“ My eyes. My blue eyes. Let me look again
See how pretty they are.
Yes. They get prettier each time I look at them.
They are the prettiest I’ve ever seen
Prettier than the sky?
Oh, yes. Much prettier than the sky.
Prettier than Alice-and-Jerry Storybook eyes?
Oh, yes. Much prettier than Alice-and-Jerry Storybook eyes.
And prettier than Joanna’s?
Oh, yes. And bluer too…”
Who knew blue eyes came at a terrible price?
Set in Lorain, Ohio after the Great Depression, Toni Morrison’s first novel, “The Bluest Eye” is a tragic tale of a 11-year-old African-American girl Pecola Breedlove. Born in a White Anglo Saxon Protestant community that associates beauty with whiteness, young Pecola develops an inferiority complex and desires pretty blue eyes.
Internalized racism is the main theme of the novel. It is about how their distorted definition of beauty, equaling beauty with love and acceptance damages the lives of the characters, Pecola being the most affected.
The Bluest Eye highlights the seriousness of issues such as abuse, body shaming, self-hatred, low self-esteem and non-acceptance.
Pecola is enchanted by the actress Shirley Temple who was considered the ideal standard of beauty with her blue eyes, white skin and blonde hair.
She worships whiteness and believes that if she had blue eyes as well, it would change the way the world saw her. We hear the story from almost everyone but Pecola. She is the passive protagonist of the novel. Merely a scapegoat for the entire community, she experiences nothing but pain and sorrow at such a tender age. Her existence makes the others feel better about themselves.
“We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us; her guilt sanctified us, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used – to silence our own nightmares. And she let us..”
Pecola eventually begins to live in a delusional world believing she has finally got the blue eyes that she yearned for.
“She stepped into madness – a madness that protected her from them simply because it bored them in the end.”
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye received harsh criticism for its boldness and explicit description of societal horrors, and ever since its publication, it has been banned several times. To ban it would be to miss the whole point of the novel and the message it brings. The Bluest Eye brings to light the pain of the unloved and down trodden. As we learn about each character, we begin to understand them and not just condemn or rush to label them. It teaches us about the human nature and why people do the things they do. It teaches us about love and what it means to different people.
It is a melancholic tale beautifully woven with the sorrows of a little black girl who yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl.
Do I have the bluest eyes?
My rating for this book –