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 Morrison’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.
I have been having a lot of discussions lately about why diverse cultural representation is important in media, and The Bluest Eye is the exact book to prove such a point. Toni Morrison’s entire theme is based on the fact that not only do white people think black people are ugly, but black people believe it to be true as well. Only blonde-haired blue-eyed little girls are considered perfect and beautiful. Everyone with dark skin deserves to be designated as “less-than” and their lives too.
Through that terribly sad filter, we see those “less-than” lives: the poverty, the brokenness, and as a plot-driver–the pedophilia. Morrison puts a very human face on this subject, both on the abuser and the victim. I don’t think her point is to make us sympathize with Cholly, but to show us the dangerous path one can go down. She doesn’t release him from the responsibility of what he does. His actions are cruel, harmful, and unforgivable. But I wonder if she is asking, “Could this have been preventable?” It’s a difficult question to answer, and one I am not sure of.
Morrison’s writing is legendary. Trigger warning on this, for obvious reasons, but if you can read it, please do. There are lessons here that absolutely should not be missed. Everyone needs Toni Morrison in their lives, she is an author that cannot be replicated. I only hope that by encouraging more diversity in publishing, we find more out there with just as much talent as she.
Fulfill’s Boxall #114. This post contains affiliate links.