Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
One of the most prominent themes found in Toni Morrison’s acutely tragic novel The Bluest Eye is the transferal or redirection of emotions in an effort on the part of the characters to make pain bearable. The most obvious manifestation of that is the existence of race hatred for one’s own race that pervades the story; nearly every character that the narrator spends time with feels at some point a self-loathing as a result of the racism present in 1941 American society. The characters, particularly the adults, have become bitter and hate themselves because of the powerlessness they feel in the situation. They transfer the anger and hatred onto themselves, or at times the others around them, because they must let their emotions out in some way in order to make the pain manageable. Morrison conveys this message even more profoundly with smaller, isolated incidents that illustrate how people redirect and transfer their emotions, and one of the most beautiful and memorable of theses moments is the scene in which Pecola buys candy at a food store.
The scene opens with Pecola walking down the street observing familiar inanimate objects, notably the sidewalk and dandelions growing at the bottom of a telephone pole. She wonders why adults dislike dandelions and “call them weeds” when she views them simply as flowers that are pretty (pg 47). Here Morrison is obviously drawing a parallel between the arbitrary label of an “ugly weed” versus a “flower” and the irrationality of racism. The aversion to dandelions is a social construction in the same way that racial differences are. This analogy also echoes the references to the ugliness of black people as opposed to whites that appear in so many places in the book, such as the scene in which the girls fight with Maureen Peal, who yells at them from across the street, “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos! I am cute!” (pg. 73). Pecola’s affection for the dandelions also tells the reader that she has not yet fully given in to self-loathing under the pressures of racism.
Part of the attraction that Pecola feels towards the flowers derives from the attitude they seem to display – bright and happy despite their low status in the flora hierarchy. She identifies a certain threatening aspect of them when she supposes that “Nobody loves the head of a dandelion… because they are so many, strong, and soon” (pg. 47). There is a resilience and perhaps a defiance in these weeds that people, according to Pecola, sense and therefore try to eradicate from their yards. Here she brings up another recurring issue of the novel: the contrast between the views of young people and those of adults. Claudia even more so than Pecola has also not yet succumbed to the cycle of race hatred that has consumed the adults of the book and even her older sister. This trend is worked into the dandelion analogy in that it is the adults who despise the dandelions, who “go into...