Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog


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Socially Crippled Geraldine

“Get out,” she said, her voice quiet. “You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house (92)”. This is quoting the desperate housewife of  The Bluest Eye, Geraldine. I am fine with calling this character the most socially crippled in the novel thus far, seeing that she is blinded and brainwashed in her own perception of the classes of Blacks. She herself, being one of  “these sugar-brown Mobile girls” (82) the kind that “go to land-grant colleges and normal schools, and never seem to have boyfriends, but always marry (83).”  Geraldine had birthed a son, in her cozy little house, where she met all the demands of a housewife that took charge of her home. “She had explained to him to the difference between colored people and niggers,” she would not allow her son to even play with these niggers. But oh, wait a minute, was she somehow exempt from the classification of Black? No, she knew she was of the Black race, but she was of the highest classification of the Black race. Little girls like Pecola Breedlove, a very dark Black girl, with noticeably worn out clothing didn’t stand a chance being respected by a woman like Geraldine, a colored woman, but not one “who knew nothing of girdles” “settling like a fly” with all the other niggers. No, no, no, Geraldine and her husband and little boy were nothing of the sort.

 

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Oh, the Irony!

Wow, is all I had to say for a while when I had reached the end of The Street. The novel, and all of its components (characters, their perspectives, the environment) gripped me all throughout the reading. I just couldn’t wait to get to the end and see at least some justice served to Lutie, some good dream come true, some silver lining- but that was far from happening. Lutie’s last action of defiance for her story was that of murder, and murder of a figure that she never really had a prominent hatred for. Sure, she couldn’t stand being a sex symbol in the ghetto, subject to the lust and “animal” desires of the men around her, but Boots really didn’t represent what she hated in the world, and she knew this. He just happened to be the last straw on top of her haystack of oppression and angst. What was horrible, was to see that by the time she accidentally killed Boots Smith, she reasoned with her past thoughts and experiences since she was a child and concluded that she was already headed in a “one way” direction. She was born into an oppressed life, struggled to try and change it since she became an adult, found some happiness but it was not enough to make her happy, and her “good enough” was never going to be enough to help her son through life. She figured he would be better off without her, and after all that energy to try and make things decent for him, after all the motivation he gave her to try and reach some of her standards of a prosperous life, she had to justify that his life would have to do without her. What he actually needed the most, the reason he got into trouble, and the only person who could ever truly protect him and his development, was his mother. He would now have to do without, and this loss, in all actuality is what will make him another piece of “the street,and streets like this one” from here on. Lutie was still the hero of this novel, even being a murderer and victim of insanity due to her social status, but I couldn’t think that anymore once she left Bub to fend for himself. It hurt to end this story in this way, but I also couldn’t help understanding Lutie’s feeling of being doomed, she had every right, with her life experiences thus far, to feel like she had been heading down a one-way trip the whole time.


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Wanting What One Does Not Have

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. –Epicurus

One of man’s greatest flaws is coveting the life that he cannot have. Man has perfected this flaw to the point that he spends his whole life, bargaining his money and treasures for his intangible dream. I have always wanted curly hair but no matter how much hairspray I use or how long I leave curlers in, it remains straight. Fortunately, I have not done enough to damage my hair, but the constant use of straighteners and curlers that other girls use to will eventually dry the hair out. I have come to terms that no matter what I do my hair will always be straight.

On a much grander scale and with deeper consequences, Pecola’s mother, Pauline Breedlove is on a fast track to damaging her family because she so deeply “wants other women to cast favorable glances her way”(118). The picture movies that she admired in her younger years trained her “to look at a face and assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty” (122). Pauline becomes so obsessed with beauty that nothing of her own can satisfy her; not even her own child. She believes that the family she works for has everything she needs and wants because “[there] she found beauty, order, cleanliness and praise” (127). She pours all her energy into the Fisher family and “[neglects] her house, her children, her man” who then become merely “afterthoughts one has just before sleep” (127). It is no wonder that Pecola prays every night for blue eyes because she watches her mother adore “the little pink-and-yellow girl,” tenderly wiping away her tears and fears and speaking in soft and soothing tones (109). I think that Mrs. Breedlove will lose Pecola in some way and then she will be left without a daughter because the Fisher daughter will never be hers.


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Comparisons to Popular Culture (Re: The Dick and Jane Primer)

I think my favourite part about this novel is the way Morrison structures it in regards to the Dick and Jane primer book. The fact that many of the chapters take after a different section of the primer story – the description of the house follows the lines about the house, and the same with Pauline and Cholly following the lines about “Mother” and “Father” – is so striking. I think it does an amazing job of driving home not only the difference between Pecola’s home life and the popular culture to which she would be exposed (in the form of the books in school that teach her to read), but also delivers a message about the cultural norm of a “desirable” home life and how it differs from the lives of all of the major characters.


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What if??

The scene in the grocery store really upset me. Probably because I have this extremely naive image I have all minorities banding together to fight oppression. However, the only think I kept thinking about was what if instead of Pecola, it was Claudia or Maurine Peel. I feel like it would have been different for both of them. I think that Pecola is the embodiment of black discrimination. She has been forced to carry the injustice of being “inferior”. And therefore, any relationship or contact with other people will always be different than with most… more painful.


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Geraldine

The section in The Bluest Eye where we get Geraldine’s point of view (pp. 81-93 in my book) gave me a lot of trouble. I think for multiple reasons, I always viewed race as race. You could be either black, white, brown, etc. The distinction in the section between types of Black people (similar to the powhitetrash vs. whites in Angelou) specifically into categories called “colored people” and “niggers” is, and I think uncoincidentally in this book, the exact kind of racism that makes Pecola wish she had blue eyes, the same kind that makes Claudia hate white girls, and the same kind that makes white people better than colored people in the book. It almost seems like Geraldine betrayed her race. Can we blame her for that, or is it a survival mechanism?


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Lightness, beauty, and wealth

With the introduction of the character Maureen, it is interesting how her light skin is associated with wealth, thus reinforcing, while at the same time intersecting with class status. Though she is not white, she is light-skinned, and therefore she is of better means than those with darker skin. She is also treated differently too, as seen in Frieda and Claudia fighting with the boys. It’s almost mathematic how the lighter you are, the more respectable you seem. It seems to me like a direct correlation, not surprisingly.

Her presence not only brings up this association between lightness and wealth, but also the post-pubescent black girl. She is uninterested in Claudia and Frieda, yet bombards the now menstruating Pecola with sexually fraught questions. Though not restricted to black culture, this kind of alienation that Claudia begins to feel by Maureen is important because it reiterates her feelings of ugliness and insecurity by social exclusion. This thought is then confirmed in her mind when Maureen calls her and Frieda black and ugly. Every young girl goes through this stage when they just want to be a woman already, but the difference with Claudia is that she has a preexisting struggle associated with her race and appearance that make her feel unseemly and not pretty, and unable to be a woman because of that. The fact that her fear of ugliness is declared by a light-skinned girl hits deeper than simply being excluded from the “big girls” club.