The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is a canonical text. It is set in Lorain, Ohio after the Great Depression and narrates the story of Pecola Breedlove , who wants blue eyes to conform to the notion of white beauty. There are two narrators: Claudia MacTeer, whose family takes in Pecola as a foster child, and the third person narrator who traces the history of Pecola, and the lives of her parents when they were young, Pauline (Polly) and Charles (Cholly) Breedlove. The main issues among many are racism, perception of beauty, class conflicts, incest, seasons, and narration. vision, seeing,a nd being perceived are other motifs, including the standards of cleanliness and dirtiness. The text uses uses a Dick-and-Jane narrative throughout the novel.
There are numerous resources on the web that provide a better summary, including Shmoop and Spark Notes. “Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership. The firm possession of a yard, a porch, a grape arbor. Propertied black people spent all their energies, all their love, on their nests” (18).
Important quotations: “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held pictures, and knew the sights– if those eyes were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different. … If she looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs Breedlove too” (46). Mary Jane candy. Disparity between Maureen Peal as cute and Freida and Claudia as cute 74.
Mr Yacobowski: “How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant . storekeeper with the taste of potatoes and beer in his mouth, his mind honed on the doe-eyes Virgin Mary, his sensibilities blunted buy a permanent awareness of loss, see a little black girl?” (48)
Prostitutes as merry gargoyles (55-57) China, Poland, and Miss Marie. Difference between colored people and niggers p 87. Aunt Jimmy, Miss Alice and Mrs Gaines life stories 137-38. Everybody in the world was in a position to give orders. … The only people they did not take orders from were black children and each other” (138).
Soaphead Church.”Here was an ugly little girl asking fr beauty. A surge of love and understanding swept through him, but as quickly replaced by anger. Anger that he was powerless to help her. … A little black girl ho wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes” (175).
- Interview with Toni Morrison in The Guardian.
- Controversy of The Bluest Eye in Time Magazine.
- Toni Morrison’s “Good ” Ghosts on NPR.
- Interview in The Scotsman.
Teaching The Bluest Eye:
- Analysis Strategies (Common Core).
- UNCP (University of North Carolina at Pembroke).
- Web English Teacher.
- Essay on Critical Literacy.
- Project on the History of Black Writing at University of Kansas.
- Feminist Teacher.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye.New York: Knopf, 1993.