Lets take a moment to absorb all the work the fabulous Toni Morrison has created. From “Song of Solomon” to “Sula” to “Tar Baby.” All these are diverse novels, but all seem to connect in a common theme. Many of her stories are set in Ohio, hence her birthplace, and are iconic for their vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters. A lot of her books reflect on her early background growing up in an integrated neighborhood. After entering Howard University and receiving a B.A. in English in 1953, she earned a Master’s of Art degree in English from Cornell University. Now come along with me to delve into “The Bluest Eye.”
“The Bluest Eye” does not have a very “controlled” plot like Toni Morrison’s other pieces of work. Because Morrison brilliantly decided to have a child protagonist, she chose to portray the ill effects on children of incorporated racism. In the beginning of the book, the main focus was on ten-year old Pecola Breedlove. However, Morrison couldn’t maintain for her to be the focus throughout the entire novel. In the middle if the book, Morrison had to tie in her parents to support Pecola’s reasonings such as why she thought she was ugly and that if she had the blue eyes, she would become beautiful. As the story unfolds, it turns that Pecola’s birth parents have both lived through difficult lives. Her mother had suffered through isolation and believed that romantic love is reserved for the beautiful (white people). She channels her inner feelings by encouraging her husband’s violent behaviors, and escapes from everything by cleaning a white women’s home. On the other hand, Pecola’s father was abandoned at a very young age and mentally unstable. Later on in the book you find that Pecola has been impregnated by her father raping her.
For the most part, “The Bluest Eye” exceeded my expectations throughout the middle and end of the book. In the beginning, it was kind of tiresome because Toni Morrison is very descriptive and writes a lot, but there is a reason why she does that. She wants to make sure the reader has a clear picture painted in their head and alludes to many things that will occur later on in the story. Most of all her novels that I’ve read start off like this. I wanted to put the book down a couple of times because it wasn’t capturing my interest, but as I continued reading, I could not stop. It’s worth it to keep reading because it’s impressive how Morrison ties everything together in such a creative way.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is how Morrison chose her narrators. The reason I say “narrators” is because although the only narrator was Claudia MacTeer, Morrison makes it so that she narrates in a combination of a child’s perspective, and when she gets older, an adult’s perspective. I also enjoyed the novel’s points of view. Claudia and Pecola’s view are more dominant throughout. However, Pecola’s parents come into play. The points of view are deliberately structured to give a sense of each character’s experiences, and help us put ourselves in their shoes. In my opinion, I feel that “The Bluest Eye” is really known for its themes. Given from its title, one theme is whiteness is the standard of beauty. Another is seeing versus actually being seen. The person who suffers most from white beauty standards is Pecola. She connects beauty with being loved and believes that if she possesses blue eyes, the cruelty in her life will be replaced by affection and respect. Pecola’s desire for blue eyes, while highly unrealistic, is based on one correct insight into her world: she believes that the cruelty she witnesses and experiences is connected to how she is seen. If she had beautiful blue eyes, Pecola imagines, people would not want to do ugly things in front of her or to her. She correlates this to when she was teases by boys and when Pecola and her family are mistreated in part because they happen to have black skin. By wishing for blue eyes rather than lighter skin, Pecola indicates that she wishes to see things differently as much as she wishes to be seen differently. She can only receive this wish, by blinding herself when looking in the mirror. Pecola is then able to see herself as beautiful, but only at the cost of her ability to see accurately both herself and the world around her. The connection between how one is seen and what one sees has a uniquely tragic outcome for her.
I would personally recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories that portray different themes, and don’t mind the story being told by more than one perspective. I also encourage people to read all of Toni Morrison’s work along with this one so that you can see the comparisons within all her other novels.
“The Bluest Eye”
Published in 1970
Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston