Shaped by appearance

A vicious cycle began when Pecola, as a member of the ugly Breedloves family, was convinced by others’ judgement of her as ugly, but then the ugliness lied not in her appearance but rather in her lack of confidence, or rather, realization of her beauty, so that her internal conception of self was projected to her exterior, confirming people’s view. Her obsession of blue eyes — “if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different” (p.46) — showed how she accepted people’s impression of her and even managed to justify their accounts by attributing her ugliness to her eyes. Curiously, while taking others’ impression as a starting point to shape her personalities to others’ expectation, she was convinced that by having blue eyes, she could in some way flip the situation and start to influence others, for example, stopping her parents’ fights. She was aware that there was something missing in her and knew what caused her ugliness was the hindrance to actively participating in human interactions, but she identified the key to the problem as her eyes, a thing that she learned from those who first put the label of ugliness in her. Yet so far the book had not put forward a particular character or a certain group of characters who “taught” Pecola about her ugliness, while people could easily recognize it and Pecola herself treating it as if it was natural.

1 Comment

  1. Your post made me think about eyes/perspective in this novel because the quote you mentioned is calling me to look at that quote differently from how I had read it initially. Initially, I didn’t think twice of it, but now, I’m seeing how the change in eyes could mean a change in perspective. Because everything about her face would be the same except how she looks at it.
    You’re definitely on to something with how she has accepted other people’s impressions of her and the change in eye color would sort of turn her from an object of those people’s critical judgments to a subject in some regards.
    In thinking with the eye change, I know the narrator seems to put this narrative that the eyes would make Pecola beautiful, but if the eyes mean an internalizing of whiteness as beautiful then the blue eyes wouldn’t be enough. She would also want the lighter skin and the skinnier nose. It wouldn’t stop at the eyes.

Leave a Reply