Use of Colors
All them colors was in me”1. Pauline and Cholly left the colors of the South
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 contributed to his wife’s dissatisfaction and disillusionment by not coming
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
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
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
world of Hollywood movies, white sheets, and blonde children”4.
It is here in the “white” home, that Pauline takes the new identity,
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,
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
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
This dilemma is offset, in Claudia’s life, by the attention she recieves from
support that is not present in Pecola’s life.
This is not to say that the love and support that Claudia received from
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
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
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
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
Elihue Whitcomb, dubbed “Soaphead Church”9. It is through the whispers about
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.