Double-consciousness is a crucial term in understanding the identity struggle that persists within an African American’s mind. The term was coined by W.E.B. Du Bois and describes it in that African Americans have a “peculiar sensation of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity”. This alludes to the “twoness” and African American Feels. Du Bois continues by describing the twoness as, “…an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder”. Due to this split identity, African Americans struggle to understand themselves through their own views and the views of a white person.
This idea of a double consciousness is consistently present in Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye. The young African American girls in the story, struggle with this concept. Frieda and Claudia MacTeer, and Pecola Breedlove, realize that the color of their skin is not the American view of beauty. They struggle with the divide this creates between what a beautiful girl looks like and their skin-tone stopping them from achieving this beauty. Claudia and Frieda learn to respond to this by understanding acts of racism as outside factors. Through this, they are able to protect their identity, although they struggle with it.
However, Pecola Breedlove is unable to do this and instead turns racism inward which crushes her sense of identity. While double consciousness is shown through each of the characters of the young girls, it has the biggest effect on Pecola. Through the character of Pecola, Morrison shows the horrible result of double consciousness through the experiences of a child. The ramifications of Pecola’s loss of sense of identity lead her to insanity.