After having this book for a year (or maybe it’s been two years?), I finally finished The Bluest Eye today. I was so excited about finishing it that I had to re-read the last couple of chapters because I was speeding through it, but I wanted to understand what was going on.
The Bluest Eye was Toni Morrison’s first book published back in 1970. A foreword was added later in 1993 (which I’m so happy about because I definitely needed to read it to understand some of what was happening). It is broken into four parts, each part a season. Within the parts are smaller, untitled chapters that each have amazing descriptions of a person, family, etc. I think I mentioned a couple of posts ago how Morrison’s characters are developed so well…they really are.
There’s also this first chapter with the content of the standard Dick and Jane primer, and Morrison uses this to contrast the lives of the Breedlove family, and other characters within the book. So fascinating.
I’ll go ahead and just type out the description from the back of the book for ya:
“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 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 start to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A brilliant examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrision’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.”
I remember finding this book at my college library, reading this description, and thinking, Yes. I need to read this. Because honestly, from what I was given in this description, I knew what Pecola was feeling. I was that little girl at some points in my life; I longed to have straight, blonde hair and blue eyes because it seemed that was what everyone liked, especially the boys. My fluffy little pigtails, and dark brown-but-looked-black eyes hidden behind horn-rimmed glasses didn’t satisfy me for the longest time because it seemed to not satisfy others. I don’t write this to you to gain pity or compliments; I’m just telling you what drew me to this book.
But what I found in The Bluest Eye was far beyond what I thought…
Overall Reaction: “Dang.”
This is the one word I can use to describe this book. Seriously. There are so many topics in here that are not for the faint of heart. There were moments I wanted to cry, moments I wanted to shut the book quietly and walk away, and moments I cringed and felt like I couldn’t read anymore.
Intense is what it was. I definitely recommend it to only adult readers.
But I think those intense moments were necessary in portraying what Morrison wanted the reader to understand…
“When I began writing The Bluest Eye, I was interested in…the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident.” – from “Foreword,” Toni Morrison
And she used one of the most vulnerable outlets to display this tragedy: a little black girl living in a post-Great Depression world, in a society that favored the beauty of white children, and white people in general.
I’m not saying that Morrison is saying that white people aren’t beautiful, however, the setting of this book depicts the perfect, beautiful child as someone who resembles Shirley Temple, and those who are opposite of this ideal are not even considered worthy.
Although it was pretty disconcerting, it touches on the major subject of self-esteem, and how society and the people around us, such as are family and friends, can cause the downfall of a single person, mentally and physically. This is definitely a subject everyone needs to understand. It’s something I want to continue to understand.
Something I enjoyed was the fact that she went back and forth from a third-person narrative to the first-person narrative of a child named Claudia. The third-person was used to describe characters to get a total overview of his or her history, but I think a lot of the substance came from Claudia’s point of view. It was so good.
I think the last portion of the book “Summer” was what really blew me away. Like I said, there were plenty of moments in the book like that, but remember, I had to re-read the this last part a couple of times…and it just brought the book completely together for me.
Morrison said that she noticed throughout the years that the book only touched people, but didn’t move them. I hope that this book will at least start some conversations that will spark some changes in thought.
If you read it and finish it, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and have a conversation with you about it. 🙂
One thing I do recommend: read the foreword before you read the book and after you read it. I think it helped me to know what I was getting into beforehand, and also understand what I finished reading.