We simply took some time to get to know each other. While many of the students had me last year in Advanced English 9, there were some new faces and several students weren’t in the same 9th grade class. We also took some time to discuss some of the major themes involved with The Bluest Eye.
We spent more time delving into the themes that the students thought we most prevalent within the novel. Some of these were beauty, poverty, racism, discrimination, self-hatred.
We spent time this morning learning the definition of white privilege with “Understanding White Privilege” by Francis E. Kendall. While we spent time discussing what it is, we also discussed that whether or not students felt white privilege was an issue or problem, the author of the novel we read wrote through a lens of white privilege in what she terms “the master narrative.” Our purpose is the see through this lens in order to understand her language and dialect and to understand why others see the world differently.
We also watched a video by Joy DeGruy in which she gives a real-world example in “A Trip to the Grocery Store.”
From here, we discussed the definition of “the master narrative” which is the view of the white, privileged male. By understanding white privilege, we are able to better understand Toni Morrison’s master narrative, what it is, and why she writes in her style. We took a look at this part of an interview:
Moyers: I don’t think I’ve ever met a more pathetic character in modern literature than Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye.
Morrison: She has surrendered completely to the so-called “Master Narrative,” the whole notion of what is ugliness, what is worthlessness. She got it from her family; she got it from school; she got it from the movies; she got it from everywhere.
Moyers: The Master Narrative . . . what is . . . that’s life.
Morrison: No. It’s white male life. The Master Narrative is whatever ideological script that is being imposed by the people in authority on everybody else: The Master Fiction . . . history. It has a certain point of view. So when those little girls see that the most prized gift they can receive at Christmas time is this little white doll, that’s the Master Narrative speaking: this is beautiful, this is lovely, and you’re not it, so what are you going to do about it? So if you surrender to that, as Pecola did (the little girl, the “I” of the story, is a bridge: [she] is resistant, feisty, doesn’t trust any adults) . . . [Pecola] is so completely needful; she has so little and needs so much . . . she becomes the perfect victim–the total pathetic one. And for her, there’s no way back into the community or society. For her, an abused child, she can only escape into fantasy, into madness . . . which is part of what . . . the mind is always creative . . . it can think that up.
After this, I had the students write a list of characteristics that make up the typical American Family. They came up with ideas such as two working parents, middle-class, 2 children, divorce, lack of connection, social media driven, etc. We then looked at the Dick an Jane reader that makes up the first pages of the novel, and I asked them to list the things that were missing. They came up with no people of color, both parents aren’t working, divorce, connection, etc. I mentioned that race is not always part of the master narrative.
We watched to parts of Pride and Prejudice, and we discussed that sometimes the master narrative traps us all by class and gender, as well. In the first clip, Elizabeth’s family (father is not present) is sitting around the living room when they unexpectedly get visitors. They rush around putting things away and the mother yells, “Everyone behave naturally,” as if they weren’t actually acting natural before. When the gentlemen come in, the women all look as they are supposed to. In the second clip, Darcy tells Elizabeth that he loves her despite the inferiority of her birth. With these two clips, we are able to see a new view of the master narrative where it traps many people.
HOMEWORK: Write a paragraph about how the master narrative applies to TBE and/or Pride and Prejudice and/or the Dick and Jane Reader.