What does Claudia destruction of white baby dolls say about her relationship to the ideal of whiteness? In Toni Morning’s The Bluest Eye, we are presented with ideals of what it is to be black and how it is to be white and how society’s constructions of the ‘ideal’ human affects characters within this novel. Claudia Macerate is a young African-American girl who struggles with these ideas and societies notion of perfection. Claudia battles with her own identity and demonstrates her frustrations and self- hatred in outward behaviors.
Utilizing these themes around identity and idealism we will explore Claudia explosion of emotions in the form of her destroying of the dolls she received as a gift. The event in which Claudia sees this doll looking back at her with “round moronic eyes, the pancake face, and orangeroots hair’ (Morrison 18) strikes as a poignant note from her point of view. This doll that she had received was blonde haired, blue eyed with rosy pink cheeks, but more importantly she was white (Morrison 18).
The doll represented everything that Claudia wished she was but knew she could never be and this bred self-hate within herself. This was channeled into her sister, Fried and directly towards a young white girl they knew, Rosemary Villainous. Claudia direct hate for Rosemary was primarily due to the fact that Rosemary was everything Claudia wanted to be, white. Claudia feelings towards this doll and its representations is captured in this paragraph, “l had only one desire: to dismember it.
To see what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs- all the world ad agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured”. (Morrison 18) Her aggressive behavior can also be seen as a positive personality trait for Claudia. As a young black girl, she recognizes the difficulties she faces beyond the realms of her own family and home.
She recognizes that she is judged because of her color and her opportunities are limited in contrast to the white population. The image of her dismembering the doll can be seen as her frustrations being channeled into an inanimate object that satisfies her resentment towards the white race. It also shows a form of inner strength. It highlights her ability to be able to stand as an individual rather than embracing her oppressed future as a sentence. Claudia has had love in her life in the form of her family and this has allowed her to learn by example.
Her mother is a strong woman and has taught her daughters that regardless of their situation, which often found them very poor and without material possessions, that love, protection, compassion and nationality are all the possessions she will need on her journey to becoming a strong woman. (Morrison 16) Claudia is growing up in a time where civil rights and women movements were on the rise after the initial movements took full flight in the sass’s at the conclusion Of a war time period.
The post- war baby boom meant that by the 1 ass’s the ‘generation of revolution’ (Gillis 1999) were young adults. This prompted an era of change. Claudia referred to dollied icons of the time such as Shirley Temple, to whom she dislikes for her ascetically acceptable perfections and instead found comfort and understanding to Jewish women of the Holocaust and less popular icons such as Jane Withers. This formed the notion that she admired women who rose above adversity to become successfully influential devoid of their imperfections and socially constructed shortcomings.
Claudia feels empathetic towards Pectoral and rather than join the groups of children, and adults alike, making fun of her and calling her ‘ugly’, she feels sad for her. Pectoral represents the oppression and the negative connotations that came tit being African American at that time. Claudia finds that she is surrounded by girls and women who idols celebrities that socially fit the idyllic ‘white’ mould and she finds it her responsibility to reject these socially constructed characters.
In Pectoral she sees abuse and neglect on both a personal and social level. Their community has been taught to embrace what is socially ‘beautiful’, which in essence is white. Whilst the African-American women cannot change their skin color they are influenced to take on traits that are socially desirable which include confidence, elegance and manner as well as dolling the beauty of popular culture icons such as Shirley Temple.
Pectoral is in essence why Claudia is against ‘whiteness<, Pecola longs to have blue eyes and blonde hair and to just 'fit in' to a world she historically will find it difficult to do so. Claudia's rejections of all white associations is a powerful message within the novel. The young girl is socially aware and finds that she does not agree with what she is being expected to idolise and embrace as a black woman. Pecola's longing for those blue eyes contrasts Claudia's societal rejections.
Claudia finds that Pectoral beholds everything she is against and what society has done to Pectoral byway of rejecting her as an individual and labeling her as being ‘ugly’ for rejecting ‘whiteness’. Claudia does not want to conform and therefore builds as an individual that does not long to be “blonde haired, blue eyed with rosy pink cheeks” (18), but a girl of resistance to what has socially been constructed to be expected of her. Claudia outward behavior allows the reader to see that she holds pride, strength, elf-belief, self-worth and intellect at a higher level than material possessions.