The Bluest Eye and the spiral of abuse

“The bluest eye” depicts a patriarchal society, that of the black south, in the forties. One of the protagonist families moves up North in order to increase their probabilities of having a better life after the Great War. The prospects in the South were not hopeful, but those they encounter up North are not what they had first expected either. Mr. and Mrs. Breedlove come across difficulties, due to the clash between societal habits in the North and South, but this fact is much more noticeable by Pauline Breedlove, as she has developed a strong dependence on her husband and finds it harder to adapt to their new environment. She depends on him emotionally and economically, until she decides to work. They start having violent fights and finally their relationship deteriorates until eventually she becomes fully responsible for work and money, while her husband becomes a drunkard layabout. When they arrive at Lorain, Ohio, she feels lonely, dependent and useless, and she is despised for it. When she starts working, she keeps on being abused by other coloured women (for being ugly, for not straightening her hair, for her manners), by the whites and at home. She becomes just a beast of burden that produces money, sexual relief and absorbs all her husband’s complaints and resentment about his past experiences, and his meaningless present.

Gipsy girl with child by Modigliani (copy)We encounter concentric circles of dependence and abuse in “The bluest eye”, the outer being constituted by being black in a white ruling society, then the one resulted from the tense relationship between southern blacks and northern coloured people. Another circle holds men’s frustration due to all all the above pressures which are in turn projected on women in the shape of violence, contempt, hostility and hatred, the same feelings they get from their surrounding context.

The inner circle of subservience is that constituted by little girls. Little boys are abused as well, as can be derived from Cholly’s experience or by the image of Sammy being beaten up by his mother in order to release her own pressure as a woman abused by men, society and the whites. However it is even more noticeable in the case of girls, who are subjected to abuse as children and as women. Pecola is turned into the object of everybody’s contempt and hostility (except for the group of whores), even other children’s. Finally, she is raped and impregnated by her own father, which is the culmination of all subordination and reification of women.