The Importance Of Cleanliness In The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison

Great Essays
Through the experiences of the black characters in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the damages of white femininity are exposed. Throughout the book, white girls and white movie stars often embody standards of cleanliness and beauty by containing funkiness (blackness) and creating order. Morrison often substitutes whiteness for cleanliness and demonstrates the dangers of this mixture in how the black female characters witness the supposed beauty and vulnerability of white girls and movie stars. Whether or not white girls in the book believe in their beauty, they do believe in the power their whiteness grants them over both black girls and black women and act out in fear that this power may be taken from them. As an extension of white supremacy, …show more content…
Cleanliness, the containment of funk and creation of order, is correlated to whiteness in Claudia Macteer’s relationship with her white baby dolls. Claudia hates these dolls, and destroys them, citing both the expectation that she will find them beautiful and their “irritable, unimaginative cleanliness” as the source of anger she feels towards them and other white girls (Morrison 22). She notes, however, that later in life she learns to like cleanliness, just as she learns to “worship” white girls, like Shirley Temple (Morrison 23). While cleanliness is often the domain of whiteness in the book, funkiness is the domain of blackness. Honoring cleanliness implies Claudia will soon abandon funkiness, the depth of human feeling, passion, and nature like Geraldine has done. Geraldine, a black woman who makes distinctions between “colored people and niggers,” who contains her sexuality, and who prohibits her child’s cry, works hard to rid herself of funkiness (Morrison 87). In addition to her desire for cleanliness, Geraldine straightens her hair and has kind eyes. She is beautiful, by white standards, however, by the end of her chapter, she calls a young black girl, Pecola, a “black bitch” (Morrison 92). Through descriptions of Geraldine’s life, as a wealthy black woman rejecting funkiness, …show more content…
The young white girl, who Pauline takes care of, referred to as “the little pink girl” harnesses the power in her whiteness by embodying fear and fragility (Morrison 109). After Pecola drops a plate of pie Mrs. Breedlove had cooked for the white family, Mrs. Breedlove beats her, while the little girl in pink watches, and cries. When she starts crying, Mrs. Breedlove abandons her daughter to soothe the little white girl, calling her “baby,” while the girl calls her “Polly” (Morrison 109). She is younger and smaller than Claudia, Frieda, and Pecola, yet she calls Mrs. Breedlove “Polly,” when, as Claudia notes, “even Pecola called her mother Mrs. Breedlove” (Morrison 108). Morrison describes Mrs. Breedlove’s careful soothing of the “little pink-and-yellow girl” as “honey,” complimenting a “sundown spilling on the lake” (Morrison 109). The relationship between Mrs. Breedlove’s passivity and the white girls’ still, blue eyes is presented as naturally as pink and yellow marking the sunset. Throughout the book, blue eyes are shown to hold both beauty (in their proximity to whiteness) and power (in their ability to see and control). Just as the repeated emphasis on the beauty of Jean Harlow separated Mrs. Breedlove and Pecola, so do the cries of this white girl. Claudia and Frieda see fear strike her as she meets them, as the young girl’s fear

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