Of God And The Church Essay, Research Paper
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Thematic: Uses of God and the Church
Morrison places a responsibility for the social dilemma; tragic condition of blacks in a racist America so prominent in the 1940s, on an indefinite God and/or the church. This omniscient being, the creator of all things, both noble and corrupt, and his messengers seem to have in a sense sanctioned the ill fated in order to validate the hatred and scorn of the “righteous.” In her introduction of the Breedlove family, Morrison holds accountable the Breedlove’s acceptance of ugliness to a higher power saying, “It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear” (Morrison, 39). This divine being not only created ugliness for them but it also ambiguously created an environment that rejected and scorned this ugliness. In her youth Pauline struggles with the same type of uncertainty and contradiction in trying to “hold her mind on the wages of sin,” while “her body trembled for redemption, salvation and a mysterious rebirth that would simply happen, with no effort on her part” (Morrison, 113).
Ironically, at the end of the novel it is Soaphead Church, an individual well acquainted with theology, who alone speculates an answer to Claudia’s initial question of “why. Soaphead Church, or more formally, Elihue Micah Whitcomb, inherited “the fine art of self-deception” from his ancestor’s tendencies to credit lies to their ethnicity and superiority. . Of his family the author says, “They transferred this Anglophilia to their six children and sixteen grandchildren,” and the family is described as one entity; the accomplishments and convictions of the sons are the same as the fathers. Soaphead inherited his persuasiveness and pedophilia from his ancestors’ “lecherous and lascivious” practices and his religious fanaticism from his own father’s secret sect. His letter, addressed to “He who greatly ennobled human nature by creating it,” intends to familiarize an omniscient being with the “facts which have either escaped his notice, or which he has chosen to ignore” (Morrison, 176) saying that he forgot about the children.
“You said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and harm them not.’ Did you forget? Did you forget about the children? Yes. You forgot. You let them go wanting, sitting on road shoulders, crying next to their dead mothers. I’ve seen them charred, lame, halt. You forgot, Lord. You forgot how and when to be God…That’s why I changed the little black girl’s eyes for her…I did what You could not do. I looked at that ugly little black girl and I loved her. I played You” (Morrison, 181-2).
This letter not only incriminates God but it also incriminates the church. In their duty to come to the aid of the unloved and depressed they have failed and instead begun to play God themselves, judging society’s mistakes in the name of righteous superiority. This is evident in Pauline’s successfully achieved martyrdom at the cost of her marriage and the lives of her children.
Pauline Breedlove’s personal history is shown to have played out in extreme measures in the life of her daughter. From the early part of her life she has worn a shroud of shame. The book says that it is due primarily to her injured foot that she felt a sense of separateness and unworthiness and also why she never felt at home anywhere, or that she belonged anyplace. This feeling was intensified by her experiences of exclusion and loneliness after moving up north. She was confronted by prejudice on a daily basis, class and racism, the possible consequences of entirely depending on external conditions for self-image, for in attempting to satisfy a paradigm that differs so radically from reality, African-Americans may destroy their essential nature. And in denying their natural gifts in order to appease white expectations, African-Americans accelerate their self-destruction. These experiences worked to transform Pauline into a product of hatred and ignorance, leading her to hold herself up to standards that she didn’t fully understand nor could realistically attain. These standards and feelings of rejection are the qualities that Pecola inherits from Pauline. Her mother, from her birth, placed upon her the same shroud of shame, loneliness, and inadequacy. More significantly, just as in the Soaphead’s family, the Breedloves as a whole are at one point said to be one distressing unit. They are unified in their acceptance of the shroud of unexplained ugliness, shame, and social dysfunctionality.
However, Morrison doesn’t place the blame on Pauline, neither does she blame it on racism, rudeness nor ignorance. In The Bluest Eye she depicts Pecola as a victim of an evil that has roots deeper than human conviction and can’t be understood in such terms. This vicious cycle of rejection, this embodiment of supernatural forces of the creator, creation, and the created combined to produce the evil that left Pecola Breedlove barren and unable to know how or why.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.