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Love can hold us captive, chain us down and make us slaves to its cruel ways, blinding us from all judgement. The human condition of love can be expressed as a strong affection for another arising out of kinship, enthusiasm, or devotion to another human being. Love is universal and can exists in relationships like parent and child, husband and wife, and various other forms. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye exemplifies that love is too complex to be considered positive or negative. Like all things in life it too can have a dark side, though on the surface it is normally associated with joy, happiness, fulfillment. For some the love can fade away while for others it the unbreakable bond that keeps people together.
The human condition of love, makes its way into our lives the second we take our first breath. Children are exposed to it from the very start and that love forms a bond between child and parent. As we grow older and form new relationship, that between siblings, friends, eventually making its way to finding a spouse and children of our own, love is what forms those bonds. If it is present in a positive manner, that is what children absorb, but on the other hand if it emmetts feelings of hate and anger, that’s what the child’s perception of love becomes. Self love, goes hand in hand with self perception. If one cannot have self love it’s hard to even think about the love associated with other people. In the Bluest eye, dissecting the love in the Breedlove family is very complicated. Mr. and Mrs. Breedlove are two people who have baggage from the past which has not been buried, not allowing them to be mature adults with the understanding of how their decisions impact their children. People often forget that love has to start with the one who is most important; you. Morrison shows through the Breedlove family that self-love is concept that is unfamiliar.
Pecola Breedlove, comes from a family where poverty envelops them in shame, and being defined as “ugly” has forced them to accept their defect. The Breedloves find the confinement of their poverty distressing, frustrating, and oftentimes infuriating. Pecola is described as being the “ugliest” of them all. Pecola’s self-perceived ugliness and lack of self- love allows her to identify with the cracked sidewalk and the dandelions, which are things considered ugly by others. “Why, she wonders do people call them weeds” she thought they were pretty”. (Morrison pg. 47). Pecola does not see the dandelions as ugly, which introduces the idea that beauty might be a matter of one’s perception, not something inherent in the object being looked at. Pecola is able to find beauty in everything except herself. Morrison shows how innocent and naive Pecola is. Pecola blames herself for all the problems around her. As an innocent child Pecola starts to believe having blue eyes would be the solution to all the evil around her. Unfortunately, Pecola’s obsession with the standards of beauty keeps her from realizing this about herself.
Another bond created by love in society is that between a husband and wife which is built on the foundations of loyalty, honestly, care, and support. In The Bluest Eye Morrison shows the side of love usually not talked about. Pauline and Cholly Breedlove, a couple who had once been struck by cupids arrow, but would soon fall out of the love spell they were under. “She was secure and grateful; he was kind and lively. She had not known there was so much laughter in the world”. (Morrison pg 116). Morrison paints a vivid picture of how Cholly was Pauline savior. Pauline’s self-perceived sense of ugliness begins with her disabled foot, which leads to a sense of separation form her family and feeling of worthlessness. As a black woman, Mrs. Breedlove searched desperately for a sense of self-worth and meaning for her life. It is only through her relationship with Mr. Breedlove that she gains these things. Pauline fantasized about a figure, a (prince charming) who would heal her disabled foot and allow her to escape her ugliness and worthlessness. This indicates her innocence at the time and lack of self-love.
The love between child and parent is very complicated in The Bluest Eye. The Macteer family they represent a middle class family of slaves, who had to work very hard, but kept family roles in place. An idealistic picture perfect family of a protective father, a caring mother who showed harsh love and sisters who sticked together especially when fists needed to be thrown. “ My mothers anger humiliates me; her words chafe my cheeks, and i am crying. I do not know that she is not know that she is not angry at me, but at my sickness.” (Morrison pg. 11) During Claudia’s illness, she was treated with a mixture of concern and anger. Although Claudia was scolded and her mother complains of cleaning her vomit, at the same time her mother is nursing her, giving her medicine, and checking on her throughout the night. Claudia discovers later that her mother’s anger is not directed at her, but at the world, as she must raise her black family in a world ruled by white culture. She protects her children and equips them for survival in a hostile environment. The mother/daughter relationship between Mrs. MacTeer and her two daughters, Claudia and Frieda, was loving and strong. They were taught their own self-worth through their mother’s strength and is an example of love from the parents. Morrison talked about the Macteer family in order to show that even though they didn’t have much, they had values that kept the household strong. For the Macteer family meant unity, no matter how hard the struggle was. Pecola was able to find love in their house rather than her own.
The Breedlove’s is where the whole idea of love behind family is tarnished. “ That old Dog Breedlove had burned up his house, gone upside his wife’s head, and everybody as a result was outdoors.” (Morrison pg. 16). the Breedlove family upheld everything a family should not be. Little Pecola Breedlove, eleven years old, was brought up in such a family and found all things evil, especially in the form of her father. How could love exist from a father who can commit such a heinous act as rape? Chollys parents abandoned him when he was born. Cholly has never had a sense of home and family, which sheds light on his inability to be a father. Even after Aunt Jimmy rescues him, he lives in a dysfunctional situation, where he lacks a father figure. Aunt Jimmy genuinely cared for him, but he still had difficulty connecting to her as a real parent. As a child he thought that “when she made him sleep with her for warmth in winter and he could see her old wrinkled breasts sagging in her nightgown…then he wondered whether it would have been just as well to have died” (Morrison pg.132). If Cholly really saw her as a legitimate parent, then he would enjoy sharing a bed with her in winter. Aunt Jimmy attempts to change Cholly’s future by naming him after her brother, (a moral man,) and severing his connection to his father. Aunt Jimmy passed away when he was still young, and he had desperately longed for a sense of home and family, which provokes his desire to know his father’s name.
Upon meeting his father, he was asked whose child he was and where he came from, to which Cholly responded “No, sir, I’m….. “ Cholly blinked. He could not remember his mother’s name. Had he ever known it?” (Morrison pg. 156). Cholly’s inability to remember his mother’s name, shows the deep absence of family in his’ life. When Cholly is rejected by his own father, he tries to make himself disappear. He is so devastated at being turned away by his father that he soils himself. This causes him to run away because “his father would surely emerge and see him and laugh. Oh, Lord. He would laugh… there was only one thing to do” (Morrison pg. 157). Cholly runs away under a pier and he crouches “In the fetal position, paralyzed, his fists covering his eyes, for a long time. No sound, no sight, only darkness” (Morrison pg.157). This was the breaking point for Cholly. This deprivation of family love made Cholly feel a loss of identity and began feeling like he was worthless affected his psychological being. The darkness that he witnessed stayed with him into adulthood.
Cholly was a broken man and was sent into the adult world with so little to prepare him for interpersonal relations. For every girl, her first love in man is her dad. A girl subconsciously looks for the characteristics present in a man who had the share the same characteristics as her father. When men become fathers that’s when they change. No matter how rough and tough they are for everyone else in the world, they are always trying to protect their little girls from harm. Father’s will do anything to protect their girls. They also have a tendency of believing that their little girls will always be little, even if their 30. Girls have a special bond with their fathers. Cholly does not represent the definition of a father, and this is the only time in the book where it’s clear that love clearly has a negative component. Cholly raping his own daughter in The Bluest Eye showcases his hatred towards women. Pecola’s rape is centered on Cholly’s hate for his past, but also has to do with “Cholly’s disgust for the female body” (Morrison pg. 195). Cholly remembers his experiences with Darlene, and the hate that he felt towards his first lover after he was humiliated by white men who saw him during the act. The men being white, made Cholly feel like even if he was angry at them, it wouldn’t affect anyone because either way they were more superior. But Darlene, a black girl; it was easier to be mad at her, making Cholly feel superior.
Cholly is only able to express his appreciation for the female body through sex. Cholly does not have sex with Darlene because he hates her women. In fact he liked her at first, but he is expressing his affection for her the only way he knows how, and that is through anger. Cholly hates that Pecola embodies his hopeless past. The darkness of his past is present here when Cholly demonstrates his internal struggle when “ The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her” (Morrison pg.163). He meets these feelings in the middle when he leaves her on the kitchen floor covered by a blanket. Putting that blanket over Pecola shows how he is passing on that “brokenness” onto her and almost as if passing on this cycle of of neglect continues through generations, being passed on from Chollys parents.
Morrisons’ character Pecola was intentionally portrayed as a young girl who was so innocent and naive because innocence cannot protect you from evil, if anything it lures it is. It lured in a man, whose bond is supposed to be the thickest, that of a father and daughter. Cholly’s perception of what love should be like will now be carried with Pecola, making her feel that this sort of love is acceptable. From a broken man, he has now broken something as fragile as his little girl. Through The Bluest Eye Morrison explores complexity of love to be considered positive or negative. It is whatever people are exposed to, that can be carried with them for a lifetime affecting how they perceive it, creating a cycle.
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