The Bluest Eye is so much more than what I thought it would be. It is a deeply affecting story that I will not forget. It’s not just a book to be read; it’s one to be savoured, studied, and thought about. Each sentence has a purpose and meaning, and I analyzed it all. I questioned it, challenged my thoughts, and searched the internet for answers. It’s a fascinating and rewarding study of socially constructed ideas of how we see the beauty and ugliness of the world and the people in it. How racism has shaped those ideas and how that can harm one’s self-worth.
To escape from the ugliness of her world, Pecola, whose only sin is being ugly and dirty(black and poor), prays for blue eyes to see the world differently. She thinks by having blue eyes, people will treat her differently and see her as beautiful.
How does a young girl learn to hate herself and carry such a burden before she is old enough to find out who she is and where she fits in?
The story is not about a young black girl raped by her father, that is the story’s climax. The story is about why and how “But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” ~Claudia. It was difficult to handle, but I did take refuge in the how by the novel’s end.
Toni Morrison “hits the raw nerve of racial self-contempt and exposes it” She hits on that nerve by showing us how a black community’s learned self-hatred for being black contributes to the undoing of a young black girl. She makes a statement about that damage by focusing on “how something as grotesque as the demonization of an entire race could take root inside the most delicate member of society: a child: the most vulnerable member: a female.” ~Morrison. Pecola’s tragedy comes from a crippled and crippling family and community who can not be dehumanized or smashed because their self-hatred is embedded in the history of being treated as lesser and unworthy.
Even though the story centers around Pecola, we are told the story by the POV of young Claudia and adult Claudia as she reflects back on the how. We also see into characters who represent black women who have learned to hate their blackness and try to hide it, from Claudia’s mother, Pauline, who sees herself in Pecola and has learned to love beauty and cleanness (whiteness and wealth) and hate blackness, and from her father, Cholly who lost his tenderness by being treated like trash.
“Abandoned in a junk heap by his mother, rejected for a crap game by his father, there was nothing more to lose.” ~Cholly
Claudia is the opposite of Pecola. She is from a caring black family, innocent, and has not yet learned the self-hatred that plagues Pecola and the community in the story. We also see into learned hate through characters representing race, class, and beauty.
Pecola is not a character to fall into the comfort of pitying, feeling bad for her, or shedding tears for. She is so much more as she represents learned self-hatred that plagues the people around her and symbolizes the black community’s crippling self-hatred and belief in their ugliness. Those tears are for all real-life young girls affected by the ugliness of that standard of whiteness. In a society where we ignore the truths while rearranging our lies and calling them truths, humanity still contributes to the undoing of the real-life Pecolas.
The Bluest Eye has changed me and shaped a more understanding look at the beauty and ugliness of both whiteness and blackness. It is a rewarding and beyond satisfying reading experience that only comes along once in awhile. It will be one I will not forget.
Why you should read it
The Bluest Eye is a good one to study it and see the world as it was, as it is, how it has changed and how it could be. We can’t have change if we don’t see the ugly.
I gathered information from different sources and analyzed it in a form of a Q & A in The Traveling Friends/Sisters Goodreads group and will be back with a discussion post.