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Power is the ability to overcome and influence the behavior towards an internal personal struggle. Stereotypes are the oversimplified idea of a specific gender, class, or race. A demonstration of the aspect of power in the female protagonists can be found in Toni Morrison’s novels, The Bluest Eye, and Beloved. The Bluest Eye is set in the early 1940’s in the state of Ohio, before the American Civil War, where Claudia MacTeer narrates the fight of the black community’s idealization of white beauty standards. Cholly rapes his 13-year-old daughter Pecola which forces Pauline, the mother, to make the choice of a husband or her daughter. Beloved takes place just after the American Civil War and is inspired by the escape of Margaret Garner, a slave from Kentucky. The main character Sethe devotes her life to her kids; first by escaping slavery, and then keeping her two daughters and two sons safe which causes her to kill her youngest daughter to avoid being recaptured by the slave owner. The female protagonists obtain power by overcoming the negative stereotypes of women in the 1940’s and 1960’s, through the external resolution of conflict, the positive family values of the main female characters, and the negative portrayal of the emotional traits of the women.
The Bluest Eye and Beloved shows the female protagonists obtaining power by overcoming the negative stereotypes of the women in the 1940’s and 1960’s; because of the way the Mothers resolve the external conflict of being enslaved by power-hungry males. In The Bluest Eye, after Cholly rapes his daughter, it forces conflict on Pauline by making her choose between her husband or her daughter, “The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her… trying to connect the pain between her legs with the face of her mother looming over her” (Morrison 163). Cholly’s failure to control his behavior forces his wife, Pauline, to choose a side. Pauline goes against the stereotype of women by choosing to believe her daughter’s word instead of going with the man that supports her financially.
In Shubhankar Kochar’s essay “Chapter 2: Treatment of violence in The Bluest Eye” discusses how the men belittle the women which makes women search for power to overcome the negative stereotype the men have of them: The novel also unfolds how a few individuals direct their anger and frustration at others who are below them in status and power because they cannot raise their voice against their exploiters who are in any case superior to them. (Kochar 4) This demonstrates the power of the females because when they are facing conflict it forces them to stand up and gain power over the males that are socially above them. Similarly, in Beloved Sethe brings freedom to her family by escaping slavery and Sethe thinks to herself, “I did it. I got us all out. Without Halle too. Up until then it was the only thing I ever did on my own”(Morrison 190).
Sethe fights the conflict of going against the men enslaving her and her family, but, when the men track her down and are threatening her family, she makes the harsh decision to send herself to jail and her kids to child care by slitting the throat of her youngest daughter. In both cases, the mother’s overcome the external conflict of the males that are controlling their lives by Pauline disowning her husband for his negative actions, and by Sethe escaping the slavery to the white men, by doing this they also overcome the negative stereotype of women being weak. The female protagonists positive family values help to defeat the negative stereotype of women because they choose their family over a house and income. The positive values the main female protagonists have for their families help them obtain the power to overcome the negative stereotype of women. When the children are in danger it forces the mothers in Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye and Beloved to act at the moment which breaks the stereotype. In The Bluest Eye Pauline beats her children whenever they are acting out, however, when it comes to someone else abusing her children she stands up for them as proven through her value of loyalty. The narrator describes Pauline’s love as odd, however, she stays loyal to the ones she does love, “She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit”(Morrison 44).
In the 1940s women are supposed to be loyal to their spouses but in this case, she is more loyal to her offspring and kicks Cholly out of the house. Comparably, in Beloved Sethe forces her way out of slavery by running away from Sweet Home with her family. Sethe gets into an argument with Stamp Paid after he says: “‘Your love is too thick, they then go on to say’ ‘ Too thick? Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.’ ‘Yeah. it didn’t work did it… Your boys went you don’t know where. One girl dead, the other won’t leave the yard. How did it work?’ ‘They ain’t at Sweet Home. Schoolteacher ain’t got em.’” (Morrison 194)Sethe breaks the stereotype of the females in the 1960s by bringing her family to freedom and leaving her slave owner.
In Kochar’s critical essay Chapter 4: Conclusion he says: In fact, [violence] presents a series of cause and effect that creates a nice chain of interrelated incidents. For example, it presents how the families are disintegrated when violence is unleashed on its members. In The Bluest Eye, one comes across the Breedlove family that is disintegrated because of the violence that Cholly, the head of the family, directs on his own family members. Similarly, in Beloved, one comes across not one but many families that get disintegrated because of the cruel treatment of the white. The members of black families were auctioned away from each other for lucrative gains. For example, seven children of Baby Suggs were taken away from her. (Kochar para. 4)Throughout both novels, families disintegrate, however, the mothers of both families made difficult decisions that end up benefiting the children more than anyone else. Motherly instinct is what keeps both of the female protagonists loyal to their children and help them obtain the strength to overcome the negative stereotype of women. The undisciplined emotional traits help the female protagonists to obtain the power to overcome the negative stereotypes of women in the late 1900s by absorbing the negative abuse from the males that are above them in society until a point and then punishing them. In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Cholly directs his hate for the white men that watched him have sex for his first time towards his wife Pauline. Morrison writes, “He hated her. He almost wished he could do it – hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much.” (3.8.52). Pauline allows Cholly to abuse her and their children until Cholly rapes their daughter which causes Pauline’s undisciplined traits to beat him and kick him out of the house.
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