To inflict violence upon someone requires a level of physical and emotional contact, thus establishing a connection between those involved. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, engagement in racial violence on the part of those who are considered the most black, reveals a desperately confused desire for some semblance of connection the world of “beauty” from which they have been excluded; however this violence, despite seeming to be a source of agency—allowing them to connect themselves to beauty— it ultimately creates a connection to the envy that simply stimulates further oppression.
The search for beauty, and the violence that erupts from the constant conflict between the “beauty” of whiteness and the “ugliness” of blackness is not born out of jealousy, but rather out of a desire to make a connection with beauty. When Claudia tears apart her blue eyed baby dolls, she is in search of “the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me… all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow haired, pink skinned doll was what every girl child treasured” (20). She is not attempting to adapt whiteness, but rather out of a desire to understand society’s twisted vision of beauty and to connect herself with that vision. She is not attempting to destroy her dolls, but rather to make a physical connection with them in order to understand their beauty and to connect it to herself. The only possibility for Claudia to achieve any sort connection to the exclusive nature of “the beautiful,” is to create a connection through the physical act of pulling the limbs off her dolls. Because her interactions with whiteness and the beauty associated with it can only be associated with violence, to tear apart beauty seems to be the only way to create a connection with it.
As much as Claudia prys apart her baby dolls in search of a connection, she will only become accustomed to the violence that seems to provide that physical connection, but instead fuels the constantly widening gap between the “ugliness” of blackness and the “beauty” of whiteness. Maureen, who emulates whiteness despite her dark skin, perpetuates the oppression of those who are “blacker” than herself not through direct violence, but through the violent nature of what her character represents. When Maureen verbally “attacks” Pecola, Claudia and, Frieda, the latter two respond with physical violence. Like Claudia dismantled her dolls, the girls attempt to dismantle Maureen partially out of defense, but also in search Walking away from the fight Claudia narrates, “we felt comfortable in our own skins,… and could not comprehend this unworthiness. Jealousy we understood and thought natural—a desire to have what somebody else had; but envy was a strange, new feeling for us” (74). The opportunity to retaliate provides a sense of agency, lifting them out of the state of oppression they reside in and connecting them to beauty by rebelling against the accepted definition in advocacy for their own beauty. At the same time, while this opportunity for rebellion is granted, the connection they create is not genuine, it only becomes a twisted sense of envy—a desire for assimilation, thus pressing themselves further into the spiral of oppression.
The violence of Claudia and Frieda is caused by their exclusion from what is considered beautiful, rather than a desire to destroy what is beautiful. Due to the nature of their oppression, violence seems to be the only method of rebellion, however it only serves as a tool of the oppressor and further buries them in envy and self-hate.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Vintage International, 1993. Print.