The Bluest Eye | Book Review

Synopsis (with Spoilers)

One thing that I found interesting about the book is that it started with two fragments. The first one talked about a house, a mom, a dad, a cat, and a daughter. This fragment works as a way to introduce the book as a playful narrative that is told from the perspective of a child, where in the parents have no direct communication with the daughter. 

The narrator for most of the book is Claudia, a friend and roommate to Pecola. After Pecola’s father burns down their family home, Claudia’s family accept Pecola as Pecola is in county custody due to fathers choices. In the book, it is described as Pecola’s father has brought them outdoors, and that was his fault.

To be put outdoors by a landlord was one thing—unfortunate, but na aspect of life over which you had no control, since you could not control your income. But to be slack enough to put oneself outdoors, or heartless enough to put one’s own kin outdoors—that was criminal.

This book also talks about the use of whiteness in commercial. White barbies, white dolls, white models, whiteness everywhere. 

Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.

Pecola then starts to pray for her blue eyes.

It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.

Pecola believes that if her eyes would be blue, she would be loved by her parents, by herself, and she would a different person. There’s also another similar moment in the book when Pecola is eating a chocolate bar that has an image of a white woman with blue eyes. 

She eats the candy, and its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane.

The book talks about how Pecola’s personal home is difficult. Her parents are always fighting, her brother is always running away from home, and she isn’t getting the love that she deserves. 

He fought her the way a coward fights a man—with feet, the palms of his hands, and teeth. She, in turn, fought back in a purely feminine way—with frying pans and pokers, and occasionally a flatiron would sail toward his head.

At school, Pecola is often teased and prejudiced. Her name was used as a way to mock other kids that they were in love with her. 

Long hours she sat looking in the mirror, trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at school, by teachers and classmates alike. She was the one member of her class who sat alone at a double desk. 

But there are also moments in the book that made me laugh. The kids in the story thought of a lawsuit as a suit, they believed menstrual cycles meant that you are ready to have babies, or it meant that it was your turn to die. 

Later in the spring, one of the minor characters gets groped. We also learn about Pecola’s parents backgrounds. Pauline was an outcast in her family, loved going to church, and believed that someone would love and save her. Cholly, was abandoned by his mother, his caregiver past away when he was a teenager, and he ran away. It was after he ran away that he had freedom, but his freedom brought pain and suffering as he never had anyone to provide him with a moral compass. 

Ultimately in the end, Pecola gets raped by her father. Pecola’s mother? Oh yeah, she doesn’t believe her. Pecola then becomes pregnant with her father’s child. Everyone in the town knows about it, as they wish that the child dies. Everyone except Claudia and Frieda. They pray that child lives and they spend the somer planting marigold seeds in the hopes that if the flowers blossom, the child will survive. In the end, Peecola’s child dies, and Pecola begins to lose her mind as she’s looking into a mirror, talking about her blue eyes, and searching through the garbage. 

He, at any rate, was the one who loved her enough to touch her, envelop her, give something of himself to her. But his touch was fatal, and the something he gave her filled the matrix of her agony with death. Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.

What I liked about the book:

The simplicity in which Morisson told the story. It was told in a manner in when I loved, and enjoyed her story.

I loved how this book talk about the meaning of beauty and how ugliness is often internalized. 

This was a very dark book, and for those reasons, this book was banned in libraries everywhere. But this book is important as it gives the issues of beauty, love, and acceptance a meaning. I understand that this book shows in detail the rape scene of Pecola. But the way in which Morrison details the narrative, Pecola is depicted as the victim. Morrison shows that her father’s love was toxic to Pecola and her well being. 

What Pecola lacked was love. If she was given love, she wouldn’t have prayed for blue eyes.

What could of made the book better:

If this story was told in Pecola’s point of view, it would of been much better. I understand why Morrison chose to tell the story from Claudia’s point of view. I would just love to read it from Pecola’s point of view, as depressing as it may sound.  

Postive Criticism:

When we finished this book, about half the class— including me— were infuriated at Morrison for humanizing certain characters that caused Pecola to suffer the most. “Is she saying what they did was okay?! Is she telling us they weren’t to blame and we should feel sorry for them?!” I remember writing my “objective” and “tone-neutral” in-class essay while trying to stifle my own feelings of resentment. 

I know now that the answers to those two questions were no and no. What Morrison wanted us to do was not pardon the terrible acts of her characters, or brush them off as “simply tragedy” but to understand where these characters came from psychologically, and what made them the the way they are. People are driven by motivations, sometimes selfless, sometimes self-serving, and sometimes cruel. When I think about this now, I’m absolutely floored. I don’t think any work of fiction has ever taught me this huge a lesson about human nature than this one

Negative Criticism:

Really? What is this? Porno? What is the point of describing incestuous rape of a eleven year old girl by her father, as ‘tender’? Is Toni trying to make us cringe? Does she honestly believe this a appropriate description of a child being raped by her father? 

The long-winded sex description between Mr. Cholly and Pauline was also unnecessary, but it would have been forgivable it hadn’t been for this line: 

“I knew he wanted for me to come first..”

Again, vulgar much? To make it worse, no one referred to orgasming as “coming” in the early 19th century. Seriously, Toni….

Re-explaining the situation with Cholly being caught having sex with his cousin’s friend, while whites stood watching and telling him “give it to her harder”, was pointless. Toni had already summarized how this had happened earlier in the book. What was the point of re-explaining it, especially when the event wasn’t that significant?

Will I read more books by this author?

Hell yes! If this is her first book, I can only imagine that the rest of her books are even better. 

Comment down below what you like’d the most about the book!

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