Essentially, there is a line dividing the realm of literal and figurative language. Interpreting in a literal manner, in The Bluest Eye, Morrison is only talking about a house saying in her train of thought, “Here is the house” (Morrison1). She describes the house, where the ideal Dick-and-Jane family lives. However, the houses not only signify a home but also a socioeconomic status. One can see much of whom a person is, observing the simple details of the way it is kept and the decorations bordering it. It can be thought as the royal road to the emotions, situations, and sometimes values of the people living in them. You can even deduce how they feel about themselves and their lives, by the standards of living they keep. A person can live for years and years in a single house where it becomes their home, decorating it and enriching it over the years. One can think of the common saying “Home is where the heart is”. Your home is where you feel comfortable, where the things you love and cherish are found. They spend their free time in this house. They go through life changing events and creation of memories, good and bad. For instance, In The Color Purple we see the progression of difficulties Celie faces in each home, until finally, Alphonso dies, and she returns.
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Moreover, the issues of rape and patriarchal dominance are touched upon in both novels. Symbols are implemented dealing with many aspects of these women’s lives in dealing with the rape, maybe beating, and subordination. “We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow. (Morrison 3,192)” In The Bluest Eye, Cholly had impregnated Pecola. Many of the people looked down upon them, judged them, and did not even care for the baby not showing a single sign of sympathy. At the sight of this, Frieda and Claudia make an offer to God, giving Him their money and seeds for the baby’s well-being. The marigolds are symbolic of the well-being of the baby that Pecola was having. After being raped by her father, and beaten by her mother, there was very little hope of baby would live. Everyone was judging and no one cared the slightest bit for the baby. They plant the seeds and say, “when they come up, we’ll know everything is all right” (Morrison). Many people believe in offering things to God. They thought praying would not be enough, and offered Him something so He would know they were serious. This can also show how they cared for Pecola and she was truly their friend despite everything that happened. They did not judge her or look down upon her but hoped for the best and prayed for her. Just like marigolds growing from small seeds, we see the innocence of Pecola should be growing just like the marigolds, but because of her father raping her and pervert ways have halted her innocence, just as the marigolds did not grow.
Importantly, the God often regarded as Omni-present, makes an appearance in both novels. Soaphead Church talks to God, writing him a letter, after a young girl, Pecola, whom he thought was ugly, came to him pleading for blue eyes. An impossible thing he wished he could actually accomplish. He says “Dear God: The purpose of this letter is to familiarize you with facts which either have escaped your notice, or which you have chosen to ignore” (Morrison177). We see his perversion progress and see how he is talking to God about all the things he is doing wrong. He says he had never wanted to complete someone’s wish as bad as he wanted to make Pecola’s impossible one true. People ask preachers and God for things that may be impossible. They have strong conviction that if they frequently pray hard enough, it eventually becomes true.
Notably, the use of colors as symbols is evident from the titles, The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple. They are repeatedly utilized in descriptions. “All the world had agreed that blue-eyed, yellow-hairedâ€¦..doll was what every girl treasured” (Morrison20). Morrison talks about their dislike of the dolls and Shirley Temple. The narrator ponders over the way the adults automatically assume their daughters want these perfect looking dolls. She also faces the struggle of black girls against white “blue-eyed, yellow-haired” girls in this society. The symbolic title of The Bluest Eye and the continuing “blue eyes” reference show the struggle for perfection. Throughout the book, we see how these eyes among other characteristics symbolize appealing perfection. Some characters wish, and plead to have blue eyes. It can represent the beauty and happiness associated with the white class; the generic stereotype many people had, and still have today. In the time of racism and segregation, many young girls have to endure the struggle against these views where they were not seen as equals or even similar. In the title, the “eye” is kept singular although everyone has two eyes. This can also symbolize the isolation the character felt, for not having these blue eyes and for pleading and desperately wishing they had them.
A further example of the implementation of colors and social treatment is stated when Morrison says, “There was a hint of spring in her sloe green eyes, something summery in her complexionâ€¦” (Morrison63). She begins describing a new girl whom everyone in a way respects. She has a feeling of superiority evident through her mannerisms and dressing. Her green eyes signify a unique beauty since unique colored eyes, blue or green, illustrate a beauty the brown eyes cannot obtain. She walks with a spring in her step obtained from being of higher class and having more privileges. Unique characteristics are often regarded as better because of the complexion that not many people have. We see how Pecola pleads for blue eyes, thinking it was the only way for beauty and happiness. However, the same girl also had been born with six fingers yet everyone disregarded the small deformity because of everything else.
Comparing and Contrasting
In essence, Celie’s stepfather takes credit as their father because he wants to inherit her mother’s house, an important symbol in of well being and ownership. In The Bluest Eye, it says the individuals work to get their own “nice little old place”. In both books, the house is seen as important. The cleanliness or simply the owning of a home is important in showing their developing breakthrough of societies restrictions. Additionally, patriarchal dominance is scattered in both books, as their father rapes them and impregnates them. We see the struggle they have against society and the patriarchal figure and their babies. Pecola’s father flees while Celie’s simply takes it somewhere else and kills them but actually gives them away. In The Color Purple, Sofia tells Eleanor Jane that societal influence makes it almost inevitable her baby boy will grow up to be a racist. This theme dealing with race throughout the book, shows society picking what is beauty and ideal. Both books live in societies with racist beliefs passed on through generations, such as Geraldine and her baby Junior.
Furthermore, Just like Soaphead, Celie also communicates with God through letters. “Well, us talk and talk about God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head.” (Walker) Celie sees God as her listener and helping hand, yet Celie does not have a clear understanding of who God is. Soaphead is a preacher who also does not have a clear understanding of God. He defrauds people into thinking he can do great things, being a psychic and messenger of God, yet he knows himself it is not true. They both use letters in trying to communicate with the image they have of God.
Weighing Other Sources
In the article found in Facts On File, one of America’s leading publishers of print and online reference materials for the school and library market “The Bluest Eye: The Need for Racial Approbation” Doreatha Mbalia examines the racial effects shown in Toni Morrison’s novel. Mbalia being an experienced professor with many degrees in English states, “In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s emphasis is on racism, specifically, she investigates the effects of the beauty standards of the dominant culture on the self-image of the African female adolescent” (Mbalia1). Her analysis of the racial approbation guides us to a further understanding of the racial background and implications seen throughout the book. It gives us an in depth insight of how it especially affected Pecola.
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Additionally, “The Image of God” by Allen Alexander, published on the trusted and revised source of information, Facts on File, provides us a better understanding of the symbol of God. He declares, “God possesses a fourth face, one that is an explanation for all those things-the existence of evil, the suffering of the innocent and just-that seem so inexplicable in the face of a religious tradition that preaches the omnipotence of a benevolent God” (Alexander 1). This article helped greatly in understanding Morrison’s depiction of God. It provides us both a better perspective of both Soaphead’s God and Celie’s God.
Conclusively, subsequent to reading both novels, gaining another perspective provided by Alexander and Mbalia, and examining their use of symbolism, I consider Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple depicts battle against rape and patriarchal control more effectively. Both novels develop a myriad of symbols in illustrating and portraying this conflict such as houses, colors, and God among others. Nonetheless, The Color Purple illustrates this at a greater extent by the various struggles many different characters face, divergent from Toni Morrison’s depiction of Pecola’s struggle against racism and her father.
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