Academic Journal of Modern Philology vol. 4 (2015)
University of Wrocław
Internalization of Negative Images: Self-Loathing as Portrayed in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
Geraldine’s Case Study.
The black woman had nothing to fall back on: not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything.
And out of profound desolation of her reality she may very well have invented herself.
The article presents the foundations, symptoms and consequences of self-hatred as experienced by Geraldine, the black female character portrayed in Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye. Primarily, based on the psychological concepts of Rosenberg, Higgins and Horney, it defines self-loathing as an extremely negative self-concept, a depreciation of one’s own physical attractiveness, intellect and abilities which is accompanied by anger towards oneself. The key characteristic of this process is expressed by a decreased level of self-esteem that is effectuated by an internalization of negative in- and out-group concepts based on racial prejudice and sexism, as well as on a sense of social rejection and intolerance. An additional reason behind the black woman’s conviction of her inferiority and unworthiness is her idealization of white culture, of its standards of beauty and lifestyle with which she is bombarded. In consequence, the black female character tends to overestimate the image of whiteness and to underestimate her blackness. Instead, by being an organic part of the culture that detests her, she learns to hate her dark skin, her poverty, otherness and funkiness. This acquired hatred generates a discrepancy between her actual self and the ideal or ought self, effectuating in a neurotic desire to eradicate all attributes of the actual, despised self. Therefore, Geraldine disparages, doubts and discredits the epitomes of her blackness and bitterly endeavors to eradicate it. To achieve this, she firstly obliterates her native and cultural identity, both in the physical and mental dimension, and secondly she invents a new identity which allows her to escape from her hopelessness and ugliness.
Keywords: black self-hatred, self-esteem, female identity, racism, sexism, negative stereotypes, feminism.