The Bluest Eye by: Toni Morrison
Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously
# of pages: 206
Quote: "He remembered just how she held it - clumsy-like, in three fingers, but with so much affection. No words, just picking up a bit of meat and holding it out to him. And then the tears rushed down his cheeks, to make a bouquet under his chin." -Cholly p. 158
Written from the mid to late 60s, during what Morrison describes as the "reclamation of racial beauty", The Bluest Eye is not only a novel about racial beauty, but about beauty in general. I believe that this novel should be read several times in order to fully understand and appreciate everything Morrison includes in her story about Pecola Breedlove in the year 1941. I went back and read several parts over again while reading it through the first time. I haven't read it completely through again yet, and maybe I should before reviewing it, but I don't want this to be an essay on a book that I critically read. I want it to be an easy-to-read review to recommend this book to others.
There are several themes and lessons throughout the book, but I felt most strongly about the subject of beauty, which is what the title is based on. Pecola longs to have blue eyes so that she can be beautiful. She has bought into the nation's opinion that blue eyed, blonde haired white girls are the most beautiful in existance. Claudia, one of the narrators, has a glimmer of understanding that this view is unfair to black girls when she is a child, but claims that later she also learns to worship Shirley Temple, along with everyone else she knows, black and white alike.
I've always known that African American women have always had to struggle with being looked down upon because of their skin color, but reading this novel made much more of an impact on me that African American women and even women of other nationalities had such a strong opinion of beauty working against them every day of their lives during this time period. After the 60s, it became more popular to believe that the previous definition of beauty was wrong, but before then, it wasn't even a consideration. As a dark haired and dark eyed person, I have also rebelled against the notion that blonde hair and blue eyes are more beautiful. It isn't comfortable to think that something beyond your control is inferior, but at least I wasn't told that my appearance was ugly, like the women in the book are led to believe. And I have always thought that my hair and eyes are beautiful, even if some of the movies and commericals don't agree. It's sad to think that girls like Pecola did not think this way about their own appearance, but instead always felt like they fell short.
This isn't an easy novel to read. Most of the characters suffer some form of abuse, neglect, feelings of inferiority, poverty, and rape. I liked the way Morrison described how each character came to have the personality they have in the present time of the book, 1941. She describes different points of view and even includes the backgrounds of more minor characters. I enjoyed the unique way the story of Paulina Breedlove is told. The narrative alternates between third person and first person POV. It provides interesting details and a clearer understanding of Pecola's situation.
The Bluest Eye didn't win a Nobel Prize and become a part of Oprah's Book Club for nothing. It is worth reading to better learn about our society in the past and the present and ourselves as individuals, whether we be black, white, or in between.
The Bluest Eye by: Toni Morrison
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