Monday, January 11, 2010

Reblog: Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye. This is a pivotal quote taken from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Love and beauty are relative. We alone know who to love and who to value. Our eyes alone, know what should be seen. Nonetheless, we speak of beauty is if our views of it speak of beauty’s universal meaning. We take standards to what we think should be viewed valuable. We bequeath impression of beauty to people who have more often than not, those races that have higher upbringing than ours.

Race inequality never ceases but it still brings forth a kind of independence that makes an individual realize what he is made of. Thus, quoted from The Bluest Eye once again, “We had defended ourselves since memory against everything and everybody, considered all speech a code to be broken by us, and all gestures subject to careful analysis; we had become headstrong, devious, and arrogant. Nobody paid us any attention, so we paid very good attention to ourselves. Our limitations were not known to us-not then.” The race becomes strong, sturdier than it has ever been, for it knows where to stand; it knows its beauty-far greater beyond everybody’s judgment.

This is a review for Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.


The Bluest Eye is a subconscious reflection of what the blacks had undergone under the discriminating eyes of the whites. It becomes an outlet; a vent machine of the black, for it reveals their sentiments being considered a lower race.

A background on the treatment of the blacks has to be explained. This novel is created out of emotions, of sympathy, of dismay, of injustice. However, without due justifications of this injustice thru the background of the blacks, efforts to reflect the blacks’ sentiments are futile.As early as 1856 before the Civil War took place, Racism was brought up as the major social issue enveloping the whole of America. Slavery, violation of human rights, disrespect for women and children were some of the direct implications of this oppression. The first apparent evidences of discrimination were segregation, belittlement of blacks’ potentials, and the formation of the Ku Klux Clan which mainly aims to keep the blacks from mingling and residing in areas primarily owned by the whites.

Property and land ownership also became issues in the early 1913. The most deliberating forms of discrimination in the years 1965 to 1969 were the innumerable cases of gang rape and molestation of black women who were not even given the opportunity to stand and speak for the crimes committed against them. Prostitution became a rigid form of physical abuse and human rights violation. Education was not equally honored to blacks and whites. Several courses were restricted to some blacks, such as law, medicine, etc.

Significance of the Review

It is important that students are aware of the kind of literature that the blacks create to reflect their sentiments and thoughts on discrimination. Light has to be shed on this novel, primarily because it is not just a mere narration of a child’s life. Implicitly, it goes beyond the life of every black child, brought up in a race exposed to insult, to mocking, to prejudice. It is a novel which aims to expose what true beauty is-that it is not shown in the color of the hair, the skin, not even in the eyes.

It is also necessary to know the approach most appropriate in the study of this novel. This will help ease difficulty in the part of the readers as it will focus on one angle of the novel-how the story should be seen, how the story should be viewed. Most importantly, This study aims to prove that most readers, are still moved, not just touched by the story itself, contrary to what the author, Toni Morrison stated in her after word. The researcher of this study thus brings forth her own views and opinions which she believes would reflect how she feels about the novel, The Bluest Eye.

The Black Criticism

The Black or African American criticism mainly focuses on the interpretations on the African American Literature. “Black” or “African-American” criticism is marked by a sense that black writing comes out of a sociological, political, ideological and cultural situation marked by oppression and marginalization. ‘Black’ reading then must negotiate the difficult boundaries between textual and cultural meanings, between ‘aesthetic’ and ideological impacts.

According to Lye (2004), an awareness that black experience is historical and cultural: that it has ties to African language, cultural practices and attitudes, that it is formed through the experience of slavery and violence, that it has endured a long and troubled negotiation with white culture, so that black aesthetic production in white cultures is marked by white culture positively and negatively. There are differing focuses on different aspects of black experience — on the African heritage, on the evolved American black culture, on the possibility of adaptation to a new non-racial cultural formation.

Among the themes and issues explored in African American literature are the role of African Americans within the larger American society, African-American culture,racism, slavery, andequality.

The Plot

Nine-year-old Claudia and ten-year-old Frieda MacTeer lived in Lorain, Ohio, with their parents. It was the end of the Great Depression, 1941, and the girls’ parents were more concerned with making ends meet than with lavishing attention upon their daughters, but there was an undercurrent of love and stability in their home.

The MacTeers took in a boarder, Henry Washington, and also a young girl named Pecola. Pecola’s father tried to burn down his family’s house, and Claudia and Frieda feel sorry for her. Pecola loved Shirley Temple, believing that whiteness is beautiful and that she is ugly. Pecola believed that if she had blue eyes, she would be loved and her life would be transformed.

Meanwhile, she continually received confirmation of her own sense of ugliness-the grocer looked right through her when she buys candy, boys made fun of her, and a light-skinned girl, Maureen, who temporarily befriended her made fun of her too. She was wrongly blamed for killing a boy’s cat and was called a “nasty little black bitch” by his mother. Pauline, Pecola’s mother, had a lame foot and always felt isolated. Cholly, Pecola’s father, was abandoned by his parents and raised by his great aunt, who died when he was a young teenager. Cholly returned home one day and found Pecola washing dishes. With mixed motives of tenderness and hatred that are fueled by guilt, he raped her.

Pecola goes to Soaphead Church, a sham mystic, and asked him for blue eyes. Claudia and Frieda found out that Pecola has been impregnated by her father, and unlike the rest of the neighborhood, they wanted the baby to live. They sacrificed the money they had been saving for a bicycle and planted marigold seeds. They believed that if the flowers live, so would Pecola’s baby. The flowers refused to bloom, and Pecola’s baby died when it was born prematurely. Cholly, who raped Pecola a second time and then ran away, died in a workhouse. Pecola went mad, believing that her cherished wish had been fulfilled and that she had the bluest eyes.

Analysis of the Novel

“Black” or “African-American” criticism is marked by a sense that black writing comes out of a sociological, political, ideological and cultural situation marked by oppression and marginalization. ‘Black’ reading then must negotiate the difficult boundaries between textual and cultural meanings, between ‘aesthetic’ and ideological impacts. With this being said, it is concretized that the novel was created out of the experiences and sentiments of the African-Americans during the years 1941 to 1970. This was brought about thru the vivid narration of Pecola’s life as a black American child.

As stated in Morrison’s after word, Pecola’s experiences were reflections of the female violation revealed from the vantage point of the victims of rape who were not inquired during the year when the crime was committed. Lower class employment, prostitution, rape and shattered families-these were the major sociological and cultural issues recounted in the novel. Regardless of the novel’s element of fiction, these issues historically happened.

It is important to remember that the period when this novel was written may also prove to be of great importance in the essence and reality of the story. The novel was created in the years 1965 to 1969, the time when the black Americans experienced what Morrison called “a time of great social upheaval”. The creation of this novel serves as a voice, a revelation of what has long been kept in the minds of the black people.

No comments:

Post a Comment