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The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison
Summary Spring: Chapter 9
Summary Spring: Chapter 9

Soaphead’s hypocrisy is made all the more venomous by the fact that he is well-educated. Labeling himself a “misanthrope” and reading the writings of other misanthropes make him feel as if his behavior is somehow acceptable and even intellectually justified. When he reads works of literature, he remembers the parts that reinforce his own predilections and ignores the parts that challenge them. His hypocrisy is also associated with his religious pretension—his false claim to know God’s will even though it is clear to those in the ministry that he does not have a genuine spiritual calling. Much like Pauline’s religious sense of martyrdom, Soaphead’s relationship with God is an indirect way to express frustration with his life. As a general rule, the religious characters in this novel tend to be the least loving. Soaphead Church is the most extreme example of loveless religiosity.

Soaphead is made into a parody not only to make obvious to us that he is a bad person. Through his character, Morrison also wishes to critique yet another deceptive method of dealing with racial self-hatred. While education may seem to be an escape, the Western education that Soaphead’s family has received reinforces and even exaggerates their self-denial and perversity. While religion may be an escape, it also promotes self-denial and encourages a dangerous, delusional self-righteousness. True freedom and happiness, Morrison suggests, come from a feeling of connectedness with one’s own body, not a denial of it.