Unlike so many works in the American literature that deal directly with the legacy of slavery and the years of deeply-imbedded racism that followed, the general storyline of Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye does not engage directly with such events but rather explores the lingering effects by exploring and commenting on black self-hatred. Nearly all of the main characters in “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison who are African American are consumed with the constant culturally-imposed notions of white beauty, cleanliness, and sanitation to the point where they have disengaged with themselves and have a disastrous tendency to subconsciously act out their feelings of self-loathing on other members of the black community. By offering readers multiple examples of this through the viewpoint-shifting narration of events and revelations that led to tremendous character complexity, as suggested in this literary analysis of “The Bluest Eye” Toni Morrison is ultimately engaging her readers in a dialogue about how these characters (not to mention readers themselves) can overcome these hindrances to having a healthy relationship with self-images and interpersonal relationships. In presenting the various modes of escape and retreat into hollow notions of whiteness, Morrison demonstrates how this is a damaging way to work through so many years of being abject and objectified. However, as suggested in this analysis of “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, she does offer a hopeful message about the minor ways in which healing can begin.

Instead of making the plot of “The Bluest Eye” center around events of overt racism or such African American issues in order to address the looming specter of slavery and race, the focus of the book and this analysis of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison presents readers with a more complicated and ultimately deeper portrayal of the effects of racism via an emphasis on the way self-hatred plagues the black characters. In the narrator’s description of how the Breedlove family was ugly, it is stated in one of the important quotes from “The Bluest Eye”, “You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that is came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious and all-knowing master had given each one of them a cloak of ugliness to wear and they had each accepted it without question" (39). What Morrison is stating here is that the feeling of low self-worth after years of being put down is still perpetuating and is resulting in an ugliness that is constantly felt, if not directly seen. More importantly, the narrator suggests that they accept this imposed feeling of ugliness and lack of self-worth without questioning its source and it is this accepting of self-hatred, a hatred that comes form outside the family is one of the biggest problem faced by the family. However, it is not just the family that suffers from this feeling of polarity caused by black self-hatred, it is the entire community; the Breedlove family, while the focus of the story, is but one story among a community of many similar ones. By presenting characters who hate themselves because of what they are told they are, which reinforces racism and the social hierarchy, Morrison attempts to work through what this self-hatred is, where it comes from, and how it has a devastating influence on the lives of people who, while physically free, are still bound by the society that keeps them hating themselves.

By offering different voices of narration and points of view in “the Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, it is gradually revealed that this self-hatred is not because of poverty or hardship, but because of a cyclical and historically-based tendency of white culture to promote its own superiority. Unfortunately, so many of the black characters in the novel and especially those who fare the worst by the end, including the two women members of the Breedlove family, heavily internalize the powerful images of white superiority. As suggested in this analysis of “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, these cultural reinforcements about white superiority act as the “mysterious and all-knowing master" that perpetuates misery among the black community. In this society, white is seen as the only thing worth offering credence, watching, idolizing, and respecting and this is devastating to the black characters in the novel, especially those who are poor and completely unable to live up to the cultural images of white perfection. Pauline is just as a much of a victim of these notions of white superiority as her daughter is although to slightly less tragic ends. Like many other black female characters in the novel who attempt to deny themselves an identity apart from white society and race issues, Pauline greedily devours these messages in culture though film. Of Pauline, the narrator says, “She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look a a face and assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen. (122).

Certainly, the images on the silver screen are those of whites, Clark Gabel and Jean Harlow and Pauline tried to make herself look like Harlow but is crushed when, despite her best efforts at mimicking her hair and grace, her tooth suddenly falls out, reminding her that she is not a beautiful white woman and making her hate herself even more. Of these films, “Pauline kept this order, this beauty, for herself, a private world and never introduced it to her storefront, or to her children. Them she bent toward respectability…" (129). Her self-hatred is enacted on her children and this cycle of violence and self-hatred is perpetuated and is evidenced in situations such as when Pauline chooses to comfort her employer’s white child (who calls her by her name, even when her own children cannot) as opposed to the burned Pecola. Through these passages, Morrison is showing the roots of where these issues of black inferiority in the mind of African Americans stems from and how, because of frustration with being unable to live up to such standards, hatred is born and cycled on husbands and children.