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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye (original 1970; edition 1972)

by Toni Morrison

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7,848116426 (3.87)337
Title:The Bluest Eye
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Washington Square Press (1972), Edition: 1st, Mass Market Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)


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English (111)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
I thought I'd love this more than Beloved, and to start with I did. The evocation of place and character is excellent, the writing is beautiful and the examination of racial tension is lyrical yet sharp. Unfortunately the story itself got lost along the way and fizzled out entirely by the end; a plot that should have left me deeply moved left me largely cold. I'm glad I read it, but ultimately for me it was a bit of a disappointment, especially given that this seems to be a lot of readers' favourite Morrison novel. ( )
  elliepotten | Jun 2, 2015 |
It made no impression. Thus, no rating. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
It made no impression. Thus, no rating. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
A striking novel about two black girls from opposite ends of the spectrum. One of the girls is strong and resilient, growing even in the harshest conditions. The other girl is weak and malleable and is destroyed by racial prejudices. Worth the read, recommend it to all. ( )
  Rosenstern | Sep 14, 2014 |
Someone recommended The Bluest Eye to me shortly after it was released and it somehow fell off my radar. I read Beloved by Toni Morrison about 5 years ago and while I was impressed by the artistic elements of the novel, I wasn't as "moved" but it as I was "supposed to be" and as such I never bothered to seek out more by Morrison. I stumbled on Bluest Eye again recently and decided to give a try. Apparently The Bluest Eye is Morrison's first novel and frankly I enjoyed it more than Beloved.

From a form and method standpoint, Bluest Eye uses alternating narrative styles. It transitions back and forth from the first person narration of a girl named Claudia living through the experiences of the novel and her same voice as an adult with a third person omniscience.. I really enjoyed Claudia's child voice and the way Morrison presented her narrative. As a child narrator, Claudia's youthful view of the world was an interesting contrast to the omniscient adult narrator. The third person served as a good balance for the unreliable narrative from the first person child while the first person narrative helped provide the human and emotional element to the story.

The story also played with the idea of known knowledge and hidden knowledge. In early chapters, Claudia makes reference to elements that happen later in the narrative and have significant impact. She drops these references very matter-of-factly as though we already know all about the events and have already come to our own conclusions. This makes for an intersting suspense to the reader as we try to read between the lines and make sense of the little snippets provided to us. Knowing a little bit of the intended tone and plot of the story, I was able to make some logical inferrences. Not only does Claudia's narration tease the reader with elements but the narrative also plays with time a bit and meanders through the timeline of the story dropping fragments of scenes out of order.

The plot takes place in the ~1930s and revolves around a yound black girl named Pecola who has been taken in as a temporary foster child by Claudia's family. We learn that there was a fire that burned down Pecola's home but it is evident through hints and allusions that there was more to the tragedy than a simple home fire. As the novel progresses, we learn that Pecola's home life was an abusive one both verbally and physically. Her parents constantly fight and Pecola is constantly told that she is absolutely ugly.

The book showcases the imbalance of whites and blacks in a number of ways. Pecola's mother Pauline works as a servant for an affluent white family. The family has a young girl about the same age as Pecola. It becomes very clear to the reader and to Pecola that Pauline adores the young white girl she cares for and despises Pecola and all she represents. The book also uses early cinema to further contrast the "perfect" life shown on the movie screen with the disharmony in Pecola's home. Still other characters illustrate the imbalance even within the colored population. One character in particular is a girl "of color" who believes she and her family are of a higher class than other "blacks" in the area.

Pecola accepts as fact and embraces the unbalanced relationship between white and black. She comes to the belief that her life would be made truly wonderful if she was a beautiful white girl like those in the movies. As a result of this belief, she makes the wish that her eyes will be made blue so she can fit in and find the happiness known to all white Americans.

About this time, the reader is given more insight into the nature of the abuse at home and the event leading up to the fire. Morrison's portrayal of Pecola's tragic situation is heart wrenching especially due to Pecola's subdued and accepting nature. She behaves as though she is consigned to her fate merely because she is "ugly" and she is black. As such, she has virtually no reaction or outlashing against the abuses piled upon her. She merely resigns herself to her fate and muddles through life.

At first it seems as though the events in her life will have no impact on her. But over time we see that Pecola has done more than simply withdraw into herself. She has worked to create her own happy fantasy where the world has changed and she has been granted her dreams. While the atrocities forced upon her were awful, I found her disjointed mental state to be even more tragic even though in the end it was probably the best thing for her.

I found the writing style and form to be engaging and a great way to present the story in an intriguing way that left the user emotionally touched but not grotesquely shocked or offended. I loved the youthful naivette of Claudia as a narrator. While I couldn't directly relate to Pecola as a character, I found myself deeply sympathizing with her and hoping for the best.

It's difficult to say "I enjoyed" a story like this that illustrates some of the worst parts of "human nature" but I can certainly appreciate this book and I'm glad that I read it. To the extent that such topics can be "enjoyable", I did enjoy this book. The Bluest Eye definitely sparked an emotional response but it also triggered an intellectual response and left me thinking more deeply about racial relations not only of the mid-1900s but also today. It also made me contemplate general family and human relationships. In this day of Social Media and the ability to connect almost instantly with anyone in the world, it seems that our actual relationships with real people has diminished. This book showcases (at least to me) the human element and emphasizes the need for destroying stereotypes, seeing the truth of the world and making true human connections with those around us.

4 out of 5 stars ( )
  theokester | Aug 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (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
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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