The Bluest Eye

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The Bluest Eye Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
This chapter opens with a dialog between Pecola and her imaginary friend, whose voice appears in italics on the page. The imaginary friend berates Pecola for compulsively looking into the mirror. Pecola believes she has received blue eyes, and cannot keep herself from looking at them. Pecola accuses her imaginary friend and Mrs. Breedlove of being jealous of her blue eyes. Her imaginary friend is the only person Pecola communicates with, as she has been taken out of school, and the community will not interact with her. Pecola believes she has been ostracized because people are prejudiced against her eyes, which are bluer than theirs.
Pecola's outcome represents the ultimate destructive force of black obsession with white beauty standards. As the result of her obsession and the traumas she has experienced, Pecola slips into a psychosis, and becomes totally self-consumed, as shown by the conversations she holds with her imaginary friend (which is really herself) and her obsessive gazing in the mirror. Removed from the community and her family, she is completely isolated, and in her delusion, believes others ostracize her not because they hate what she reveals about themselves but rather because they envy her blue eyes.
Themes
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
The topic of their conversation then turns to Cholly. Pecola's imaginary friend suggests that Mrs. Breedlove ignores Pecola because she misses Cholly. When Pecola responds by asking why Mrs. Breedlove would miss him, her imaginary friend responds by saying she probably loved him, and that's why she let him "do it" to her all of the time. Pecola says she "did it" with him all of the time because he made her. Her imaginary friend says that Cholly could make anyone do anything, and that Cholly made Pecola have sex with him, and that he tried to do it again at another time while Pecola was on the couch. Pecola says she tried to tell Mrs. Breedlove, but she wouldn't listen. The imaginary friend continues to pry about the rape, but Pecola changes the subject, focusing once again on her blue eyes. She reveals that she is still insecure about her eyes, that maybe they aren't the bluest eyes in the world. When the imaginary friend leaves, Pecola believes it is because her eyes aren't blue enough, and asks if she will come back if she gets the bluest eyes. The imaginary friend says she will, "right before [her] very eyes.
Pecola's conversations with her imaginary friend reveal her perceptions of what has happened to her. The focus on sex in this portion of the dialog demonstrates the destructive consequences of sexual violence in Pecola's life. Going back and forth with herself about whether Cholly loved Mrs. Breedlove or forced her to have sex demonstrates Pecola's inability to fully understand what has happened. Continuing to pry about the rape shows the oppressive power of the event over her psyche. She distracts herself from the incident by focusing again on her eyes, showing the way the eyes provide temporary relief from the trauma of the rape. Her insecurity about whether they are blue enough, however, shows that the black obsession for whiteness is ultimately a futile endeavor—it can never be achieved.
Themes
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Claudia then begins to narrate the story. She describes Pecola's insanity and the way the community has disowned her. After the baby is delivered premature and stillborn, Claudia and Frieda don't go near Pecola because they feel they have failed her by not planting the flowers correctly. Pecola moves with her mother to the edge of town, Sammy runs away, and Cholly dies in a workhouse. Claudia believes the community, including herself, has dumped their garbage on Pecola, and uses her to feel better about their own lives. Against Pecola's ugliness, they may feel beautiful, her guilt sanctifies them, her pain makes them feel healthy, and her awkwardness allows them to believe they have a sense of humor. But Claudia knows these feelings, derived at Pecola's expense, are just fantasies.
After he rape, Pecola embodies the ugliness of racial-self hatred. She moves with her mother to the outskirts of town, representing symbolically how the community has pushed her to the fringes of society. The community uses Pecola as a reference against which they measure their own worth and develop a sense of superiority, but Claudia knows that these comparisons are used as an attempt to cover their own self-contempt.
Themes
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Claudia believes that the Maginot Line and Cholly loved Pecola, but love is only as good as the person giving it. Cholly's love for Pecola led him to rape her, and in turn destroy her entire life. In the end, Claudia comes to believe that it was not her fault for planting the seeds too deep in the earth, but the earth itself that was barren. The earth, she states, is hostile to certain kinds of flowers, and when the earth refuses to sustain a certain type of flower, the blame is placed on the flower. Claudia knows this reasoning is flawed, but she knows it doesn't matter anymore, "it's much, much, much, too late."
The idea of love is complicated at the end of The Bluest Eye. While the love of whiteness deforms the black characters, and love paired with anger allows Cholly to rape his daughter, Claudia, who is not as deformed by racism and white beauty standards, possesses the capacity to love Pecola and her baby, which is shown by her desire for the baby to live, and in a larger sense, through the compassion with which she tells Pecola's story. In the end, as described about her metaphor about the earth and flowers, she finds forgiveness and love for herself, realizing that the fault for what happened rests in the racist atmosphere of the community and the world, pointing out that racism is an issue that exists collectively and remains bigger than any single racist individual.
Themes
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
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