The Bluest Eye

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The Bluest Eye
BluestEye.JPG
First edition
AuthorToni Morrison
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
PublisherHolt, Rinehart and Winston
Publication date
1970
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages224 pp (Hardcover edition)
ISBNISBN 978-0-375-41155-7 (Hardcover edition)
OCLC808600872
 
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The Bluest Eye
BluestEye.JPG
First edition
AuthorToni Morrison
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
PublisherHolt, Rinehart and Winston
Publication date
1970
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages224 pp (Hardcover edition)
ISBNISBN 978-0-375-41155-7 (Hardcover edition)
OCLC808600872

The Bluest Eye is a 1970 novel by American author Toni Morrison. It is Morrison's first novel and was written while she was teaching at Howard University and raising her two sons on her own.[1] The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl named Pecola who develops an inferiority complex due to her eye color and skin appearance. It is set in Lorain, Ohio, against the backdrop of America's Midwest during the years following the Great Depression. The point of view switches between the perspective of Claudia MacTeer, as a child and as an adult, and a third-person omniscient viewpoint. Because of the controversial nature of the book, which deals with racism, incest, and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it from schools and libraries.[2]

Plot[edit]

In Lorain, Ohio, 9-year-old Claudia MacTeer and her 10-year-old sister Frieda live with their parents, who take two other people into their home: Mr. Henry, a tenant, and Pecola Breedlove, a temporary foster child whose house was burned down by her wildly unstable father, Cholly: a man widely gossiped about in the community. Pecola is a quiet, passive young girl with a hard life, whose parents are constantly fighting, both verbally and physically. Pecola is continually reminded of what an "ugly" girl she is, fueling her desire to be white with blue eyes. Most chapters' titles are extracts from the Dick and Jane paragraph in the novel's prologue, presenting a white family that may be contrasted with Pecola's; perhaps to incite discomfort, the chapter titles contain much sudden repetition of words or phrases, many cut-off words, and no interword separations.

The novel, through flashbacks, explores the younger years of both of Pecola's parents, Cholly and Pauline, and their struggles as African-Americans in a largely White Anglo-Saxon Protestant community. Pauline now works as a servant for a wealthier white family. One day in the novel's present time, while Pecola is doing dishes, Cholly approaches her drunk and rapes her. His motives are largely confusing, seemingly a combination of both love and hate. After raping her a second time, he flees, leaving her pregnant.

Claudia and Frieda are the only two in the community that hope for Pecola's child to survive in the coming months. Consequently, they give up the money they had been saving to buy a bicycle, instead planting marigold seeds with the superstitious belief that if the flowers bloom, Pecola's baby will survive. The marigolds never bloom, and Pecola's child, who is born prematurely, dies. In the aftermath, a dialogue is presented between two sides of Pecola's own deluded imagination, in which she indicates strangely positive feelings about her rape by her father. In this internal conversation, Pecola speaks as though her wish has been granted: she believes that she now has blue eyes.

Claudia, as narrator a final time, describes the recent phenomenon of Pecola's insanity and suggests that Cholly (who has since died) may have shown Pecola the only love he could by raping her. Claudia lastly laments on her belief that the whole community, herself included, have used Pecola as a sort of scapegoat to make themselves feel prettier and happier.

Characters[edit]

Background[edit]

Toni Morrison began writing The Bluest Eye in a writing group she joined while teaching at Howard University. She said it was “fun with colleagues. But then they stopped letting us bring in ‘high school essays,’ etc.; so I would have to write something new.”[3] There, she wrote a passage that was later incorporated into the novel. When Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York, she would work on the novel in the evenings.

Morrison commented on her motivations to write the novel, saying, “I felt compelled to write this mostly because in the 1960s, black male authors published powerful, aggressive, revolutionary fiction or nonfiction, and they had positive racially uplifting rhetoric with them that were stimulating and I thought they would skip over something and thought no one would remember that it wasn't always beautiful, how hurtful racism is. I wrote The Bluest Eye because someone would actually be apologetic about the fact that their skin was so dark and how when I was a kid, we called each other names but we didn't think it was serious, that you could take it in, so the book was about taking it in, before we all decide that we are all beautiful, and have always been beautiful; I wanted to speak on the behalf of those who didn't catch that right away. I was deeply concerned about the feelings of being ugly.”[3]

Adaptations[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (September 11, 1994). "Chloe Wofford Talks about Toni Morrison". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  2. ^ Staff, Time (October 2, 2007). The Bluest Eye Top 10 Book Controversies Time Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2012
  3. ^ a b http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Zgu2hrs2k

Bibliography