even to their family.
These girls hate African Americans because according to them, “colored people were neat and quiet; [negroes] were dirty and loud” 87 . Black children, or they as Geraldine called them, were like flies: “They slept six to a bed, all their pee mixing together in the night as they wet their beds. . . they clowned on the playgrounds, broke things in dime stores, ran in front of you on the street. . . grass wouldn”t grow where they lived. Flowers died. Like flies they hovered; like flies they settled” 92 . Although the Mobile girls are black themselves, they “[. . . ]got rid of the funkiness.
The dreadful funkiness of passion, the funkiness of nature, the funkiness of the wide range of human emotions,” 83 and most of all them tried to rid themselves of the funkiness of being black. Because they saw how white people treated blacks, they could not acknowledge the fact that they, themselves were black, and they tried to become something else. The easiest way for them to do this was to insult black people, and push them lower, so they themselves could rise to the top. They were shut out by the whites because they did not belong, but shut themselves off from their own black race, by trying to be white.
In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison shows that anger is healthy and that it is not something to be feared; those who are not able to get angry are the ones who suffer the most. She criticizes Cholly, Polly, Claudia, Soaphead Church, the Mobile Girls, and Pecola because these blacks in her story wrongly place their anger on themselves, their own race, their family, or even God, instead of being angry at those they should have been angry at: whites. Although they didn”t know it, “The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us. ” 74