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1.     
Mulatto
characters:

Maureen
Peal is a “high-yellow dream girl” (p.62) who transfers to the elementary
school in Lorain, and is as rich as the richest white girls, swaddled in
comfort and care. She becomes the star of the school, and teachers treat her
courteously, and boys never tease her, girls flatter her. One day Maureen
happens to protect Pecola from some naughty boys who are bullying her. However,
this is merely from her curiosity and caprice. Soon after she helped Pecola,
she attacked Pecola just for kicks by saying the same thing as the nasty boys,
“You saw your own daddy naked.”, and “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and
ugly black e mos. I am cute!” (p.73) As is often the case with other
novels or novelists, Morrison uses symbolism in selecting the names of the
characters in The Bluest Eye. “Peal” means a sudden loud repeated sound
of laughter or thunder. Until meeting Maureen, Frieda and Claudia had no
concept that they are ugly or inferior to whites or mulattos or that it is
shameful to see their father’s naked body. In this sense, Maureen’s entry into
their life is like a peal of thunder, and her ridicule of them with the perfect
assurance of being superior, though she is only an elementary school girl,
causes great mortification to them. Besides the general description of the
mulattos’ beauty and sophisticated demeanor, Morrison’s original descriptions
of ordinary mulatto girls are seen in the text: “they don’t have home towns,
just places where they were born. But these girls soak up the juice of their
home towns, and it never leaves them.” (p.81) This description contrasts the
unyielding earth under the black people. Nonetheless, Morrison does not seem to
mean that mulattos are rooted 14
in the real meaning.

They
go to land-grant colleges, normal schools, and learn how to do with the white
man’s work with refinement: home economics to prepare his food; teacher
education to instruct black children in obedience; music to soothe the weary
master and entertain his blunted soul. Here they learn the careful development
of thrift, patience, high morals, and good manners. In short, how to get rid of
the funkiness. The dreadful funkiness of passion, the funkiness of nature, the
funkiness of the wide range of human emotions. Wherever it erupts, this Funk,
they wipe it away; where it crusts, they dissolve it; wherever it drips,
flowers, or clings, they find it and fight it until it dies. They fight this
battle all the way to the grave. (p.83).

This
tendency of cleanliness-fetishism means self-negation of their roots, and this
tendency is similarly seen in Geraldine’s and Soaphead Church’s case, but is
completely opposite to the self-love of the McTeer sisters who love their skin
and dirt. This identity as a mulatto apparently seems to sustain the mulatto
character’s self-esteem, but unfortunately, it undermines their humanity at the
same time. This is clearly demonstrated in the parts about Geraldine and
Soaphead Church.

Geraldine’s
family lives in a beautiful house with a well-kept garden and graceful
furniture. Apparently, their domestic life is idealistic without a stain.
However, Geraldine’s most outstanding characteristic is her emptiness. She has
been brought up with elaborate parental care. Maybe it was her parents’ love,
but it resulted in bleaching out her black blood. She is a woman gifted with
both intelligence and beauty, but the only way for her to live is to be of use
to a white man. Her life is to serve her parents, then her husband, then her
husband’s son, Junior, and dedicate herself to making the next generation as
close to white society as possible. Her mission is to bleach their roots, and
her son’s roots. Her marriage is aimed at making a whiter child so that even
though she actually has a son, it has nothing to do with whether she loves her
husband and son or not. She does not have affection for her family or even
herself, and it is symbolized in her fetishism for cleanliness and hatred for
any contact with human physiological functions. Since this mission is deeply
imprinted in her, all her physical and mental actions are automatically
directed to executing her mission. So she does not have any personal wishes nor
even any awareness of her lack of wishes. So her life is apparently
comfortable, but vacant and filled with resignation in the deep meaning. Their
marriage was aimed at inheriting the white lineage. It is quite interesting and
ironical that this family is the only one whose family name is not referred to
in this novel. Their family is materially abundant, but essentially sterile.
The expression, “they don’t have home towns, just places where they were born,”
(p.81) symbolizes Geraldine’s life itself.

Soaphead
Church (Elihue Micah Whitcomb), though he is also a representative of the
mulatto category, he was brought up under a morbid parental control which
differs in meaning from Geraldine’s because he is a male. His family had an
ancestor who was from the English nobility. Since then they have regarded their
mission to be one of maintaining that high class genealogy. They believed in
“De Gabineau’s hypothesis that all civilizations derive from the white race,
that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant
only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it.”
(p.168) So his parents raise him up strictly to be British-like in both the
physical and mental aspects, and eliminate any and every aspect which might
suggest their roots going back to Africa. Especially, his father was a
doctrinaire religious fanatic, and also the principal of a school famous for
its severe corporal punishment. His mother died soon after his birth. His
grades at school were high, but he did not understand in the real meaning
except things which coincide with his own prejudices. While he bears a grudge
against his father who rules over him using severe corporal punishment and
ignoring his dignity, he grows up with a yearning for authority.

Morrison
writes in an essay, “I have been thinking about the validity or vulnerability
of a certain set of assumptions conventionally accepted among literary
historians and critics and circulated as “knowledge.” 15 And her struggle to investigate the fixed idea
always appears in her novels. In The Bluest Eye, all the characters are
representative in showing us various ways of how the fixed value systems erode
the black community, and its influence on each character to build or destroy
one’s self concept. This issue has already been taken up by senior black
writers, but their analysis for the unreasonable value system fades out at the
political level and man-centered society. In the Invisible Man, Ellison
depicts the process in which the hero is under the control of his fellow men’s
(communist group) sweet words sometimes, but is tossed back and forth in the
riot and wanted as an accused by the group when the group’s policy changed.
Morrison’s outstanding point is that she digs into the familial environment to
look into the problems of women and children. So the next chapter will focus on
the parental influences on children.

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