Black Identity Formation in Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
Keywords:Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, Blackness, Identity, black identity, The Bluest Eye, autobiography
Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison both dealt extensively with problems of black identity within their works. In Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, we find that black identity is strongly affected and by outside forces that seek to limit the ways in which black identity can develop in order for powerful forces such as institutional slavery to maintain their control over black people. This essay reads Frederick Douglass’s self-fashioning in his Narrative in comparison with characters from Morrison’s novel, particularly Pecola, and explores the ways in which black identity may be constructed against prevailing norms (as in Douglass’s case), or may end up being lost through extreme conformity with norms (as in Pecola’s case). An exploration of black identity in these works is important not only for an understanding of historically significant literature, but for present day problems around black identity.
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