Racism Essay, Research Paper
The Effects of Racism During the 1940’s
Racism has been around for hundreds of years. One example of how racism against blacks was rempant during the 1940’s is seen in Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye.
Throughout the story the characters are victims of racism. Not only do these characters suffer from racism from mainstream White society, but also from their superior light-skinned African American people. Examples of the effects of racism on the examining the lives of Pecola, Louis J.r. , and Soaphead Church.
The first example of racism, and the most affected character of this horrendous deed known as racism is Pecola Breedlove. Pecola is born to two parents who never felt like they fit in or were loved when they were growing up and still don;t.Pecola’s mother, Pauline, only cares about fitting in. When she was young she had dreams and hopes about one day being acceptedbut these dreams die when she injures her foot. Soon after her marriage with Cholly, Pauline looses her front tooth and along with it she looses her sel-respect. After Sammy and Pecola are born, Pauline returns to work and begins working for a white family,The Fishers. Here she finds her self-respect again, because according to them she is the ideal servant.
Pecola’s father, Charles (Cholly) Breedlove, was abandoned by his mother on a “junk heap by the railroad”( Morrison 132 ) at day four, and was never recognized as a son by his father. Cholly’s great Aunt Jimmy takes him in but their age difference and habits keep them from a close relationship, which he desperately needs. At his Great Aunt Jimmy’s funeral, Cholly is surprised by two white men when he is having his first sexual intercourse and is demanded to continue. This shame is reflected in him for years to come. The result of this is a violent drunk, an unfaithful husband, and an abusive father.
Pecola never felt love or affection at her house, but rather was a witness of her parents continous fights. Her own mother considered her ugly when she first saw her as a newborn. It is believed that “the mother’s gaze is of primary importance generating a child’s sense of self” (Bloom 95 ), and with Polly’s view of Pecola, Pecola grows on to have a very sordid self esteem. As Pecola grows older her mother’s rejection is more visible. When Pecola goes with her mother to the Fishers home and accidentally drops the deep-dish berry cobbler. When Polly walks in she “yanked her up by the arm , slapped her again, and in a voice thin with anger, accused Pecola directly…The little girl in pink started to cry. Mrs. Breedlove turned to her ‘hush, baby, hush. Come here. Don’t cry no more.’”( Morrison 109). The tender care of the little White Fisher girl makes the rejection of Pecola more evident. While Polly showed no love towards Pecola, Cholly wanted to. Cholly knew no other way to show his love for Pecola. He demonstrates this love by raping her.
At school Pecola is bombarded with white beauty, like Maureen Peal. Since her self-esteem is so low “the school children who shout names at Pecola shame her and use her features as away of denying her admission into their society ” (Harris 74 ).She is used as a scapegoat by her own due to her feeble self-esteem. “Pecola becomes the vicim who invites further abuse because she suffers visibly” (Harris 72). This makes it easier for the school children as well as the community to pick on her and look down on her. In the streets Pecola is bombarded with hatred. Just because she is the unpleasant sight of African Americans. Geraldine recognizes in Pecola everything she tries to deny, which is the blackness, the poverty, the African. Here, during the 1940’s the community is trying to find an individual who threatens them by either being different physically, or by projecting all of their fears. The community is in need of a scapegoat and Pecola fits the “requirements” for it. The community helps Pecola build her own downfall.
Pecola believes that ” only those with blue eyes receive love, like Shirley Temple, Geraldine’s cat, and the Fisher girl” (Bloom 95). This belief makes her wish she had blue eyes, maybe with them she would be accepted. She wishes and thinks “that if her eyes, those eyes that held pictures, and knew the sights-if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different”(Morrison 40). She becomes obsessed with blue eyes to such a point that she will not eat any other candy except for Mary Janes, which have a blue-eyed girl on the wrapper. This obsession becomes greater as the seasons change.
At the end, this obsession becomes the last straw that led to Pecola’s destruction. It began with her parents lack of love and attentiveness, and blossomed with the negative remarks of the community and ended with an unhealthy obsession. She goes to an interracial man, Soaphead Church, who pledged that he could turn her eyes blue. She becomes so wrapped in her dream world that she becomes insane.
Pecoka, who is the most affected by racism, is the epitomy of outer-racial racism. On the other hand Louis J.r. is an example of intra-racial racism.Geraldine, Louis J.r.’s mother considers herself different. Her and “her kind” are singled out. First of all, “these girls soak up the juice of their hometown, and it never leaves them” (Morrison 81). She is already different because many blacks don’t have hometowns, just places in which they were bornin, and in Geraldine’s case she never really left it. Geraldine is brought into a different town by her husband, and it is in this town were she feels supoerior, due to her light skin. She is one of the superior feeling blacks who are “so clean and high maintenance. They worry about the edges of their hair(danger of the Afro peeking through) and they deny their very blackness” (Rigney 13). The way Geraldine does this is by first calling herself”colored” and not black. According to her the “colored” are superior because they are of light skin.
Geraldine despises poor blacks. The perfect example of this is her hatred towards Pecola Breedlove. Her racism towards “niggers” was because ” they were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud”(Morrison 87). The difference between these two equivalent races is so great in Geraldine’s mindthat she inculcates these beliefs in her only son, Louis J.r. When Geraldine gives birth to Louis J.r. she begins to raise him up with certain colored beliefs. First of all that a child’s only needs are “comfort and satiety”(Morrison 86).By not giving him love, because according to Geraldine it wasn’t a neccesity, he begins to hate her cat, who unlike him, receives love. Louis J.r.’s mother neglects him in this manner but yet is sure to inculcate other colored beliefs,. As he gets older, Geraldine only lets him play with “white kids; his mother did not like him to play with niggers”(Morrison 87).At first he pays no attention to what his mother wants but as he gets older he “gradually …came to agree with his mother that neither Bay Boy or P.L. was good enough for him(Morrison 87).
Geraldine has succeeded to rid herself and her son of “the dreadful funkiness of passion, funkiness of nature, the funkiness of the wide range of human emotions”(Rigney 67). These qualities are those of niggers. Her hostility towards him and all the beliefs that she inculcated on him ,turned him into a hostile and repressd African-American who nonetheless considers himself superior.
Pecola paid for the outer racism she was a victim of, with insanity. While Louis J.r. is made into a hostile and repressed African American by the intra-racial racism. This same racism transforms Soaphead Church into a misanthrope. Soaphead Church was born Elihue Micah Whitcomb. He comes from s mixed west-indian family.His family emphasized th importance of introducing white(english) blood into the line. Although the family is proud of the mixed blood they still showed favoratism towards the white side of the family ,which was brought in the 1800s by Sir Whicomb, a British nobleman. He did not take responsibility for his actions. Sir Whitcomb’s beliefs were like that of any other white man:it was that a female from another race needs no more than a couple of hundred pounds of sterling. He believed that was a sufficient amount for an apology for confusing his future prodigies and exposing them to any racism they would surely encounter.
Soon Soaphead Church’s family “wanted to hoard the white strain of the family, so in order to do this they eventually ‘married up’, lightening the family complexion and thinning out the familky features”(Morrison 169). The light complexion and thinned -out family features made them feel superior. Due to their complexion they were usually recommended as promising students by their schoolmasters.Over the years they began to care less and less avbout maintaining “white superiority,” which was the white blood and features, They began to interminglewith other races. This explains Soaphead Church who has Chinese blood from his mother and white and black blood from his father.His mixed race really confuses Soaphead Church because he doesn’t know what he is. Soaphead Church is a “tragedy of cultural mutilation”(Gates 70).
The result of this confusion is that Soaphead Church becomes enclosed in his own melancholic life. Due to the confussion of his family, he becomes a misanthrope and distrusts everyone. This destrust increases to a greater depth when his wife leaves him. He wants no more contact with human beings, especially during this time, because he is seen as the man of no true race, just a mixture. He goes over the introduction of english blood into his family and recognizes it as a tragedy but he knows he is unable to do something about it.” This tragedy is reflected in his obsession with little girls” (Classicnote.com). The little girls like the white blood are pure and maybe help him purify himself.
Soaphead Church has an ackward mentality. When Pecola goes to him to ask him for blue eyes, he promises her she will have them. He later writes a letter to God in which he tells him “she must have asked you for them for a very long time, but you hadn’t replied “(Morrison 180). TAhen he tells him of how he was able to achieve it but God had failed and how God was jealous of him.He states tha the Lord is jealous of him because he was able to do something, which in reality couldn’t and hadn’t been done. Soaphead is already lost in a small extent of insanity himself.
In The Bluest Eye the reader can see how Toni Morrison shows the effects of racism on the black community. She also gives the reader lessons of how a small form of racism can become a person’s destruction. These types of racism, outer-racial and intra-racial, are either forced upon the characters, instilled in them, or they are victims of them. Pecola Breedlove is destroyed by the racism(outer-racial) around her. Her only escape is her insanity, that had been building in her since her birth. Louis J.r. ’s racism was ingrained in him by his mother;while Soaphead Church was born into it. Geraldine, Louis J.r. ’s mother, and “Soaphead Church are outsiders in a community of outsiders”(Gates 77). They suffer from and are intra-racial rcaists.