Putting Beauty into Perspective

Reading Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye." (photo/Aaron Tuck)
Multicultural literature teaches valuable lessons on race, diversity and cultural connections. In high school, I was vaguely exposed to multicultural texts by reading Richard Wright’s “Native Son” and Ellie Wiesel’s “Night.” Yet, in college, my English professors encourage me to further engage my literature fascination with multiple multicultural texts. 

Teachers feel as though students gain a new perspective when they read a text discussing a different culture than their own. Not only do I learn more about the cultures I read, but I learn more about myself during the reading the process.

On Feb. 23, my university’s English Department engaged students in multicultural texts during an evening of reading and discussion focusing on the novels and poems we read in our literature courses.

"The Bluest Eye" (photo/amazon.com)
The event was co-sponsored by the department’s Sigma Tau Delta, and the university’s Office of Multicultural Development. Because I’m an active member of Sigma Tau Delta, I was eager to attend the reading and discussion, in which I brought my favorite multicultural novel—Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” 

For those who are familiar with the novel, “The Bluest Eye,” tells the story of three African-American families struggling to co-exist in society. Most interesting to me, the story is told through the perspective of young, na├»ve girls.

Beauty is a popular topic in the novel. What is beauty? What is innocence?

The selected passage I read to the viewers was toward the end of the novel when the main girl, Pecola Breedlove, asks a man to grant her a special wish—for her to have blue eyes. The man, Soaphead, reflects on this request with a beautiful response.

Illustration of Pecola Breedlove.
(photo/melanola.com)
“Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty. A surge of love and understanding swept through him, but was quickly replaced by anger. Anger that he was powerless to help her. Of all the wishes people have brought him – money, love, revenge – this seemed to him the most poignant and the one most deserving of fulfillment. A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes.”

After reading this passage, I addressed to my viewers the importance of reading a book like “The Bluest Eye.” 
The book is told through the perspective of young girls who are taught at a young age that they are not beautiful, even though they are. By the time they will become adults, it will already be ingrained into their belief system that they are not beautiful.
“The Bluest Eye” provides a gentle voice about beauty. Why would someone want blue eyes? It’s the desired beauty. If someone has blue eyes, then he/she is accepted by society. 
I may not be an expert on multicultural literature, but I am always eager to learn. I plan to take American Multicultural Literature next semester, so I am very confident I will be learning more multicultural topics during my undergraduate career. 

-KJL-

Comments

  1. It was nice to see you continuing to highlight aspects of literature at these public presentations. I understand that your college president attended this event. Nice touch! Long live learning. Can't wait to learn about your next adventure in literature.

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  2. Very interesting and educational event. So good to hear that your university takes pride in hosting great events in literature. Look forward to reading about the next one!

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  3. Awareness of other cultures is invaluable, yet widely ignored. America is, unfortunately, pigeonholed as a country that does not care about the rest of the world. I think it is wonderful that you are taking the time to learn about other cultures through something you love, literature. The theatre department is also invested in the expression of multiculturalism through the arts by hosting a biennial International Theatre Festival. I hope to one day work in international theatre, exploring multiculturalism and social issues that span borders. I look forward to seeing what you have to say on the topic in the future!

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