Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye provides insight into the injustices of racism and poverty in America in the mid-1900s through the perspective of nine-year-old Claudia and ten-year-old Frieda MacTeer. Living in Lorain, Ohio, with their parents, the MacTeers take in a young girl as a resident named Pecola. Pecola is a young black girl who throughout the story is critiqued, shamed, and virtually destroyed due to the corrupt morals of her society. Morrison describes how African-American girls during this time period were encouraged to aspire to be white. All of the female African-American characters in the novel have grown up in a society that does not find them beautiful or even worthy of being looked at. Pecola is constantly identified by her ugliness, and she fixates on what society deems to be a symbol of beauty and purity – blue eyes. Pecola's belief that blue eyes will make her beautiful shows two specific effects of racism on young African-American girls: low self-esteem and envy of whiteness. Clearly, the desire to escape poverty and the limiting circumstances of their social conditions is a common feeling among the characters in the novel. Several characters construct and perpetuate fantasies or beliefs about transcending their circumstances. For Pecola, a belief that if she had blue eyes she would have an ideal life guides her; for Pecola's mother, movies provide that same hope and escape. Claudia and Frieda find courage in the fertility of the earth as they associate growing seeds with the wellbeing of other characters.
These characters create fantasies in the attempt to find comfort and adapt to their society, but what they end up finding is isolation and lack of fulfillment as their fantasies cannot satiate their desires. The literary lenses I will use to demonstrate Morrison's intent will be based on Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye's various literary theories.