Use Of Colors


Use Of Colors Essay, Research Paper

Use of Colors

Pauline saw the beauty of life through the colors of her childhood down

South. Her fondest memories were of purple berries, yellow lemonade, and “that

streak of green them june bugs made on the trees the night we left down home.

All them colors was in me”1. Pauline and Cholly left the colors of the South

when they moved North to Ohio to begin their life together. Through Cholly,

Pauline hoped to find those colors of beauty that she left “down home”.

For a while she did find her colors, her beauty, in the eyes of Cholly.

He released in her all the colors of life which were sealed down in her soul.

Everything about their early married life was described in vivid colors. This

was true even of her sexual experiences with him. Everything was fine, ordered

and beautiful in both Pauline and Cholly’s life until they moved “up North”.

Once they moved North everything changed. The colors went out of

Pauline’s life. “I missed my people. I weren’t used to so much white

folks…Northern colored folk was different too”2. Cholly only became “meaner

and meaner and wanted to fight all of the time”2. He did not help the situation

and contributed to his wife’s dissatisfaction and disillusionment by not coming

home. He found his satisfaction through other people, thus he neglected Pauline.

To make up for this neglect and her own insecurities, Pauline sought

comfort through movies. Here she would sit and watch the perfect “white” world

of Hollywood. Here she would find her colors on the “silver screen”. She had a

longing for these colors which was going to affect her life and the lives of her

family until it destroys them, especially Pecola.

When Pecola was born, a major change occured in Pauline’s life.

According to Susan Willis, “Adjectives become substantives, giving taste and

color and making it possible for colors to trickle and flow and finally be

internalized…”3. She now wished to live her life like this, through the colors

in herself.

Right after Pecola was born Cholly again began to pay attention to

Pauline again the way he used to when they lived down South. The only problem

was that the colors had dimed in Pauline. By working for a white family,

she found her order and her colors again but not with the intensity that she

once did. There she could order her life in a way she felt she could never

achieve at home. As Willis points out, “Polly [Pauline] Breedlove lives in a

form of schizophrenia, where her marginality is constantly confronted with a

world of Hollywood movies, white sheets, and blonde children”4.

It is here in the “white” home, that Pauline takes the new identity,

Polly. She seperates from her physical self, and enters into a world of the

neat ordered white person, where she forgets her family, characterized by

disorder, and blackness [ugliness]. She sees the “white” world with her vivid

colors, while she sees the “black” world, where she comes from, in plain ugly

black and white. In her “black” world, she sees no possibility of order,

neatness, or color. This is because she stopped looking for them. She found a

substitute for her family; a substitute that will bring the colors back into her


Through this “scitzophrenia”, the real damage to her family lies within

the “white” world. It is from this world, in which she finds her “colors”,

that Pecola obtains her desire for “the bluest eyes”.

Pauline and Pecola are not the only ones who are preoccupied by the idea

of whiteness. The character of Claudia is also aware of order and beauty as

seen through the eyes of the “white” world. The children are bombarded with

visions of blonde children with bright blue eyes. Shirley Temple and Jean

Harlow in movies; the figure of a little blonde Mary Jane, on the candy they eat,

and the blond baby dolls they recieve as gifts, are all ways of reinforcing the

stereotype of beauty and goodness that a black child could ever hope to achieve.

This dilemma is offset, in Claudia’s life, by the attention she recieves from

her loving parents, that have showed her to love herself. This is a love of

support that is not present in Pecola’s life.

This is not to say that the love and support that Claudia received from

her family does not offset the feeling of hate and confusion that she feels

towards the white role models that she encounters everyday. She learns, as does

Pecola, at a very young age, that the world looks differently on those with

lighter skin. It is for this reason that Claudia destroys the white baby doll

she receives. Through the destruction of the doll “…she is striking out

against the horrifying dehumanization that acceptance of the model implies -

both for the black who wears it as a mask and for the white who creates

commodified images of the self”5.

The lie of beauty and perfection, in the “white” world, is reinforced

each day, for the children, in the schoolroom. Claudia, with the help of

supportive family, was able to understand that the fantasy world of “Dick and

Jane”, from the elementary reader, is a perfect world that does not exist and

can never exist within their black community.

It is also quite clear that Pauline was not capable of understanding

that perfection does not lie within the white world she so desperately wants to

enter. She is also unaware that she is not a part of this world. In her mind

the little white girl, whose family she works for, is her own perfect child. To

make up for the dissatisfaction and disillusionment in her own life she

“…gives their [her employer's] child a love she with holds from her own…6″.

This is felt deeply by both of her children but played out to a greater degree

in the life of Pecola.

Unlike Claudia, Pecola does not have the family support to draw strength

from and realize her own black identity. She gets no positive input from her

parents because they are trying to realize their own true identities.

This lack of parental support causes Pecola to, “search painfully for

self-esteem as a means of imposing order on the chaos of her world”7. Having no

family base to lean on, she must retreat to her own fantasy. It is in this

fantasy that she seeks her blue eyes. It is with these eyes that she believes

she will become beautiful and will be accepted by society. It is with these

same blue eyes that she hopes to gain the attention and love of her mother which

is not present in her life now. “…for Pecola to feel acceptable, she must

insure herself by possessing not only blue eyes but the bluest eyes created”8.

It is not fair to say that Pecola was not loved by her father, for he

did love her in his own strange and twisted way. He was not able to show love

for anyone because of his pent up anger towards white society. The times did

not allow a black man to vent anger in the direction of the white community so

he took his anger and frustration out on his family.

One of the major acts of his frustration manifests itself in the burning

of the family home. It is through the colors of the fire that Cholly is able

to release some, but not all, of his anger towards the white mans world.

Another way that Cholly expresses his anger but, also his love, for Pecola is by

his rape of her in the kitchen. It is here that the colors of his early

marriage to Polly, and the happiness he felt, again enter his life. The same

colors of happiness that Polly felt during their early marriage, Cholly, in his

drunken state, again felt. Only it was not with his young wife that he “saw”

the colors of happiness, but with his young daugther.

It is also through the rape that the world of Pecola and the whole

Breedlove family turns black. Through his actions, his way of showing his

daughter love, Pecola becomes, “the town’s scapegoat and places her in company

with the books other outcasts; the prostitute Miss Marie and the quack mystic

Elihue Whitcomb, dubbed “Soaphead Church”9. It is through the whispers about

Pecola and the shunning of her that the town justifies the image of good and

beautiful. It is because Pecola becomes pregnant with her father’s child that

she no longer has the ability, if it ever exsisted, to be beautiful in the eyes

of society. The pregancy has also destroyed her chances of recieving her

mothers love and approval forever because she is dirty in everyones eyes.


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