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THE BLUEST EYES by Toni Morrison

THE BLUEST EYES (original 1970; edition 1972)

by Toni Morrison

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8,382132369 (3.88)359
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Washington Square Press (1972), Edition: Mass Paperback Edition, Mass Market Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)


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3 stars ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
Toni Morrison’s first novel centres on a year in the life of Pecola Breedlove, a poor, unloved child who wants to have blue eyes. Constantly rejected and told that she is ugly and worthless, she wants the blue eyes of a white girl so she can be loved and treated respectfully. Through flashbacks, the reader also learns about the lives of Pauline and Cholly, Pecola’s parents.

Pecola’s family is anything but the ideal family portrayed in the Dick and Jane stories found in children’s readers of the mid-twentieth century, the stories referenced at the beginning of chapters. But though Pauline and Cholly’s treatment of their daughter is at least insensitive if not downright cruel, the flashbacks show what has shaped them and explain their behaviour. Though it is difficult to forgive, we can at least understand what motivates them. Morrison humanizes them and shows them to be victims as well.

The book examines a people trapped in fatal self-loathing, a self-hatred produced by a racist culture. Fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed children are held up as the epitome of beauty. What chance does a black child have when “black” has so many negative connotations?

The novel begins with first person narration, nine-year-old Claudia, one of Pecola’s classmates, being the narrator. Though there are shifts in point of view, it is the innocence of Claudia and her sister that is most effective in conveying the injustices heaped upon Pecola.

The prose can only be described as poetic. It is a style that invites the reader to savour words. Because of the deadline of a book club meeting, I read it quickly and so undoubtedly missed much. It’s a book that should be read slowly with individual sentences and even phrases being examined.

The book is not an easy read. It is unsettling and offers little hope. Tragedy and sadness abound and there seems no end to the pain. Perhaps only in Claudia’s rejection of a blue-eyed doll - “the big, the special, the loving gift” (20) - is there a suggestion that society’s racist standards of beauty may eventually be likewise rejected by black girls.

Morrison wrote about black girls in American culture, but I also found myself thinking about First Nations’ children in Canadian culture. We have the horrific history of residential schools where aboriginal children were also told they were ugly and worthless. Those children, ripped from their homes and parents, were, like Cholly, totally unprepared for parenthood: “having never watched any parent raise himself, he could not even comprehend what such a relationship should be” (160). The consequences for the children of residential school survivors were disastrous – just as Pecola suffers because of Cholly’s lack of parental role models.

Perhaps that is part of Morrison’s achievement in the book: her message applies not just to the situation of blacks in the United States, but also to other minority cultures elsewhere. Because what she wrote about 45 years ago is still a problem (e.g. Black girls lightening their skin; Asian girls having cosmetic eye surgery), Morrison’s testimony is damning. Though her specific perspective should not in any way be dismissed, her book transcends a specific time and place. So though the book is an uncomfortable read, it is one that must be read.

Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Sep 22, 2016 |
Another that I couldn't get into. Maybe later..when I'm in a different frame of mind
  shesinplainview | Aug 29, 2016 |
Ugly-crying. So much ugly-crying. ( )
  doryfish | Aug 15, 2016 |
Book Description Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison's virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.

My Review This was a very powerful book which shows that the way people are treated has a very big impact on their life. Everyone wants to be beautiful and loved but that is not a reality. Morrison brings out the themes of love and injustice to show how they impact on everyone's life. This book taught me that even though we are all different on the outside, everybody feels and looks the same on the inside. I would recommend this book to everyone as I feel it is a very worthwhile read. ( )
  EadieB | Jun 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
I have said "poetry." But "The Bluest Eye" is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music. It is one thing to state that we have institutionalized waste, that children suffocate under mountains of merchandised lies. It is another thing to demonstrate that waste, to re-create those children, to live and die by it. Miss Morrison's angry sadness overwhelms.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrison, Tonimain authorall editionsconfirmed
Dee, RubyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the two who gave me life
and the one who made me free
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Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that did not sprout; nobody's did. Not even the gardens fronting the lake showed marigolds that year. But so deeply concerned were we with the health and safe delivery of Pecola's baby we could think of nothing but our own magic: if we planted the seeds, and said the right words over them, they would blossom, and everything would be alright. It was a long time before my sister and I admitted to ourselves that no green was going to spring from our seeds. Once we knew, our guilt was relieved only by fights and mutual accusations about who was to blame. For years I thought my sister was right: it was my fault. I had planted them too far down in the earth. It never occured to either one of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair. What is clear now is that of all of that hope, fear, lust, love, and grief, nothing remains but Pecola and the unyielding earth. Cholly Breedlove is dead; our innocence too. The seeds shriveled and died; her baby too. There is really nothing more to say--except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452282195, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, April 2000: Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel. In an afterword written more than two decades later, the author expressed her dissatisfaction with the book's language and structure: "It required a sophistication unavailable to me." Perhaps we can chalk up this verdict to modesty, or to the Nobel laureate's impossibly high standards of quality control. In any case, her debut is nothing if not sophisticated, in terms of both narrative ingenuity and rhetorical sweep. It also shows the young author drawing a bead on the subjects that would dominate much of her career: racial hatred, historical memory, and the dazzling or degrading power of language itself.

Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.... And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.
There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.

This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison's novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: "Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison's imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel's modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. --James Marcus

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:54 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Pecola Breedlove, a young eleven-year-old black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dreams grow more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity.--from publisher's description.… (more)

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