Thisessay will examine the ways that gender, race, and class shape the life andfate of the African American protagonist of the novel “The Bluest Eye”, PecolaBreedlove, who is a victim of violence and hatred provoked by her community. Racism,sexism, and classism, not only from the white world but also from the Blackcommunity, drove Pecola insane, as by the end of the novel she becomes totallyshattered by the societal and psychological oppression she endured. Tobegin with, growing up black and female in a society which worships whitebeauty standards led the protagonist of the novel to racial self-loathing andeventually self- destruction. For example, the white blond-haired and blue-eyedbaby dolls, which are regularly given as presents to the girls, represent animage of feminine perfection, which Pecola desires in order to gain acceptanceand respect in her society.
Moreover, she is fascinated by the Shirley Templecup, as she drinks “three quarts of milk” because she believes that she willturn white and become like Shirley, who has blond curly hair and bright blueeyes. Pecola cannot even enjoy a piece of candy without feeling that she isdifferent and lacking in some way in terms of beauty. When she goes to eat herMary Jane candy, she is mesmerized by the little girl of Mary Jane on thecover, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl. Lastly, Pecola wants to look like BettyGrable, the Hollywood actor, who embodies the idealized beauty standards withher blond hair and blue eyes. These contributed to the idolization of whiteculture and influenced the identity of Pecola, who came to loath her ownblackness and “ugliness”. Furthermore,pushed to the periphery on account of her gender, Pecola’s life was full ofhorrors, as she faced atrocities like rape, exploitation and humiliation. Herparents were neglecting her and failed to provide her with love and security,due to their own self-hatred and perception of themselves as ugly.
Pecola wasdeprived from a healthy growth and development, as she was cruelly scorned byher own mother and repeatedly being called ugly since her birth. However, whatled Pecola to her ultimate demise and destruction due to her vulnerableposition was her abusive and immoral father, who brutally raped her and lefther pregnant. There was no protection even from the men of the Black community,as women were subordinate to men and had to fight for their survival bothinside and outside their homes. Throughoutthe novel, Pecola is marginalized in all domains of her everyday life and avictim of racial segregation, oppression and discrimination. Her own mother,Pauline Breedlove, preferred to care for other white girls rather than her owndaughter and everybody kept a distance from her due to her blackness, thusmaking Pecola feel unwanted and shame for her skin color. For instance, the oldstore-keeper looked at Pecola with neglect and despise when she went to thestore to buy candy, as Mr.
Yacobowski was very rude to her and hesitated totouch her in order to get the money, thus making Pecola believe that thisdislike comes from her blackness. Due to the constant rejection andhumiliation, Pecola internalized the opinions and views that others had for herand lost herself to self-hatred and her only aim in life to be white. Additionally, Pecola gets teased andbullied by the light-skinned girl, Maureen Peel, who makes Pecola feeldisgusted by telling her that “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly”. Beingpoor and black, she was harassed by the boys at the school who were “preparedto sacrifice her to the flaming pit” by singing insulting songs of her skincolor and her father’s habit of sleeping naked. Pecola is constantly mocked andreminded of what others think of her, therefore believing that it is all aboutappearances and the superiority of having the beauty of white skin.
Eventhe people from her own race despised her and treated her like an untouchableanimal. Geraldine looked at Pecola with disgust, as she represented a classfull of sin, dirt, and cultural inferiority, which Geraldine wanted to washaway from her and her son, Junior, beats Pecola with his mother’s cat and blamesPecola of killing it. Moreover, the West Indian in the Soaphead Churchvictimized Pecola by making her innocently poison a dog he despised. He alsocalls her ugly and find her undesirable due to her blackness. Therefore, Pecolawas not only casted out by her own family, but she was also a social outcast,alienated by her peers and even the people from the Black community.Theclass conflict in the novel is also an important issue, as the poor Breedlovefamily is isolated and economically deprived by the dominant white culture,thusly pushing Pecola towards marginality. The novel begins with a passage thatdescribes a typical white American family that all live in a pretty house. Dickand Jane are promoted as moral and heroic kids, who are to be looked up to andbe imitated.
Their life is depicted as ideal and perfect, something that thepoor black cannot attain, as Pecola and her family is exploited by thecapitalist ruling class, and they all have to struggle to survive the poverty,in contrast with the upper white middle-class families. Additionally, the Breedloves due totheir financial status and economic ostracization lived in an abandonedstorefront and their living conditions were miserable, thusly being placedlower in the class hierarchy. For instance, Geraldine wanted to be part of theruling class and considered herself to be a good and proper “colored person”, becauseshe was neat and had a beautifully decorated house. When she confronted Pecola,she expressed hatred towards her as she loathed the poor and the “niggers” dueto their dirtiness and blackness.
Pecola became the scapegoat of the blackcommunity’s low-self esteem and self-hatred, and since she did not receive loveand affection from anyone in her life, she created an imaginary friend and gotcompletely detached from the reality.Inconclusion, Pecola was physically and mentally deformed by the traumaticconditions of racism, sexism and classism under which she lived. She endured the toll of sexual assault by herown father, alienation and repression by her society, and she eventually wasdriven into madness as there was no savior for her to save her from her fate.Pecola, the ugly black girl who did not meet the society’s standards, wascompletely dehumanized and devalued because she was black, female and poor,rejected by a community which was plagued by the virus of self-hatred. Her onlysalvation and hope was to obtain blue eyes, which she eventually did, but inthe cost of her own sanity.