Spring: See Mother... Notes from The Bluest Eye

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The Bluest Eye Spring: See Mother...

See Mother...

There is an excerpt from a first-grade reading book. It describes a nice, playful mother of a perfect white family.

Pauline Breedlove, born Pauline Williams, led a very difficult life as a child. She was born in Alabama, the ninth of eleven children. Problems with her foot (it flopped when she walked due to an incident when she was younger when she stepped on a rusty nail) caused her to always feel separate and unworthy. Her family moved away from Alabama to Kentucky for better job opportunities. Here, she tended the house, cooked, and took care of her younger twin brothers, Chicken and Pie. One day, while Pauline was leaning against her fence, cleaning her fingernails, a stranger came up to her. It was Cholly Breedlove, the man that would eventually become her husband. It was love at first sight for Pauline. He made her feel like no one had ever made her feel before.

"Pauline and Cholly loved each other. He seemed to relish her company and even to enjoy her country ways and lack of knowledge about city things. He talked with her about her foot and asked, when they walked through the town or in the fields, if she were tired. Instead of ignoring her infirmity, pretending it was not there, he made it seem like something special and endearing. For the first time Pauline felt that her bad foot was an asset. And he did touch her, firmly but gently, just as she had dreamed. But minus the gloom of setting suns and lonely river banks. She was secure and grateful; he was kind and lively. She had not known there was so much laughter in the world." pg. 115-16

Cholly and Pauline decided to marry and move up North to Ohio for better job opportunities. Pauline was very lonely in Ohio, and she found herself surrounded by more whites than she ever imagined. Even the Northern blacks had airs about them that made Pauline feel like she was less than them. Cholly found many friends, and started to leave Pauline alone. Their marriage went sour. Pauline started to work in order to earn some money. She wanted to buy some nice clothes so the other women in the town would accept her. Cholly did not care for the money, but used it to buy drinks more and more. Pauline had a bad run-in with a white woman she worked for (cleaned her house). The woman wanted Pauline to leave Cholly because she thought Cholly was a no good drunk. Pauline refused and she stopped working for the woman. Pauline soon discovered she was pregnant. She went back to staying at home, and Cholly became nice again, and drank a little less. But Pauline was still so lonely. She occupied her time by going to the movies and losing herself in the fantasy world of Hollywood and all its glamour. It was in the movies that she developed a sense of what beauty was. She began to hate herself when she realized that she didn't match up to the beauties on screen, like Jean Harlow.

"In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap....She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen." pg. 122

Topic Tracking: Self-Hatred 7
Topic Tracking: Beauty 7
Topic Tracking: Culture 8

Pauline had her first child, Sammy, and eventually her second child, Pecola. She thought Pecola was ugly when she first saw her. She eventually had to go back to work, and stop living the fantasy life of the movies. She got a job working as a maid for a well-to-do white family, the Fishers. Pauline loved working for them. Everything they had was neat, ordered, and rich. She did everything right for the Fishers, and they referred to her as their "ideal servant" and "Polly." She loved them so much that she stopped tending to her own house and children. This made Sammy want to always run away and had Pecola always afraid of everything. But Pauline did not care nor see what she was doing to her children. She worked too hard and was too virtuous to put up with anything from her children or Cholly.

Pauline has a memory of Cholly and her in bed together. She remembers a time when he would reach out to touch her and she would willingly accept his affection. They made passionate love and Cholly was always gentle with her. However, now he is not. Now, their lovemaking has become mechanical and Pauline finds herself disinterested in it. She knows though that He, the Lord, will make things better for her later.

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