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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
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The Bluest Eye (original 1970; edition 1972)

by Toni Morrison

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8,193127382 (3.88)351
Member:OWSLibrary
Title:The Bluest Eye
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Washington Square Press (1972), Edition: 1st, Mass Market Paperback, 160 pages
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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)

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English (122)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
This is my third book by Toni Morrison and her debut novel. In this book the author tries to give voice to what it is like to be rejected as a person by others. To want what your are not and to not embrace who you are. The story is told in Claudia's voice and an omniscient narrator and is the story of Pecola. Pecola prays for blue eyes. Pecola is 11 and she is black. The story is about loneliness and child sexual abuse which is not an easy, lighthearted subject but what makes this novel great is the beautiful writing by a very gifted author. Thee are many rich quotes that can be found in this book. Here is two, one from the start of the story and one from the end.

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 didn't sprout; nobody's did…It had never occurred to either 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 into his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.

The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world—which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us.

Toni Morrison is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. She writes about being female, being black and she is one of the great American (female) authors. ( )
  Kristelh | Apr 8, 2016 |
This novel accomplished a great deal in only 206 pages. It explores topics of racism, class-ism, media's promulgation of a singular ideal of beauty, abuse, and relationships between children and adults. The narration in this book is a very creative metaphor, especially for one character.

Especially for the major, adult characters in this work - they sometimes do unspeakable things to each other and to children, but the author treats them in a very human way, where the reader is allowed to form his/her own opinions about them on their own terms.

Overall, I felt myself being challenged and angered by the way certain characters were treated by others in the novel, and the way that society reacted to this treatment. This has given me a new perspective on the way I live my life, and how I relate to others around me.

NOTE: I would highly recommend not reading the Forward before reading the book. My edition had a Forward written by the author, and it gave some spoilers and character insights that I would have been disappointed to have known beforehand. ( )
  BooksForYears | Apr 1, 2016 |
I found this book wonderful--for the first ironic 70 (?) pages. Then, like every T.M. I've read, it descends from irony into various word salad. No idea why; my guess was, she wrote too much. ZN Hurston wrote much less--and much better. I take it the Nobel committee was not English as first language.
I do say, always, that T.M. is the best researcher-novelist I know, the equal of Flaubert who had to research provincial life--the auction, the cart transportation, the priest's and the physician's life, even the apothicaire. (I say always that in court for the immorality of Mme Bovary, Flaubert beat the charge the same way as Lizzie Borden: The court was assured that a guilty verdict would reflect poorly on their respected fathers! In Flaubert's case, his father was a famous physician who may have saved people in the courtroom.) ( )
  AlanWPowers | Mar 5, 2016 |
Two of the main characters, Claudia MacTeer and Frieda MacTeer, live in Ohio with their parents. The MacTeer family takes in two other people into their home, Mr. Henry and Pecola. Pecola is a troubled young girl with a hard life. Her parents are constantly fighting both physically and verbally. Pecola is continually being told and reminded of what an “ugly” girl she is thus fueling her desire to be a white girl with blue eyes. Throughout the novel it is revealed that not only has Pecola had a life full of hatred and hardships but her parents have as well. Pecola’s mother only feels alive and happy when she is working for a rich white family. Her father is a drunk who was left with his aunt when he was young and ran away to find his father who wanted nothing to do with him. Both her mother and father eventually lost the love they once had for one another. While Pecola is doing dishes, her father, Cholly, rapes her. His motives are unclear and confusing; they’re a combination of both love and hate. Cholly flees after the second time he rapes Pecola, leaving her pregnant. The entire town of Lorain turns against her except Claudia and Frieda. In the end Pecola’s child is born prematurely and dies. Claudia and Frieda give up the money they had been saving and plant flower seeds in hopes that if the flowers bloom Pecolas baby will live. The marigolds never bloom.

In the afterword, Morrison explains that she is attempting to humanize all the characters that attack Pecola or cause her to be the way she is; and she hates the fact that she becomes a tomboy.

Ideas of beauty, particularly those that relate to racial characteristics, are a major theme in this book. The title refers to Pecola's wish that her eyes would turn blue. Claudia is given a white baby doll to play with and is constantly told how lovely it is. Insults to the appearance are often given in racial terms; a light skinned student named Maureen is given favoritism at school. There is a contrast between the world shown in the cinema, the one in which Pauline is a servant, the WASP society, and the existence the main characters live in. Most chapters' titles are extracts from a Dick and Jane reading book, presenting a happy white family. This family is contrasted with Pecola's existence.


[edit] Characters
Pecola Breedlove - The protagonist of the novel, a poor black girl who believes she is ugly because she and her community base their ideals of beauty on "whiteness". The title The Bluest Eye is based on Pecola's fervent wishes for beautiful blue eyes. She is rarely developed during the story, which is purposely done to underscore the actions of the other characters. Her insanity at the end of the novel is her only way to escape the world where she cannot be beautiful and to get the blue eyes she desires from the beginning of the novel.
Cholly Breedlove - Pecola's abusive father, an alcoholic man who rapes his daughter at the end of the novel. Rejected by his father and discarded by his mother as a four day old baby, Cholly was raised by his Great Aunt Jimmy. After she dies, Cholly runs away and pursues the life of a "free man", yet he is never able to escape his painful past, nor can he live with the mistakes of his present. Tragically, he rapes his daughter in a gesture of madness mingled with affection. He realizes he loves her, but the only way he can express it is to rape her.
Pauline Breedlove - Pecola's mother. Mrs. Breedlove is married to Cholly and lives the self-righteous life of a martyr, enduring her drunk husband and raising her two awkward children as best she can. Mrs. Breedlove is a bit of an outcast herself with her shriveled foot and Southern background. Mrs. Breedlove lives the life of a lonely and isolated character who escapes into a world of dreams, hopes and fantasy that turns into the motion pictures she enjoys viewing.
Sam Breedlove - Pecola's older brother. Sammy is Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove's one son. Sam's part in this novel is relatively low key. Like his sister Pecola, he is affected by the disharmony in their home and deals with his anger by running away from home.
Claudia MacTeer - Much of the novel is told from the perspective of Claudia.
Frieda MacTeer - Claudia's older sister and close companion. The two MacTeer girls are often seen together and while most of the story is told through Claudia's eyes, her sister Frieda plays a large role in the novel.
Henry Washington - A man who comes to live with the MacTeer family and is subsequently thrown out by Claudia's father when he inappropriately touches Frieda.
Soaphead Church (aka Elihue Micah Whitcomb) - A pedophile and mystic fortune teller who "grants" Pecola her wish for blue eyes. The character is somewhat based on Morrison's Jamaican ex-husband.
Great Aunt Jimmy - Cholly's aunt who takes him in to raise after his parents abandon him. She dies when he is a young boy.
Della Jones- Henry Washington's landlady before the Macteers.
Hattie- Della's sister.
Aunt Julia- Della and Hattie's aunt.
Peggy- The woman having an affair with Della's husband.
Old Slack Bessie- Peggy's mother.
Maureen Peal - A light-skinned, wealthy mulatto girl who is new at the local school. She accepts everyone else’s assumption that she is superior and is capable of both generosity and cruelty. She changes her attitude throughout the novel towards Pecola.
Bay Boy- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
Woodrow Cain- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
Buddy Wilson- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
Junie Bug- One of the black boys from school who tease Pecola about her daddy.
Mrs. MacTeer- The mother of Claudia and Frieda. She houses Pecola when her family is "put out."
Mr. MacTeer- The father of Claudia and Frieda.
China- One of the whores who live above the Breedlove residence. Physically, she is extremely skinny.
Poland- One of the whores who live above the Breedlove residence. She speaks the least out of her, China, and Miss Marie.
Maginot Line (aka Miss Marie)- One of the whores who live above the Breedlove residence. She is known for being very plump.
Dewey Prince- An old boyfriend of the Maginot Line.
The Fishers- The rich, white couple who employ Pauline as their servant.
Geraldine- A socially-conscious black woman in the community who tries to over exaggerate the fact that she is above traditional black stereotypes, and is more "civilized" than other black families in Lorain, Ohio.
Louis- The husband of Geraldine.
Louis Junior- Geraldine's son who picks on Pecola, and blames her for the killing his mother's favorite cat.
Rosemary Villanucci- The little girl of the MacTeer's next door neighbor who constantly tries to get Claudia and Frieda in trouble.
Blue Jack- Cholly's boyhood mentor.
M'Dear- Medicine woman in Cholly's hometown who tends on Aunt Jimmy.
Essie Foster- Aunt Jimmy's neighbor whose peach cobbler is blamed for her death.
Miss Alice- One of Aunt Jimmy's friends.
Jake- Cholly's cousin that he first meets at Aunt Jimmy's funeral.
Darlene- Young girl from Cholly's hometown whom he shared his first sexual experience with.
Mr. Yacobowski- The immigrant grocery story owner where Pecola goes to buy Mary Janes.
Samson Fuller- Cholly's father who lives in Macon, GA.
Chicken and Pie- The nicknames of Pauline's younger, twin siblings.
O.V.- Aunt Jimmy's half brother.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
The writing is as lovely and as dense as poetry, but I would have liked more subtlety in the story and more variety in the sad-child point of view that isn't really a child's point of view at all. Children don't "usually have "binding conviction that only a miracle will relieve them," for example. There were many startling brilliances--one of my favorite scenes was Claudia tearing apart a much hated white-baby china doll--but mostly I felt suffocated by this humorless book. ( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (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
Dee, RubyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the two who gave me life
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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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Please distinguish between this complete 1970 novel and any abridgement of the original Work. Thank you.
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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)

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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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