• Mel Leslie

The Bluest Eye


The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is my first, but far from last, Morrison book. I am making a point this year to read more modern classics from authors like Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and James Baldwin. The Bluest Eye can be summed up on one word: heartbreaking. It can also be summed up in a phrase: Pecola is still among us and this still happens. It is easy to reflect on a story of a tragic young girl and think, this doesn't happen anymore, but sadly it does. We often turn our backs to those who need us the most, even if we can't see it at the moment. Pecola's story is narrated in part by young Claudia, through her childhood eyes, and delves into the upbringing of the people around her. Shedding some light on how things got as bad as they did and that we are all complicit. A powerful story of race, class, and what constitutes beauty in our white washed society.


Synopsis:

Eleven year old Pecola Breedlove has one wish, that her eyes were blue so she could be as beautiful as the little girls with blond hair and bright blue eyes. Pecola's life takes a tragic turn and the residents of Lorain, Ohio, including Claudia who narrates parts of the book, are confronted with their role in Pecola's life.

Mel's Thoughts:

There is so much to unpack from this book. So much so that I think this one will take me quite awhile to digest. For being a shorter book, The Bluest Eye has intention behind every single word. Morrison is truly a master of her craft and her writing is incredibly thought provoking, while also being raw and uncomfortable. This was not an easy read and there are explicit scenes that were extremely difficult to read. (Please check out the content warnings below and feel free to message me with any questions.)


What I took the most out of this book is how white washed our society's view of beauty is. The Bluest Eye was first published in 1970. The standard of beauty was being white with blond hair and blue eyes. It is not a stretch to say that is still a current standard of beauty. Anything polar opposite from that is not considered traditionally beautiful. But why? This is something that requires reflection and digging deep to see how we each contribute to this bias. Little Pecola has faced hardships that no child should face. After reading her back story, as well as her parent's, the reader has a better understanding of how Pecola is where she is today. This does little to make what happens to her make sense, but it gives the reader a full perspective and forces them to reflect on the role they play in what happens to Pecola. She is all around us, are we paying attention and trying to help? Or are we turning a blind eye? Comparing ourselves to her to make ourselves feel better? I cannot help but think of this quote from the book:


“All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us--all who knew her--felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness."


It is one I will always sit with when I think of this book.


Content warning: racism, rape, animal cruelty, discipline of children involving switch


Rating:

4.5 stars


Favorite Quotes:

"The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll. From the clucking sounds of adults I knew that the doll represented what they thought was my fondest wish."


“All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us--all who knew her--felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness."


"Then they had grown. Edging into life from the back door. Becoming. Everybody in the world was in a position to give them orders. White women said, "Do this." White children said, "Give me that." White men said, "Come here." Black men said, "Lay down." The only people they need not take orders from were black children and each other. But they took all of that and re-created it in their own image. They ran the houses of white people, and knew it. When white men beat their men, they cleaned up the blood and went home to receive abuse from the victim. They beat their children with one hand and stole for them with the other."


“She left me the way people leave a hotel room. A hotel room is a place to be when you are doing something else. Of itself it is of no consequence to one's major scheme. A hotel room is convenient. But its convenience is limited to the time you need it while you are in that particular town on that particular business; you hope it is comfortable, but prefer, rather, that it be anonymous. It is not, after all, where you live.”


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