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orchestrate the plot such that the characters are forced to make crucial decisions regarding their most centrally held values and beliefs; whichever action a specific character chooses serves to inform the audience as to what type of individual he or she is. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the motif of abuse, in particular, occurs in tales throughout history; but also, considering each story's social context allows for insight into these singular characterizations, as well as, a better grasp of the underlying values permeating their settings. Through the characters in The Bluest Eye and Bastard out of Carolina their particular moral settings become clear, and the similarities seem to span many of the divides of race. Centrally, the key issues in both novels seem to be poverty, oppression, and their emotional consequences; in other words, the themes within The Bluest Eye and Bastard out of Carolina are similar mostly because the characters within the two tales are under the same sort of pressures, and they handle them in the same ways.
Obviously, the two characters that draw the most parallels are Pecola and Bone -- the protagonists of both stories. Both are very young girls when the novels begin, and both initially find some level of comfort in the female characters that surround them. However, as young and impressionable girls, their lives are forever altered by those around them; they believe, from the very beginning, that they have been forever attached to a social stigma. Bone declares, "There I was -- certified a bastard of South Carolina." (Allison, 3). She is certified in that her birth certificate clearly states that she is an illegitimate child of her mother, Anney Boatwright. Not only does this have the practical consequence of Bone never knowing who her father is, but it carries the emotional consequence that she must also feel like a second rate individual as a result of her parent's actions.
Similarly, one of the first features of Pecola's personality that Morrison reveals to the reader is that she loves Shirley Temple; this is mainly for the fact that she thinks she is beautiful, and she believes Temple is beautiful because she is white. This generates an immediate contrast between what Pecola perceives beauty to be, and what she is herself. Pecola Breedlove is a black girl in a society that values whiteness; additionally, the fact that she has a relatively dark complexion, even among other blacks, fills her with even more personal shame since occasionally makes her the object of ridicule from lighter-skinned children. So, out of this personal context, Pecola's objective within the first portion of the novel is to somehow make people love her despite what she believes to be her innate ugliness.
Morrison writes, "It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights -- if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different." (Morrison, 45). This is the idea behind the title of the story; but Pecola's desire for her eyes to be beautiful or, more specifically, blue extends beyond merely the notion that blue is good and brown is somehow bad. Pecola's belief that her life would somehow be better if her eyes were blue is somewhat more philosophical: she thinks that if her eyes were beautiful, then the things she could see through them would be more beautiful as well. In this way, her dream is to somehow transform the world around her and the people that occupy her life into something more attractive or easily loved.
Essentially, both Bone and Pecola believe that there is something wrong with them that was bestowed upon them at birth: Pecola is black and Bone is a bastard. The key aspect of the situations that each character finds herself in is that the difficulties that characterize their lives are almost entirely out of their hands. After all, they are children, and as a result they are almost entirely at the mercy of the people around them. Accordingly, the most glaring similarity between Pecola and Bone can really be seen as a consequence of the similar circumstances of their lives -- they are both victims of sexual abuse. This abuse comes at the hands of their father figures, and both Daddy Glen and Cholly Breedlove find themselves in similar social positions and have difficulty reconciling the men they are with the men they want to be.
Daddy Glen, for example, lives under the shadow of his other brothers. Perhaps this may not have been such a detrimental situation, if his father did not habitually remind him of his utter failure as a man. Daddy Glen cannot ever leave the company of his father "before his father [has] delivered his lecture on all the things Glen had done wrong in his long life of failure and disappointment" (Allison, 99). The level of depression and disappointment that Daddy Glen feels as a result of his inability to measure up to his father or brothers manifests itself in a number of ways. First, it can be seen as one of the contributing factors to his alcoholism. Second, Daddy Glen's peculiar relationship with Anney seems to be another way in which he deals with his failure as a man. He is wholly dependent upon her for the small level of self-worth that he maintains; as a result, he is violently possessive of her under the guise of love. And third, Daddy Glen's dissatisfaction with himself and his life is the central motivation for his sexual abuse of Bone. Essentially, Bone, Anney and alcohol become the main modes of escape for Daddy Glen out of the context of his detestable life.
Cholly experiences analogous feelings of depression and worthlessness, though largely a result of his race, also as a result of poverty and presumed failure. He is a rootless man both in an emotional sense and because he lacks strong family ties. Not only was Cholly abandoned as a child in a junk heap, but when he sought out his father later in life he was rebuffed. The only person who showed him any care as a child was his great aunt, who raised him; however she died when Cholly was a young teenager. Cholly also experienced sexual humiliation at the hands of whites who caught him having sex for the first time. The white men forced him to finish as they watched; thus, forever associating sex with shame for Cholly. So, although Cholly perceived himself to be free to have sex, drink, and be violent, he can never freely love or be loved as he truly wishes. Consequently, when Cholly returns home one day to find Pecola doing dishes, he rapes her out of conflicting emotions. Simply put, he wants to satiate his anger while simultaneously wanting to be closer to Pecola or understand her. Clearly, his act of rape accomplishes neither of these goals, and magnifies his daughter's already substantial shame.
Yet another similarity between the circumstances that Pecola and Bone must endure is the way their mothers handle the abuse they are dealt. Anney seems to be aware of the fact that Daddy Glen is abusing her daughter, but looks the other way. Similarly, Pauline refuses to believe that Cholly raped her and violently punishes her for lying. They key point of conflict within Bastard out of Carolina is Anney's struggle to love both her daughter and Daddy Glen. Ultimately, this grows out of the shame that Daddy Glen makes Bone feel for being abused; since she is so young when it first occurs, she cannot understand that it is not her fault. Bone believes that she has somehow brought this pain upon herself. Additionally, Anney somehow feels…[continue]
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