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The Theme of Racial and Sexual Anxieties

Sexuality and racial anxieties are the two main themes that interplay in the novels; “The Devil in a Blue Dress” Walter Mosley, “The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kingston and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. Published in 1976, “The woman Warrior” is about a woman who is seeking to find her own feminine identity in a world controlled by patriarchal ideology. The first and most pressing issue affecting the protagonists in the novel is the definition of beauty in which Maxine Hong is regarded as the ugliest in her family, prompting her to seek her damaged self-identify. Since Hong is grappling to realize her self-worth, she comes to terms with the fact that she can not depend on her family that is particularly mentioning that she is ugly to overcome her agony; therefore, she in turn hates her family and dissociated herself with the tribe in a bid to know her self-worth as a woman. In her quest, Maxine constantly struggled against a world of sexual favoritism and racial prejudice, the two main themes that threaten to devastate Maxine’s ultimate source of self-confidence, the self. Maxine become rebellious and decides to defy her family especially when her mother wants to marry her off to a social freak (). Maxine is a strong-willed lady who appreciates hard work from which she gain her confidence because of her helpful mother who usually helps Maxine out of her horror experiences like sickness. Maxine is able to come out strongly when facing the white American society through which she gains her self confidence when she regards herself as “I” through the culture of the American Chinese since in China collective culture assumes that everyone is “we”; but when Maxine found out that she was discriminated by the collective culture she sought and embraced the individualism culture.

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The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison is a story about the protagonist Pecola Breedlove is equally about a young devastated woman who is seeking to realize her self feminist in a society that resents her. Pecola just like Maxine is the ugliest in her family meaning that she cannot find a comfortable social environment to find the true self-worth as a woman. Therefore, Pecola is yearning for blue eyes and since it is impossible she decides to sink deep into the world of fantasy that does not discriminate against beauty and ugly entities. Unlike Maxine who is defiant and rebellious, Pecola fits into every description that the rest of the society defines her to be as a girl; ugly, irresponsible and unfit. Therefore, Pecola lives unsatisfied in a social environment in which she is threatened by the quarreling and fighting parents.

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Mrs. Breedlove, Pecola’s mother present the ideology of white standards of beauty in that she affectionately treats a white girls of the family where she works as more beautiful than her daughter Pecola. Racial beauty has always been defined in accordance with race whereby the white race stands out to define beauty standards, a tactic that prejudice against the rest of the races. Pecola is confused by the society that is reaffirming her ugliness as to what can be found to be beautiful in her sexuality, in haste to find the true meaning of herself, Pecola decides as Maxine to ignore “them” who represent the society that is constantly discriminative about her beauty and in turn Pecola embraces “I”; but since she lacks confidence because even her mother loves a white child with blue eyes then Pecola interprets I to stand for “eye” in that if she found the bluest eyes, she would be more comfortable and beautiful to be accepted by both the white and the black people. Pecola is too weak to overcome racial prejudice blocks that she decides to isolate herself from the society. Pecola’s image and attitude about her self-worth is a biased ideology that affect her so much that she ends up feeling useless; thus, her sexuality as a woman is affected.

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According to Naintara Gorwaney claims that the kind of a family relationships that a child identifies affects that child’s growth since the concept if self worth springs from within the womb of the family lifestyle (41). Cholly and Pauline Breedlove are the single most source of Pecola’s identify crisis in that the father rapes her twice impregnating her; while her mother is joins in with women and other people who call her the ugly child. Pecola’s parents are subtly confused by their black skin color and the white ideology that associates the black people as ugly. Thus Pecola become mad because she was unable to approach the parents to express her feelings. Earl Baughman maintains that self-esteem for the black people is about family upbringing and the values that influence the child after observing the parents (43). The reason being constant fights in the Breedlove family is the drunken father and mothers believe that black race is ugly people. Cholly was sexually and racial humiliated twice in his life. When Cholly went out with Darlene and ended up together only to be found by two white hunter with two long guns pressing him to go on with the sexual activity but he failed because of the pointed guns by two white supremacists: Heeeee…..The other raced the flashlight all over Cholly and Darlene (Morrison 1972, 117).

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The themes of racial and sexual anxieties have been intensively highlighted throughout the novel, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. The cultural setting of the novel is based in Los Angeles post World War 11 when both cultural and racial segregation was high practiced. As a result, the novel intensively explores the repercussions of racial chauvinism in the society. Detective Ezekiel Rawlins -“Easy”, the protagonist of the novel has been exposed to a high level of sexual perversity especially during his encounters with characters like: Richard McGee, Daphne Monet and Matthew Teran. Consequently, the intensity of sexual anxiety in the novel is revealed when the author explains that it can be felt from the personality to his surrounding and appearance Easy encounters numerous sexual anxiety experiences with his encounter with Richard McGee, Daphne Monet and Matthew Teran. Teran’s sexual pervasiveness is described to have grown beyond his body to his surrounding. Easy describes Teran as amorally and physically filthy man "The moment the [car] door shut I gagged on the odors. The smells were sweet like perfume and sour, an odor of the body I recognized but could put no name to." (Mosley 1990). Mosley symbolizes Teran’s moral and sexual filthiness to the dirty briefs worn by his slave. Moreover, his slave’s magnitude of dirtiness as expressed through the thick mucus about to flow from the nose further explains the filth condition of Teran.

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Set in 1948, the novel highlights the high level of racism experienced by the American society. The society is highly divided into the white and black races as highlighted by Easy when he identifies himself as a black against Mr. Albright, a white personality (Morsley 1990).To further illustrate the intensity of racism, the author illustrates how Easy is surprised to see Mr. Albright, a white walk into Joppy’s bar which is known to belong to the blacks. "…Surprised to see a white man walk in to Joppy's bar," (Morsley 1990). Additionally, Easy perceives Mr. Albright’s clothing to be white further highlighting his racial prejudice.

Racial prejudice is discussed within the three texts. According to Dorothy Lee, poverty, racial humiliation and family rejection are the three main sources of intense self-rejection; further, the writer asserts that blackness is a worse racial scenario for a young girl like Pecole without supportive parents (347). Similarly, though the whites are perceived to be a superior race, Easy points that despite the racial segregation experienced in the army during the First World War, both the blacks and the white experienced similar fear of death. "I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that they were just as afraid to die as I was." (Morsley 1990).

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The whites practice racial superiority as experienced when teenagers refer to Easy as a “nigger”, while Mr. Albright refers to him as “boy.” Further racial prejudice is experienced by the Easy when the police dehumanize him by treating him as though he was a lesser human than the white police. To further express racial superiority, the police find fun in humiliating captured blacks. The police further care very little about crimes committed in the black society unless the crime is committed against the whites (Morsley 1990). The police further made no reports white criminals, and if they did, the white names were written among the back pages to conceal their crimes. On the contrary, though racism is defined as a serious issue affecting and dividing the society, it has also been used in unifying the characters by bringing them together. Easy and Primo, a Mexican, experience a sense of kinship as both are subjected to prejudice by the whites. Abe and Johnny who are holocaust survivors, are easily connected with Easy as they have all experienced racial segregation in one way or another (Wilson 2003) Therefore, the author clearly illustrates the emotional anxiety experienced by the segregated races in the American Post World War society.

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