Toni Morrison shines light to the negative psychological effects of beauty standards in our society through the character, Pecola, in the Bluest Eyes. Morrison experienced first-hand the negative effects of it when her friend in elementary school was discontent with her appearance because she did not have blue eyes. Morrison tried to visualize her friend, who was black, with blue eyes, and was mortified. That moment impacted Morrison’s life so deeply that she ended up writing about it in her first novel, The Bluest Eyes. Pecola represents Morrison’s friend who wanted blue eyes. In the first section of the novel, readers learn about Pecola’s obsession to be white when she has a long conversation with Frieda about Shirley Temple’s cuteness. Pecola becomes so consume with thoughts of being white that it distorts her view completely to the point where she believes she can actually get blue eyes. Tragically in the end she convinces herself that she has blue eyes and she finally accepts her appearance.
Morrison’s personality is seen through the character, Claudia, in the beginning of the novel where she states that she could not see why so many people were infatuated with Shirley Temple. Claudia recounts once receiving a big baby doll with blue eyes for Christmas, and resenting it. Claudia says, “I was physically revolted by and secretly frightened of those round moronic eyes, the pancake face, and orangeworms hair.”(21) Claudia felt alienated by the doll because she was black and the baby doll was white. She felt it was unrealistic for her to pretend to be the baby’s mother since they did not look alike. Claudia begins to realize that the image of blonde hair and blue eyes is supposed to be the standard of beauty, but she is offended by that idea because it does not represent her appearance. When Claudia states that she likes Jane Withers, instead of Shirley Temples, Frieda and Pecola thinks she is “incomprehensible”. Jane Wither’s character represents one who does not like Shirley Temple in the TV show. Claudia did not accept the beauty standards of her society because it was exclusively attributed to one race. Morrison shows through Pecola that if one does not accept their unique beauty then they will never be happy. JA