Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is an interesting text to say the least. There are numerous themes to expound upon, so I found it fairly difficult to narrow my options down for the purposes of this paper. Around the early 200’s I came across the following statement from Claudia where she condemns herself and the community for their abuse of Pecola:
“…we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good, but well behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life” (p. 205)
In the above quote Claudia had identified what I find to be one of the more important concepts throughout the text: That of “Artificial Freedom”. Pecola’s peers, including Claudia, hadn’t vilified their peer (solely) based on her situation, but perhaps as a means of using Pecola’s predicament as a stepping stone in order to create the environment for what seemed to be common unity (or freedom). What becomes problematic in this unity is that its foundation is built upon highly artificial ideals which were imposed by the oppressor, adopted by the oppressed, and consequently practiced by the oppressed. In such a case there is an underlying understanding that some form of unity is necessary, however the means in which it is carried about is negligent to the individual. As opposed to bonding through a constructive means, the bonding takes place at the expense of one or many individuals, which is a very exclusive and linear model of community.
Claudia identifies such a relationship in her statement “we were not free, merely licensed”. The very boundaries that their slice of society functions in are proven throughout the text to serve as a means to perpetuate misogyny, nihilism, and masochism. Paulo Friere posits in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” that true generosity exists only in aiming to eradicate the forces that nourish false charity and further pacification. There is a nexus between observation and obligation, so by no means is “artificial freedom” relief from personal responsibility. If anything responsibility is a major condition of un-artificial freedom, but I maintain that Toni Morrison was well aware of the dangers of pacification and continuance of artificial freedom, which is expressed through Claudia’s sentiment.
- Khalfani Lawson
Blackstar – Theives in the Night (1998)