Parents have a significant impact on the formation of a child’s self-perception and self-attitude. At the same time, an infant’s physical appearance may also influence the way adults treat this child. In Morrison’s novel, Benetton’s advertisement, and The Littlest Rebel clip, the children’s physical characteristics are interrelated with the attitudes of adults. Even though children may have no physical defects, the way other people perceive them depends on their own attitude towards their appearance and affects their maturation process and further personality formation.
In the analyzed quote, the importance of a child’s physical beauty is emphasized. Mrs. Pauline Breedlove, Pecola’s mother, reveals her strong affection for the Fisher’s girl and rejection of her own daughter. For instance, Morrison writes: “she brushed the yellow hair, enjoying the roll and slip of it between her fingers” (125). Evidently, the woman adores this white little girl and cherishes her as a crystal vase. In comparison, the words “no tangled black puffs of rough wool to comb” can be identified with disgust at Polly’s daughter Pecola (Morrison 125). Her daughter is not as white as porcelain and has no blue eyes, which makes her unattractive to other people. The biggest problem is that Pecola does not try to develop her own beauty, instead, she dreams of obtaining the bluest eyes, thus making herself even uglier for her mother.
In Benetton’s advert, a white and a black child look at the world differently, and their looks along with physical appearances identify their places in this world. Thus, the little blond girl is smiling, her eyes radiate happiness, and her carefree look attracts the audience, arousing their parenting feelings. In comparison, the black child is neither radiant nor happy in the advert. Half of the child’s head is in a shadow, the gaze radiates pain and fear of being rejected, and there is no smile on the face. One can see that the second child does not perceive themselves as beautiful and worthy, and this uncertainty repels the audience and makes them look at the white girl with even greater admiration. Evidently, the child’s self-perception and self-presentation affect the adults’ attitude and, consequently, influence the process of personality formation in the future.
If a child does not protect themselves and never fight back, adults will continue to abuse and hurt them even if the child does nothing wrong. For example, one day, Junior invites Pecola to his house, throws his mother’s cat into her face, makes the girl cry, and then kills the cat, telling his mother that it was Pecola. Geraldine calls the girl a “nasty little black bitch,” and Pecola does not even try to protect herself (Morrison 90). Such an attitude towards herself enhances her insignificance and ugliness in the eyes of adults. If Pecola’s parents taught her to fight back and protect her interests, she would seem more attractive and confident to others.
Although the child’s appearance may affect other people’s attitudes towards this child, the infant’s self-presentation is even more important. In the clip from The Littlest Rebel, Shirley Temple, a white-skinned curly girl is shown as a self-confident and cheerful child who knows what she is doing (“Shirley Temple”). Other people admire her, watching her dance and sing while she is holding the hand of her black-skinned friend, Mr. Bojangles. One can see that the girl was raised in a loving family that influenced the way she looks and acts.
In conclusion, parents play a significant role in their children’s lives, but children’s physical appearance is also crucial for their reputation. Morrison’s novel, Benetton’s advert, and the clip from The Littlest Rebel demonstrate that the ability of an infant to present themselves and fight against any abuse and humiliation can help them look attractive in the eyes of adults. In contrast, if a child does not develop their individuality and does not like their own appearance, other people will perceive them similarly, rejecting and disgracing them.
“Shirley Temple – The Littlest Rebel – 1935.” YouTube, uploaded by Damien Chemille, Web.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. Vintage Books, 2007.