When I first read the scene in The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, where Pecola gets raped by her own father, I immediately thought of the award winning 2009 film, Precious. In both works of art, the female lead has been raped and impregnated by her own father. This situation is absolutely disturbing as you can imagine. In The Bluest Eye, Pecola is an eleven-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by her father, but gave birth prematurely, resulting in the baby’s death. In Precious, sixteen-year-old Precious has been raped by her father and impregnated by him twice. Her first son was born with down syndrome and shortly after giving birth to her second son, Precious’ mother deliberately drops the baby, but the baby survives.
Both girls in these two works come from poorer African American families with abusive parents. Pecola’s mother physically and emotional abuses Pecola often. After Pecola told her mother that Cholly had raped her, Pecola receives a brutal beating from her mother. Precious often receives beatings from her mother all throughout the film. Precious has endured the final beating before finally running away with her youngest son (her oldest son lives with her grandmother), seeking help from her alternative school teacher and eventually a social worker.
In Kelly Hager’s Keyword essay on “body”, she says “perhaps the most explicit site of children’s literature’s engagement with the body and its physical vulnerability is in the genre of young adult fiction, with its focus on sexual maturation, orientation, body size, and physical abuse” (18). The Bluest Eye definitely fits into this because of the physical and sexual abuse of Pecola’s vulnerable eleven-year-old-body. As discussed in lecture, Pecola’s body wasn’t able handle the pregnancy because her small body was still maturing itself. The description of Pecola’s rape scene emphasizes explicit content of the body and Pecola’s “physical vulnerability” from a distinct point of view: her father’s. “He was conscious of her wet, soapy hands on his wrists, the fingers clenching, but whether her grip was from a hopeless but stubborn struggle to be free, or from some other emotion, he could not tell” (163). This scene in this children’s literature book is so powerful because it demonstrates the explicit content in children’s literature in reference to “body”. She was so shocked that she froze up and fainted, which was her sexually innocent body’s response to the rape. Because of the size of her young body, Pecola wasn’t strong enough to resist. This is among one of the most explicit scenes within a children’s literature text that we have read all year.
“James Kincaid (1992) argues that we are invested in ignoring the existence of children’s sexuality: “By insisting so loudly on the innocence, purity, and asexuality of the child, we have created a subversive echo: experience, corruption, and eroticism”” (20). This is saying that society is prone to turning their backs on the horrific reality that children do get raped. In both The Bluest Eye and Precious, the girls are blamed for their own rapes. On page 189 of The Bluest Eye, there is a conversation about Pecola’s pregnancy between some adult women who live in the town and they say “She carry some of the blame” and “How come she didn’t fight him? – Maybe she did”. Then in Precious, Precious’ mother says that it was Precious’ fault that her father raped her because she let him. Obviously these are examples of society turning their backs on the horrific reality of the rapes in the book and the film. However, the audience of both is supposed to feel sympathy for Pecola and Precious. Rape is never the fault of the victim.