Blog Question 10/31

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Soaphead Church’s letter to god represents the (at least) third direct address to god in the texts we have read (Mr. Washington bargaining with god and Rufus cursing god before jumping from the Washington Bridge). While the first two addresses in some way register god’s seeming indifference to the plight of men and depict self-precipitated death as an act of defiance in its face, Soaphead registers this indifference but then usurps god’s creative power by granting Pecola’s long standing wish for blue eyes. The relationship between Pecola’s psychic break and Soaphead’s generative act is not, however, entirely clear (i.e. it requires our interpretation). On your reading of the novel, is the encounter with Soaphead merely the proverbial last straw, is there something specific about her role in harming the one creature seemingly less favored than she, is this perhaps another instance of successful magic within the text? What significance does your understanding of this episode has on your interpretation of the novel more broadly?

5 Responses to Blog Question 10/31

  1. Siobhan McKenna says:

    When I read this passage, I read it more as the proverbial straw, not a successful act of magic. Pecola was so desperate for those blue eyes that she’ll do anything to get them, and therefore instantly believes Soaphead Church when he says he can give them to her. In Soaphead’s letter to God he says “No one else will see her blue eyes. But she will. And she will I’ve happily ever after.” (183). Therefore, although Pecola doesn’t actually have blue eyes, she wanted them so badly that now she has convinced herself that she really does have these blue eyes. It’s not so much magic as it is a break within Pecola’s psyche.

    In terms of what this means for the novel as a whole, I think Morrison used this encounter show the differences between adult vs child and knowledge vs ignorance. As we’e previously discussed in class, Morrison shows us that children are not ignorant, that they have a knowledge of more mature topics, yet it’s how they deal with this knowledge that shows their true innocence. In this passage, Pecola’s innocence shines through as she believes that pure magic can make her more beautiful, and give her those blue eyes she’s been searching for her whole life. This innocence and faith is a very powerful force, one that even Soaphead Church cannot fight against. Faith seems to be the only positive force in Pecola’s life, and to deny her of this one good thing would be an act of evil, an evil even Soaphead Church does not want to mess with.

  2. Sarah Terrazano says:

    I think that Pecola’s encounter with Soaphead was a “last straw.” When she visits him, it already seems like she is receding into herself; in the entire scene, she only has a few sentences of dialogue. Otherwise, all the dialogue belongs to Soaphead, and the rest of the text is narrative description of her actions; “She nodded and swallowed visibly,” “She was trying not to vomit” (175, 176). Her silence emphasizes how asking for blue eyes was her last resort for her dilemma.

    It is further significant that Pecola had to kill the dog as part of Soaphead’s scheme. She asked for blue eyes, for a way to see the world and be seen differently. Killing the ugly dog unavoidably relates to a beauty/ugliness dichotomy, in which Pecola’s desire for beauty (blue eyes) must be achieved through the death of ugliness (the dog). Yet because killing the dog did not actually solve her problems – it sent her into a psychotic break – the beauty/ugliness comparison is disrupted, which relates to the rest of the novel.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with Sarah. The fact hat she must kill the dog to get blue eyes, makes us question if blue eyes symbolize morality at all. It is ironic that in order to obtain blue eyes so that people won’t do bad things in front of her, she must watch a dog die.

    • Laura Katz says:

      I agree with Sarah. Her need to kill the dog, an ugly act, in order to obtain beauty forces the reader to contemplate what one must do and sacrifice to obtain beauty. It is ironic that in order to obtain the eyes she wants, the ones that will make oeople stop doing bad things in front of her, she must witness a dog die.

  3. Chris Calimlim says:

    Pecola even going to Soaphead was the “last straw.” She is so desperate for the blue eyes that I think as long as Soaphead said she could give them to her, Pecola would have believed him. Up to this point, Pecola has probably just tried to get blue eyes through her own means/methods/magic and the fact that she’s going to another person shows a lot about how badly she wants this.

    As Sarah pointed out, Pecola killing the dog ties into the beauty/ugliness dichotomy. She kills something the world has deemed ugly, the old and ailing dog, in order to acquire something the world sees as beautiful, blue eyes. But, what does it mean when she doesn’t literally receive those blue eyes in return?
    It makes me think of equivalent exchange, the notion that if something is obtained then something of equal value must be lost. What does it mean for the beauty/ugliness dichotomy that something ‘ugly’ was removed from the world, but nothing beautiful was gained in return?

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