It is almost impossible not to judge a book by its cover. I’ve said it; It’s a hard fact to face. While I know that many people may argue that they are able to look past appearances, I cannot help but argue that judging people, places and things by how they look is simply human nature. Our brains prefer to organize information into categories. Understand that I am not trying to hack away at the moral fiber of mankind. Rather, I am stating a fact in that people can’t help but formulate first impressions of a person based off of how they look. What distinguishes the good and the bad (and the ugly) is an ability to work past initial impressions and uncover the diamond in the rough.
I’d like to think that a America as a whole is moving in this direction. I am pretty confident that people in 1941 were significantly less willing to look past appearance before making a judgement about the kind of person they are. As Morrison expresses through the thoughts of her complex characters, looks dictate everything, and that is just the way things are. Even those who get the short end of the straw (Pecola and her family for instance), know that their looks hamper everything from their lifestyle to their relationships with others. After losing her teeth in the movie theatre, Polly begins the downward spiral in her life that leads to the broken Breedlove family earlier in the novel. She “settled down to just being ugly.” (Morrison 123) Her sadness originates from more than the realization that she can never look like Jean Harlow; her sadness originates from the fact that her inability to look like Jean Harlow guarantees her inability to live a life of luxury or happiness like Jean Harlow or any white woman for that matter. By “equating physical beauty with virtue” (Morrison 122), beauty holds value and opportunity. Just as the poor know their correlation between their appearance and their situation, the wealthy know the correlation between their appearance and their situation. Maureen shows this as she displays racism towards her own kind exclaiming, “Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute!”(Morrison 73) As a child, Maureen still understands that being “cute” and not “black” brings her favorability just as much as the main characters know that their appearance brings out disgust in others. What they don’t understand is: Why? Why are things the way they are? Why do the pretty white girls lead better lives? Why can’t I be seen as beautiful?
These questions exist because judgements based off of appearance are just plain stupid. Sure, some first impressions based off of looks may be close to the truth, but you cannot come close to understanding the complexity of people based off of their race or beauty. Claudia struggles to understnad the “thing that made [Maureen] beautiful.” “What is the Thing?”(Bump 332) As Professor Bump explains in the analysis, without an understanding of the injustice of such racism, a young child builds a feeling of shame. “A deeper emotion” where “a person is convinced that he or she is a mistake.” (Bump 332) Herein lies one of the saddest results of a racist society: the young are conditioned to false views of beauty and superiority.
As stated in the beginning, initial judgements based off appearance are unavoidable. It would be ignorant to say all people are the same, that race differences don’t exist, or that everyone is desirable and pretty. However, we can look at everyone on an individual basis and take the time to discover what really makes up who they are.
Society still has kind of messed up standards on beauty.