The Important Role of Society in the Development of an Individual’s Character and Identity in the Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Black Boy by Richard Wright

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In today's world society plays an important role in developing one's identity and character. Societal constructs dictate a person's behavior and choices. In the novel The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and excerpt of Black Boy by Richard Wright, the main characters are heavily influenced by the world they live in. In both writing pieces society equally affects the central characters but in Black Boy the main character decides to choose a different path.

The Bluest Eye and Black Boy both have a similar society and setting in which the main characters who are black are considered lesser human beings and treated unequally. During the 1940's black people were systematically condemned and oppressed and both authors highlight this trend. The characters Pecola and Richard both feel inferior and threatened by white people. For example, when Pecola goes to buy something from a white shop owner she feels intimidated by his complexion. "She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people... The distaste must be for her..."(Morrison 49). Before confronting the man Pecola instantly assumes that the man hates her simply because she is black and he is white. The society she has grown up in has conditioned her to believe that whites are superior and causes her to be insecure. Similar to Pecola, Richard comes across a similar situation when he comes across a white police officer and "His "white" face created a new fear in [Richard]. [Richard] was remembering the tale of a "white" man who had beaten the "black" boy."(Wright 977). Before having any interaction with the white officer Richard was instantly frightened since the society he is has molded him to feel that way. As he sees the officer he recalls a story of how another black boy was beaten by one. Due to these social factors both Pecola and Richard had an unconscious fear of white people. Though The Bluest Eye develops Pecola similarly to Richard, she ends up taking a different path in how she handles challenging circumstances brought from her society. In Pecola's society there is a high standard for beauty which she does not meet and there is no protection against any discrimination and/or bullying she receives. Pecola often assumes a submissive role and never retaliates to any attacks against her. In the text, Pecola is lured into the character Junior's house and he states that "You can't get out. You're my prisoner" (Morrison 90). After learning this Pecola becomes hopeless and melancholy and starts to weep. She remains in Junior's home and does not try to fend him off and escape. She is met with challenging social factors and they cause her to become weak and fragile.

In Black Boy, Richard is met with a similar endeavor but reacts differently to the situation. In the story Richard is first perceived as weak and scared in the streets of Memphis. He has to go and buy food for his family and a gang of boys see that he is an easy picking and overpower him and steal his money. Unfortunately for Richard, he needs the food and has no other option. Although Richard cries at first similar to what Pecola would have done, he continues to the store but this time he fights back with a stick. "In blind fear [Richard] let the stick fly, feeling it crack against a boy's skull."(Wright 972). While Pecola accepts the social factors and complies with them Richard decides to fight back and develops into a vicious and aggressive person.

Pecola and Richard face many of the same social challenges yet they decide to take different approaches in dealing with them. All in all, people will always face concrete, uncomfortable situations which mold their identities but they can choose how they deal with them and decide their own fate.

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The Important Role of Society in the Development of an Individual's Character and Identity in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Black Boy by Richard Wright. (2022, Dec 07). Retrieved July 21, 2024 , from

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