Tag: bias

Charged descriptive language in The Bluest Eye

On page 31, describing the Breedloves, Morrison writes”Although their poverty was traditional and stultifying, it was not unique. But their ugliness was unique”. Toni Morrison does two things in this section- she claims that the ugliness of the Breedloves is external to them and only exists from their conviction to it, and yet she writes that it is very much real, and lists physical, (seemingly) nonnegotiable characteristics with visible negative implications that construct something non-beautiful. She writes that they have “the eyes, the small eyes set closely together under narrow foreheads. The low, irregular hairlines… high cheekbones, and their ears turned forward.” Deconstruction of description lets us see that each of these says little about the Breedloves, and much about the function of comparative language in influencing perception. The “small eyes” and  “narrow foreheads” only exist in contrast to a set regular size; “low, irregular hairlines” again sets a trait against a standard (and Morrison even throws in the word “regular” here); “high cheekbones, and their ears turned forward” are the most ridiculous – the function of the cheekbones are to be raised above the face and ears are meant to be turned forward.

The implications of charged descriptive language creating reality has not only racial implications, but ties into construction of character. If we accept language as a way to view the invisible, and we also believe language exists comparatively, can we ever construct character without reflecting on a normal, and if we do, can we ever correctly construct a minority character when the normal is defined by one in the majority? She writes, “Mrs. Breedlove, Sammy Breedlove, and Pecola Breedlove – wore their ugliness, put it on, so to speak, although it did not belong to them” – the perception is created external to the character itself.


Do I share a bias about the need for words to mean something?

Words are the definitive way to communicate knowledge, although another way to phrase it would be that they are the ultimate signifiers. Towards the end of the book, there is a claim that all that’s left are words, and to me this meant words without meaning (124). I think words lacking meaning play a large role in Oedipa’s paranoia, as one of the few times I remember receiving an explanation for the meaning behind something in this book occurred when Cohen explained what crying was, and Oedipa responded by saying his fly was open, but personally I thought the crying at an auction was quite obvious, regardless of any potential deeper meaning (151). It seemed like the explanation went against some rule in this book,  hinted at by the (incidental) breaking of a societal convention. Oedpia, and I believe I as well, have been strongly conditioned to believe that words, because they exist to communicate must have meaning, and as we operate under that bias paranoia surfaces.