What are the major themes in The Bluest Eye?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

In Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, there are several major themes that are explored throughout the story. These themes include appearances, race, women and femininity, jealousy, society and class, love, sex, and innocence. Each of these themes contributes to the overall narrative and sheds light on the experiences of the characters.

One of the central themes in The Bluest Eye is appearances. The characters in the novel associate beauty with whiteness, believing that if they possess white features, they will be considered beautiful. This belief is reinforced by the media and societal standards of beauty, which prioritize Eurocentric features. This obsession with appearances leads to self-hatred and a desire to conform to these standards, particularly for the main character, Pecola Breedlove.

Race is another significant theme in the novel. Whiteness is idealized and associated with beauty, innocence, goodness, cleanliness, and purity. The characters, especially Pecola, internalize these ideals and believe that their own blackness is inferior. This internalized racism leads to a deep sense of self-hatred and a longing to be white. The novel explores the damaging effects of internalized racism and the societal pressure to conform to white standards.

Women and femininity are also explored as themes in The Bluest Eye. The novel examines the societal expectations placed on women, particularly black women, and how these expectations can be oppressive. The female characters in the story navigate complex relationships with their bodies, sexuality, and societal expectations. They often struggle to find agency and self-acceptance in a world that devalues them.

Jealousy is another prevalent theme in the novel. The characters are often consumed by envy and jealousy, particularly towards those they perceive as having more beauty or privilege. This jealousy contributes to the toxic dynamics within the community and further perpetuates the cycle of self-hatred and dissatisfaction.

Society and class are also important themes in The Bluest Eye. The novel explores the impact of poverty and the limitations it places on individuals. The characters’ socioeconomic status influences their opportunities and aspirations, further reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and the desire for whiteness as a means of escape.

Love and sex are explored in the novel, particularly in relation to how they are shaped by societal expectations and prejudices. The characters grapple with their desires and struggle to find love and intimacy in a world that denies their worth.

Innocence is another significant theme in The Bluest Eye. The novel examines the loss of innocence, particularly for young black girls like Pecola. The characters are exposed to violence, racism, and sexual abuse, which robs them of their childhood and innocence.

The Bluest Eye delves into these themes to highlight the damaging effects of societal beauty standards, racism, and gender expectations. The characters’ struggles and experiences serve as a powerful critique of a society that values whiteness over all else. Through their narratives, Toni Morrison exposes the harmful consequences of internalized racism and the need for self-acceptance and love in the face of adversity.