The Bluest Eye

Sex and Sexuality Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Bluest Eye, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon

In The Bluest Eye, sex is associated with violence, humiliation, and immorality. Instead of sex being an enjoyable act between two people, sex, like race and beauty standards, works as a form of oppression. For both men and women, sexual initiation has devastating effects on an individual's life and sense of self. The scenes of sexual initiation are particularly violent and humiliating, leaving a lasting effect on the novel's characters.

Cholly's first sexual experience is paired with humiliation and hatred, as the white men force him to rape Darlene. Frieda's first sexual experience is forced upon her by Mr. Henry, and causes her to believe she has been ruined. And Pecola's sexual initiation happens through rape.

Men in the story use sex as a means to oppress the women in their lives. Their sexual desires are distorted by their past sexual failures and their ideas concerning the value of women. Cholly's first sexual experience leads to his hatred of women, hatred of his own race, and his feeling of being unlovable. The combination of these things leads to the rape of his daughter. Soaphead Church's failed marriage and hatred of women leads to the direction of his repressed sexual desire toward children.

For the younger characters in The Bluest Eye, sex becomes the defining element of their passage into womanhood. The adolescent girls in the story, however, lack a true understanding of the perilous nature of sex. They hold idealistic views of what sex means, associating sex with love and a sense of self worth as a woman.

As an adolescent, Mrs. Breedlove fantasizes about a man coming into her life and offering redemption from the rejection she receives from her family. Geraldine represents another kind of experience. Her sense of worth as a woman still comes through her relationship with her husband. The husbands of women like Geraldine marry them because they cook, clean, and take care of the house. Although sex for her is not overtly violent, she is unable to enjoy sex because she views it as a burden she must bear for her husband.

There are examples of women who escape the violence and oppression of sex. This evasion of sexual oppression, however, comes only through passing the point of being sexually desirable, or through exploiting one's sexuality as a means to gain power over men. M'Dear and other elderly women in the community experience freedom because they are no longer desired as sexual objects. These women, however, are bitter, tired, and accept the presence of pain. The Prostitutes exploit their own sexuality to gain power over men, but this method of gaining power leads to self hatred and hatred of the opposite sex. Sex stands as the primary form of oppression in the novel. Even those who escape overt sexual violence bear the consequences of oppression through sex. The climax of the story offers the primary example of this form of oppression. Pecola's rape leads to her ultimate demise. Through this experience, Pecola embodies the devastating effect of sexual violence, and the oppressive force of sex in these women's lives.

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Sex and Sexuality ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sex and Sexuality appears in each chapter of The Bluest Eye. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Sex and Sexuality Quotes in The Bluest Eye

Below you will find the important quotes in The Bluest Eye related to the theme of Sex and Sexuality.
Prologue Section 2 Quotes

Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that didn't sprout; nobody's did…It had never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds into his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Related Symbols: Marigolds
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 1 Quotes

"How do you do that? I mean how do you get someone to love you?"

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove fought each other with a darkly brutal formalism that was paralleled only by their lovemaking. Tacitly they had agreed not to kill each other. He fought her the way a coward fights a man—with feet, the palms of his hands, and teeth. She, in turn, fought back in a purely feminine way—with frying pans and pokers, and occasionally a flatiron would sail toward his head.

Related Characters: Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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What did love feel like? she wondered. How do grownups act when they love each other? Eat fish together? Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as through he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

"He…picked at me."
"Picked at you? You mean like Soaphead Church?"
"Sort of."
"He showed his privates to you?"
"Noooo. He touched me."
"Where?"
"Here and here." She pointed to her tiny breasts that, like two fallen acorns, scattered a few faded rose leaves on her dress.
"Really? How did it feel?"
"Oh, Claudia." She Sounded put-out. I wasn't asking the right questions.
"It didn't feel like anything."
"But wasn't it supposed to? Feel good, I mean."

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Frieda MacTeer (speaker), Henry Washington, Soaphead Church
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another—physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap.

Related Characters: Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

Sullen, irritable, he cultivated his hatred of Darlene. Never once did he consider directing his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, and helpless. His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess—that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal, leaving only flakes of ash and a question mark of smoke…For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence.

Related Characters: Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 148-149
Explanation and Analysis:

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His soul seemed to slip down into his guts and fly into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made—a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

We had defended ourselves since memory against everything and everybody considered all speech a code to be broken by us, and all gestures subject to careful analysis; we had become headstrong, devious, and arrogant. Nobody paid us any attention, so we paid very good attention to ourselves. Our limitations were not known to us—not then.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover's inward eye.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker)
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to the marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Marigolds
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.