Essay on Othello and The Bluest Eye

Submitted By nwright33
Words: 1303
Pages: 6

Relationships determine an individual’s sense of their own power and the amount of power they wield within a society. This concept of power is explored in both Shakespeare’s play Othello and in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. The texts highlight how power can act as a disempowering force, ultimately resulting in the degradation of an individual to the stereotypical views, which societies hold. Relationships define how individuals should act within their society either limiting, regulating or enhancing their role. The tragic hero, Othello, reveals the fragility of the human condition and the controlling forces of ingrained societal prejudices. Iago’s ability to manipulate Othello derives from society’s inherent notions of normality relating to race and gender. Society’s ability to control the protagonist of The Bluest Eye, Pecola, similarly originates from her sense of self worth and value, which have been diminished by the dominant cultural ideal of beauty.

The relationships which link an individual to their society often act to the detriment of their sense of self worth and power. This diminished self worth produces a passivity in a person and allows societal ideals to define their understanding of self and ultimately influences their actions. Othello endures an outsider/insider conflict as he begins the play in a position of power and with a certain degree of respect from his fellow soldiers as he is often referred to as “brave Othello” however he is never able to completely break free from the entrenched stereotypes of Elizabethan society. In this sense Othello appears to have transcended the deeply entrenched prejudices of Elizabethan society. However, it is apparent that he has not surpassed the stereotypes completely as he is described as being “more fair than black.” In this sense, he is never fully able to achieve social acceptance in the Venetian society as his race is constantly called into play. This racial and social context is also evident in The Bluest Eye with the protagonist, Pecola, believing that in order to transcend the racial barriers and obtain social acceptance, she must achieve the cultural ideal of beauty. The central characters are constantly subjected to many forms of racism through the media portraying white skin as the ideal of beauty. The symbol of the doll in the bluest eye cements the white beauty standards present in American culture. In the novel both Frieda and Pecola idealise the image of the white doll. This characterisation of beauty is the basis for many of the African American characters in the novel to define their value and self-worth within society. This leads Pecola to believe she deserves the abuse and neglect she experiences at home based on her self-perceived ‘ugliness’.

Society is willing to accept outsiders so long as this acceptance does not disturb the power relations within a society. In Othello it is not until Othello and Desdemona’s marriage is revealed that it becomes apparent to the audience that society has not completely accepted Othello’s ethnicity as they feel threatened by his increasing power and his ability to disrupt the status quo. This is highlighted by Brabantio’s accusation that Othello must have used “witchcraft” in order to make Desdemona fall in love with him. While Brabantio was once intrigued by Othello’s esotericism he is now furious and unable to understand how a young, beautiful white woman could consciously marry a man “she feared to look on”. Unlike Othello, who commanded the respect of his army, Pecola on the other hand never challenges society’s prejudices, as she has always been denied power. She truly believes she is “an ugly little black girl”, wishing for nothing more than to have blue eyes. She spends hours in the mirror trying to find the source of her ugliness and begins to believe that if her eyes were different, if they conformed to society’s ideas of beauty then maybe people would say “why, look at pretty-eyed Pecola. We