Preview…There are few novels so fraught with meaning as Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Although the book is short and the prose is beautiful, the story itself is a heartbreaking extreme of some very real issues that plague our society.
Each chapter begins with a run-together version of the “Dick and Jane” narrative, before going beneath the blissful surface to reveal what really takes place in the idyllic house,”the pretty green and white house with the red door.”
Morrison doesn’t just toss characters into the plot and expect us to understand them intrinsically, she meticulously goes into the back story of many characters—showing how a little boy raised by his loving aunt can turn into an incestuous rapist.
The novel is narrated primarily by a young girl named Claudia, as she recounts her own experiences and those of the unfortunate Pecola Lovebreed. Pecola is an 11-year-old girl with very dark skin. Like the rest of her family, she is wickedly ugly. They live together in an old store front beneath an apartment of prostitutes. Her mother would rather shower the golden-haired daughter of her employers with love than her own unfortunate little girl, making Pecola feel lonely and unworthy.
Desperately in need of love and approval, Pecola clings to the white standard of beauty, mistakenly believing that if she were to acquire blue eyes that she would be seen differently by the world and that she, in turn, would develop a bright new outlook for herself.
The story ends with Pecola pregnant with her father’s baby, and being blamed for it by onlookers who pray that the infant not survive. She has finally done the impossible by acquiring beautiful, blue eyes that are bluer than any other. Unfortunately, only she can see their beauty, paying the price for them with her sanity. But she can finally be happy and feel relevant in a world that wants nothing more than her tears.
You may like this book if…you are interested in sociology, racial or gender inequality or the colonialism of beauty standards; you want to read a story rife with meaning, whose lessons will stick with you; you want to read about characters who are often not considered in the existing body of fiction; you like reading selections from the ALA Banned Book List; you are interested in the shades of racism and self-loathing that can exist within a race; you want to know how a character becomes who he or she is; you want to read beautiful, flowing prose; or you want to give love to the poor, neglected character of Pecola.
You may not like this book if…the issues espoused in the novel are far too painful for you to explore in-depth; you want to read a story that is happy and uplifting, not one that beats you down emotionally; you have a child that insists on being read to from “Dick and Jane” several times per day, and you don’t want to become fixated on tragic Pecola Lovebreed during every subsequent reading.
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