The Bluest Eye Essay

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At the heart of every story in every novel there exists an often powerful, underlying truth. In searching for this message, the reader may use a number of literary tools to analyze the work at hand, including in this case, the gaze. The literary gaze is a source of power expressed through inspection, which objectifies the person—usually a woman—or object being looked at, and acts as a window to the mind of the inspector. Oftentimes, the gaze may also eroticize the object or person being examined, displaying the dominance and power of specific characters through their ability to pass judgment, and disempowering those caught in the light of the other’s gaze. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the influence of the literary gaze appears most prominent…show more content…
These young girls—such as the characters of Pecola, Frieda, and Claudia—are constantly surrounded by icons of beauty who continuously advertise pale skin, fair hair, and blue eyes. For instance, in the novel, Morrison writes, “Frieda brought [Pecola] her four graham crackers on a saucer and some milk in a blue-and-white Shirley Temple cup. She was a long time with the milk, and gazed fondly at the silhouette of Shirley Temple’s dimpled face. Frieda and she had a loving conversation about how cu-ute Shirley Temple was” (Morrison, 19). In this passage, Pecola and Frieda admire the beauty of Shirley Temple’s fair features. Their gaze upon her image discloses to the reader the power of advertisement and society over young girls in the understanding white femininity—composed of wearing dresses, and possessing a polite, girlish charm—as true beauty. Additionally, Morrison’s description of the cup of milk as “blue-and-white” further serves to highlight the young girls’ learned admiration of white culture. Overall, Morrison is able to express through Frieda and Pecola the power the gaze holds in objectifying specific groups of individuals and disempowering them, in this case instilling racial self-contempt in those under the scrutiny of the

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