Bluest Eye Mary Jane -- Term Paper

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She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness.... Phlegm and impatience mingle in his voice. (Morrison 49) but Pecola endures this discomfort and rejection, not so she can establish her empowered Blackness as a consumer, but so she can purchase candy. The candy is not to satisfy her bodily, physical sexual or even stomach's appetite. Rather, it is merely so she may consumer and own, for a time Mary Jane's "Smiling white face. Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue eyes looking at her out of a world of clean comfort. The eyes are petulant, mischievous. To Pecola they are simply pretty. She eats the candy, and its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane." (Morrison 50).

Consuming, in this capitalist world that Pecola must suffer, however unknowing, is simultaneous although not quite as good as 'being' the thing, the Whiteness one consumes -- so this passage poignantly suggests. Repeatedly through the first section of the Bluest Eye, entitled "Autumn and Winter," Pecola is seen consuming things, in a futile attempt to be 'someone,' that is to be part of a white mass culture and escape the unloving confines of her impoverished and rejecting environment. The consumption of Mary Jane and her blue eyes recalls another early passage of the novel where Pecola commits the small childish crime, which is quite economically significant in the cash-strapped Breedlove household, of consuming all of the milk in the refrigerator. Pecola does so, however, not out of hunger, but because she adores the sight of Shirley Temple on the Shirley Temple milk cup.

Thus, Pecola's hunger is never expressed in terms of her bodily needs and desires. Rather, the expression of her hunger is expressed in the consumption of the consumer goods of the world around her, goods that do not reflect the girl's real physical needs and true appetites. Beside her in her bed at night, the narrator Claudia seethes not only at her sister's crime of drinking all of the milk, but at Shirley Temple herself. Claudia resents Shirley's ability to dance on the screen with a Black man, Mr. Bill Robinson, yet represent all of the privileges of whiteness as well as have his comforting, fatherly Blackness so lacking in the real world of the Breedlove household.

Morrison wrote her novel in 1970, but the divide between the real and the false worlds of life and film is sharply expressed in terms of identity, that still resonates today. The lack of affection these Black girls receive from the depressed and impoverished parents of their world, in contrast to Shirley Temple on the screen, makes their envy of the White girl's beauty doubly poignant, and also highlights that what individuals expect from mass culture -- either to be a part of it through mimicking it, like Pecola, or wishing to insert one's self in Shirley's place like Claudia -- does not satisfy the real appetite for identity such longing expresses. Rather than smothering one's hunger in consumption, one must seek satisfaction from more culturally validating images.

The central significance of Shirley Temple in the Depression Era world lastly underlines how beauty and the consumption of beauty is not something of importance only to Black, fully sexualized women, but even to young girls -- both then, and now. As young White girls become commodities and to a certain extent, sexualized in the beauty of their representation on cups and candy bars, Black girls must early on deal with the pain of being not beautiful like a white girl, like Shirley Temple (and perhaps, one might add, like Brittany Spears or other White-manufactured idols and commodities for consumption today). Even though Shirley Temple is not real, she is still admired by young and old, by blacks and whites. She is admired like the hard white baby dolls with shiny blue eyes that Black girls are supposed to love and adore, even though they bear no resemblance to their own physical reality. If Black girls, Morrison's novel finally asks, cannot even escape the tyranny of the Bluest Eye, when eating candy, candy which is hard won with pennies they have saved, where can they escape?

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York:…[continue]

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