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
life.
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