Morrison, in her Foreword to The Bluest Eye, writes,
“When I began writing The Bluest Eye, I was interested in something else. Not resistance to the contempt of others, ways to deflect it, but the far ore tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident. I knew that some victims of powerful self-loathing turn out to be dangerous, violent, reproducing the enemy who has humiliated them over and over. Others surrender their identity, melt into a structure that delivers the strong persona they lack. Most others, however, grow beyond it. But there are some who collapse, silently, anonymously, with no voice to express or acknowledge it. They are invisible. The death of self-esteem can occur quickly, easily in children, before their ego has “legs,” so to speak. Couple the vulnerability of youth with indifferent parents, dismissive adults, and a world, which, in its language, laws, and images, re-enforces despair, and the journey to self-destruction is sealed” (x).
Given this objective, with Pecola as its embodiment, why does Morrison decide to begin each season with a first-person narrative from Claudia? Or, what does this juxtaposition between narratives do to further elucidate Pecola’s story? Or what effect does this choice have on the narrative as a whole?
Might we say that the seasons begin with Claudia’s voice because she can articulate situations regarding the European Beauty Standards Pecola is constantly measured up against, she is looking at Pecola’s situation from the outside. I’m thinking of where Winter begins on Pg. 61, and how Maureen Peal, the light-skinned Black girl, is celebrated and uplifted because of her proximity to whiteness. Keeping this in conversation with Morrison’s foreword, it seems that Pecola has internalized (I don’t think we can say she consents to it) european beauty standards in such a way that she wants blue eyes and sees that as her way of uplift, instead of a change to the system around her (which is a huge testament to how deeply european beauty standards plague the nation- that young girls believe it is more likely their eye color is changed than beauty standards have an equitable shift). Claudia sees the damaging and structural forces at work in regards to how Pecola is treated versus Maureen.
I agree with Aly that Claudia definitely vocalizes what these beauty standards are that Pecola compares herself to. Claudia and Pecola can be viewed as sort of opposites in their views on the beauty standards that the United States is held to. Claudia wishes to destroy everything that has fair skin or blue eyes, while Pecola wishes to have fair skin and blue eyes, and envies anyone that does. Therefore, Morrison may have chosen to begin each season with a first-person narrative from Claudia so that we have something to compare and contrast Pecola’s experiences against. Claudia and Pecola seem to represent the two drastic views Morrison mentions in the forward, Claudia being the dangerous, violent one, and Pecola being the silent, anonymous surrenderer. By including Claudia’s story, the reader gets a better sense of the resignation and defeat that Pecola undergoes, even if it’s a defeat that she doesn’t even initially realize that she has undergone. Claudia is there to point out, and make the reader more aware of, this resignation and collapse of Pecola into the beauty standards that society has conveyed to her as acceptable and beautiful.