So it was.
A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment.
“The Bluest Eye” is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. “The Bluest Eye” remains one of Toni Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.
In a racially divided town still suffering from the ravages of the Great Depression, Pecola Breedlove is born.
Ugly. Dirty. Weak. Worthless. That is what society tells her, and so that is what she believes.
She is beaten down, over and over and over again, until she finally realizes what she has been craving all along: love and acceptance. Love and acceptance, in the form of two beautiful, blue-sky eyes.
Then Pecola asked a question that had never entered my mind. “How do you do that? I mean, how do you get somebody to love you?” But Frieda was asleep. And I
The Bluest Eye stands out with its unique structure, as it is divided up into four parts, each representing the seasons of the year. My heart continuously broke as I watched Pecola- such a lovely, pure spirit- learn to hate her own skin, hate herself.
I think a lot of us can empathize with her desire to become someone else, someone we feel is “prettier” and “better”. But while their society’s idolizing of white purity moves characters like Claudia to anger, Pecola’s innocence makes her even more vulnerable against the crushing weight of others’ expectations.
The novel tried to hit the raw nerve of racial self-contempt, expose it, then soothe it not with narcotics but with language that replicated the agency I discovered in my first experience of beauty.
Intricate, almost “sensory” writing like Morrison’s is usually a hit-or-miss for me. But in this case, each sentence plucked at my heartstrings and haunted me long after I closed the book.
Morrison doesn’t sugarcoat her descriptions, to the point where reading particular scenes became disturbing. But the writing style is meant to provoke certain visceral emotions; it is meant to make readers uncomfortable, and in doing so, force them to confront real societal issues. Her provocative words contain a raw and terrible beauty that perfectly captures Pecola’s gradual diminishing of mind, spirit, and heart.
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. “Here,” they said, “this is beautiful, and if you are on
this day ‘worthy’ you may have it.”
Some may view Morrison’s message as overly preachy, but I think that the enormous loss and heartbreak she portrays serves an important narrative purpose. Through the characters’ trials, Toni Morrison reflects the harsh realities of our society’s impossibly rigid notions of race and beauty. In a materialistic society that puts enormous weight behind appearances, a child’s need to conform destroys their sense of self-worth and identity.
Essentially, this is a book about Pecola’s unraveling. It ends on a bittersweet note that is at once entirely hopeless and oddly hopeful. Despite everything that has been done, Morrison reminds us that maybe, one day, marigolds will finally be able to grow on our soil.
And the lives of these old black women were synthesized in their eyes- a puree of tragedy and humor, wickedness and serenity, truth and fantasy.
I actually read this quite a while ago, but its message stayed with me for such a long time that I thought it was only right to write down some of my thoughts. I would definitely recommend that you check this out whenever you have the time; it’s an absolutely beautiful (yet heartbreaking) tale. ❤