A House Divided. Representation of Conflict Between Black and Black in Toni Morrison’s Novels

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2013

9 Pages, Grade: B+


A HOUSE DIVIDED; Representation of Conflict Between Black and Black in Toni Morrison’s Novels.

African -American novelist Toni Morrison is a writer deeply concerned with the issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Her novels inquire into the condition of people who have been subjected to different types of oppression. All her novels deal with the condition of the oppressed. My investigation will therefore focus upon how Morrison uses narrative technique to show oppression of black people by people of their own community. My paper will examine the discrimination of blacks by blacks as represented in the following novels; The Bluest Eye (1970) Song of Solomon (1977) and Tar Baby (1981). In these novels, Toni Morrison portrays the black community with reference to the travails faced by black people because of their blackness as well as the attitudinal class differences and social distinctions within the community. Her novels deal not so much with the homogeneity of shared suffering within the black community but with various orders of differences between the black themselves.

The Bluest Eye portrays, in heartbreaking terms, the tragic condition of the blacks in racist America. It examines how the ideologies perpetuated by the leading groups and adopted by the marginal groups constitute the self –image of the black women. The black women in the novel are deeply influenced by white standards of beauty, so much so that their aim in life becomes to be as much like the whites as possible. They try to erase their own selfhoods, and eventually, like Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist, who aspires to posses blue eyes, have no alternative except the madness of frustration. The story revolves around Pecola’s inferiority complex regarding her looks. Morrison considers racism as the African-American’s primary hindrance to the path of acquiring self-esteem. The black community wants to conform to white notions of excellence in all walks of life. According to K. Sumana, Morrison believes that the concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the most pernicious and destructive.”[1]

There are many incidents in the novel which portray the internalised racism of the kind which pushes Pecola to the margins of her own community and of society at large. For instance, she meets with a fifty-two-year old storekeeper who makes her aware that for many people she does not really exist. She becomes a scapegoat for her own community, when she is humiliated by black boys at school. Her encounter with Maureen Peal, the young mulatto girl who is her school- mate is extremely devastating because Maureen is nearly white. As Donald B. Gibson also argues, the Dick and Jane text exemplifies one of the primary and most insidious ways in which the dominant culture exercises its hegemony over everybody, through the educational system. It reveals the role of education in both oppressing the victim – and more to the point – teaching the victim how to oppress her own black self by internalising the values that dictate standards of beauty[2].

Pauline Breedlove, Geraldine, Maureen Peal, and Pecola are black characters who try to conform to subtly imposed ideas of white perfection. Geraldine represses her black characteristics. She wants to get rid of funkiness. She rejects Pecola after she sees her in her house as Pecola seems to symbolize all the negative aspects of her view of black girls. Pecola is also humiliated by Maureen’s relative because Maureen’s relative is wealthy and nearly white. She humiliates and attacks Pecola, Frieda and Claudia—‘‘I am cute and you are ugly- black and ugly.”[3] Pecola is shocked by the pain of the humiliation. She becomes hollow from within and desires to have blue eyes. Pecola meets Soaphead Church, the West Indian of mixed parentage, and request him to make her eyes blue. He instead of helping her victimizes her by making her unknowingly poison a dog he detests.

Pecola’s mother Pauline also becomes a victim of internalized racism. She works as a house- keeper and fantasizes about movie stars in the white household of the Fishers, showering all her love and affection on her employer’s daughter. When Pecola along with Claudia and Frieda visits the kitchen of the Fishers, she accidentally drops a pan of blue berry pie on the floor. Instead of consoling her daughter who has been burnt, Pauline soothes the tears of “the little pink and yellow girl.”[4] Pauline is consumed by overwhelming self-hatred. K. Sumana points that “although she is aware of the turning wheels of racial oppression in her life, she makes no effort to stop the turning.”[5]

The critical act of brutalization for Pecola comes when her own father rapes her. In my opinion, the rape of Pecola is an attempt on the part of the father to rescue her from the dehumanizing gaze of the white people. His gentleness and distrust as a father however turns into lust and anger. Pecola’s meaningless drifting to the edge of the town haunts the community reminding its members of the ugliness and hatred that they have witnessed.


[1] K. Sumana, 1998. The Novels of Toni Morrison: A Study in Race, Gender Class. New Delhi: Prestige.p7

[2] Donald B. Gibson, (1989), “Text and Counter text in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory, Vol. 1, No. 1-2, p.27

[3] Toni Morrison, 1970 The Bluest Eye. London : PEN,p.31

[4] ibid,p22

[5] K. Sumana, 1998. The Novels of Toni Morrison: A Study in Race, Gender Class. New Delhi: Prestige

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A House Divided. Representation of Conflict Between Black and Black in Toni Morrison’s Novels
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house, divided, representation, conflict, between, black, toni, morrison’s, novels
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Pankaj Kumar (Author), 2013, A House Divided. Representation of Conflict Between Black and Black in Toni Morrison’s Novels, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/286927


  • Pankaj Kumar on 1/13/2015

    i have got clear idea about the text after reading this wonderful text...

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