The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humani- ties, Emeritus at Princeton University. She has received the. National Book Critics. eBooks THE BLUEST EYE A NOVEL TONI MORRISON ACCLAIM FOR Toni Morrison '[Toni Morrison} may be the last classic American writer, squarely in the . Bloom'sGUIDES Toni Morrison'sThe Bluest Eye Currently Available The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn All the Pretty.
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We don't need to tell you anything more but the fact that today's summary is a story about a black year girl back in the s to make you. PDF | The United States of America is a race-conscious society that those who are colored (as opposed to white) have generally been put in. PDF | Through the process of passage of man's life, there are some conditions Due to Lyotard's differend, through reading Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, the.
And also — what it did to Hitler about the same time on the other side of the Atlantic:. And, unfortunately, most of it you can already guess. So, Pauline Breedlove had a deformed foot and felt as an outcast in her large family. She was also an outcast in the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant community around and an outcast in her own community as well, in face of her views on love and marriage. Jean Harlow , Ms. Blond Bombshell herself. Of course she ended up marrying someone who was quite the opposite of what she dreamed a romantic partner is.
Cholly was left near the train tracks when he was just four days old. Fortunately, his great aunt Jimmy takes care of him; unfortunately, the day she dies is the day he experiences a humiliation which will leave a scar on much stronger men than him.
Namely, as he has sex for the first time with a girl named Darlene, two white men flash them and force them to continue making love while they are watching them. Title PS Perhaps the feeling is merely indiffer- ence, mild annoyance, but it may also be hurt.
It may even be that some of us know what it is like to be actually hated — hated for things we have no control over and cannot change. We think of it as the stress minor or disabling that is part of life as a human.
Not resistance to the contempt of oth- ers, ways to deflect it, but the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self- evident.
I knew that some victims of powerful self-loathing turn out to be dangerous, violent, reproducing the enemy who has humiliated them over and over. Others surrender Foreword their identity; melt into a structure that delivers the strong persona they lack. Most others, however, grow beyond it. But there are some who collapse, silently, anonymously, with no voice to express or acknowledge it. They are invisible. Couple the vulnera- bility of youth with indifferent parents, dismissive adults, and a world, which, in its language, laws, and images, re-enforces despair, and the journey to destruction is sealed.
The project, then, for this, my first book, was to enter the life of the one least likely to withstand such damaging forces because of youth, gender, and race. Begun as a bleak narra- tive of psychological murder, the main character could not stand alone since her passivity made her a narrative void.
So I invented friends, classmates, who understood, even sympa- thized, with her plight, but had the benefit of supportive par- ents and a feistiness all their own.
Yet they were helpless as well. They could not save their friend from the world. She broke. The origin of the novel lay in a conversation I had with a childhood friend. We had just started elementary school. She said she wanted blue eyes. I looked around to picture her with them and was violently repelled by what I imagined she would look like if she had her wish. XI It must have been more than the face I was examining: In any case it was the first time I knew beautiful. Had imagined it for myself.
Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do. The Bluest Eye was my effort to say something about that; to say something about why she had not, or possibly ever would have, the experience of what she possessed and also why she prayed for so radical an alteration. Implicit in her desire was racial self-loathing. And twenty years later, I was still wondering about how one learns that. Who told her? Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was?
Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale? The novel pecks away at the gaze that condemned her. The reclamation of racial beauty in the sixties stirred these thoughts, made me think about the necessity for the claim. Why, although reviled by others, could this beauty not be taken for granted within the community?
Why did it need wide public articulation to exist? These are not clever questions. But in when I began this story, and in when it began to be a book, the answers were not as obvious to me as they quickly became and are now. I focused, therefore, on how something as grotesque as the demonization of an entire race could take root inside the most delicate member of society: In trying to dramatize the devastation that even casual racial contempt can cause, I chose a unique Foreword situation, not a representative one.
In exploring the social and domestic aggression that could cause a child to literally fall apart, I mounted a series of rejections, some routine, some exceptional, some monstrous, all the while trying hard to avoid complicity in the demonization process Pecola was subjected to. That is, I did not want to dehuman- ize the characters who trashed Pecola and contributed to her collapse.
My solution — break the narrative into parts that had to be reassembled by the reader — seemed to me a good idea, the execution of which does not satisfy me now.
The other problem, of course, was language. Holding the despising glance while sabotaging it was difficult. 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. Because that moment was so racially infused my revulsion at what my school friend wanted: XIII My choices of language speakerly, aural, colloquial , my reliance for full comprehension on codes embedded in black culture, my effort to effect immediate coconspiracy and inti- macy without any distancing, explanatory fabric , as well as my attempt to shape a silence while breaking it are attempts to transfigure the complexity and wealth of Black American culture into a language worthy of the culture.
Thinking back now on the problems expressive language presented to me, I am amazed by their currency, their tenac- ity. The Bluest Eye This book has been optimized for viewing at a monitor setting of x pixels. Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty.
Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy.
See Jane. She has a red dress. She wants to play. Who will play with Jane? See the cat. It goes meow-meow. Come and play. Come play with Jane. The kitten will not play. See Mother. Mother is very nice. Mother, will you play with Jane? Mother laughs. Laugh, Mother, laugh.
See Father. He is big and strong. Father, will you play with Jane? Father is smiling. Smile, Father, smile. See the dog. Bowwow goes the dog. Do you want to play with Jane? See the dog run. Run, dog, run. Look, look. Here comes a friend. The friend will play with Jane. They will play a good game. Play, Jane, play. Not even the gardens fronting the lake showed marigolds that year. It was a long time before my sister and I admitted to ourselves that no green was going to spring from our seeds.
Once we knew, our guilt was relieved only by fights and mutual accusations about who was to blame. For years I thought my sister was right: I had planted them too far down in the earth. It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. Our innocence and faith were no more pro- ductive than his lust or despair.
What is clear now is that of all of that hope, fear, lust, love, and grief, nothing remains but Pecola and the unyielding earth. Cholly Breedlove is dead; our innocence too. The seeds shriveled and died; her baby too. There is really nothing more to say — except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how. Autumn Nuns go by as quiet as lust, and drunken men and sober eyes sing in the lobby of the Greek hotel. We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more than that wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth.
When she comes out of the car we will beat her up, make red marks on her white skin, and she will cry and ask us do we want her to pull her pants down. We will say no. School has started, and Frieda and I get new brown stockings and cod-liver oil.
Later we walk home, glancing back to see the great carloads of slag being dumped, red hot and smoking, into the ravine that skirts the steel mill. The dying fire lights the sky with a dull orange glow. Frieda and I lag behind, staring at the patch of color surrounded by black. It is impossible not to feel a shiver when our feet leave the gravel path and sink into the dead grass in the field. Our house is old, cold, and green.
At night a kerosene lamp lights one large room. The others are braced in darkness, peopled by roaches and mice. Adults do not talk to us — they give us directions. They issue orders without providing information. When we trip and fall down they glance at us; if we cut or bruise ourselves, they ask us are we crazy.
When we catch colds, they shake their heads in disgust at our lack of consideration. How, they ask us, do you expect anybody to get anything done if you all are sick? We cannot answer them. Our illness is treated with contempt, foul Black Draught, and castor oil that blunts our minds. When, on a day after a trip to collect coal, I cough once, loudly, through bronchial tubes already packed tight with phlegm, my mother frowns. Get on in that bed. How many times do I have to tell you to wear something on your head?
You must be the biggest fool in this town. Get some rags and stuff that window. I trudge off to bed, full of guilt and self-pity. I lie down in my underwear, the metal in my black garters hurts my legs, but I do not take them off, for it is too cold to lie stockingless.
It takes a long time for my body to heat its place in the bed. Once I have generated a silhouette of warmth, I dare not move, for there is a cold place one-half inch in any direction. No one speaks to me or asks how I feel. In an hour or two my mother comes. Her hands are large and rough, and when she rubs the Vicks salve on my chest, I am rigid with pain.
Just when I think I will tip over into a scream, she scoops out a little of the salve on her forefinger and puts it in my mouth, telling me to swallow.
A hot flannel is wrapped about my neck and chest. I am covered up with heavy quilts and ordered to sweat, which I do — promptly. Now, look what you did. You think I got time for nothing but washing up your puke? It moves like the insides of an uncooked egg. Stubbornly clinging to its own mass, refusing to break up and be removed.
How, I wonder, can it be so neat and nasty at the same time? She is not talking to me. She is talking to the puke, but she is calling it my name: She wipes it up as best she can and puts a scratchy towel over the large wet place. I lie down again. The rags have fallen from the window crack, and the air is cold. I dare not call her back and am reluctant to leave my warmth.
I do not know that she is not angry at me, but at my sickness. But for now I am crying. My sister comes in.
Her eyes are full of sorrow. She sings to me: As painful as I remember? Only mildly. Or rather, it was a productive and fructifying pain. Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window.
I could smell it — taste it — sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base — everywhere in that house. It stuck, along with my tongue, to the frosted windowpanes.
It coated my chest, along with the salve, and when the flannel came undone in my sleep, the clear, sharp curves of air outlined its presence on my throat. And in the night, when my coughing was dry and tough, feet padded into the room, hands repinned the flannel, readjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead. So when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die. It was autumn too when Mr. Henry came.
Our roomer. The words ballooned from the lips and hovered about our heads — silent, separate, and pleasantly mysterious. My mother was all ease and satisfaction in discussing his coming. You know. Well, somebody asked him why he left a nice good church woman like Della for that heifer. You know Della always did keep a good house.
Said he wanted a woman to smell like a woman. Said Della was just too clean for him. What kind of reasoning is that? Some men just dogs.
Remember that grinning Hattie? And their Auntie Julia is still trotting up and down Sixteenth Street talking to herself. You want something to scare The Bluest Eye the living shit out of you, you get up at five-thirty in the morning like I do and see that old hag floating by in that bonnet. Have mercy!
Frieda and I are washing Mason jars. We do not hear their words, but with grown-ups we listen to and watch out for their voices. Somebody cut it off? A steady worker with quiet ways.
I hope it works out all right. How much you charging? Another sound enters but is upstaged by still another: Sometimes their words move in lofty spirals; other times they take strident leaps, and all of it is punctuated with warm-pulsed laughter — like the throb of a heart made of jelly.
The edge, the curl, the thrust of their emotions is always clear to Frieda and me. We do not, cannot, know the meanings of all their words, for we are nine and ten years old. So we watch their faces, their hands, their feet, and listen for truth in timbre.
So when Mr. Henry arrived on a Saturday night, we smelled him. He smelled wonderful. He smiled a lot, showing small even teeth with a friendly gap in the middle. Frieda and I were not introduced to him — merely pointed out. We looked sideways at him, saying nothing and expecting him to say nothing.
Just to nod, as he had done at the clothes closet, acknowledging our existence. To our surprise, he spoke to us. You must be Greta Garbo, and you must be Ginger Rogers. Even my father was startled into a smile.
Frieda lowered her head, too pleased to answer. I reached for it. He snapped his thumb and forefinger, and the penny disappeared. Our shock was laced with delight. We searched all over him, poking our fingers into his socks, looking up the inside back of his coat. If happiness is anticipation with certainty, we were happy. And while we waited for the coin to reappear, we knew we were amusing Mama and Daddy.
We loved him. Even after what came later, there was no bitterness in our memory of him. She slept in the bed with us. I sleep near the wall because that thought has occurred to me. Pecola, therefore, had to sleep in the middle.
The county had placed her in our house for a few days until they could decide what to do, or, more precisely, until the family was reunited. We were to be nice to her and not fight. Outdoors, we knew, was the real terror of life. The threat of being outdoors surfaced frequently in those days.
Every possibility of excess was curtailed with it. If somebody ate too much, he could end up outdoors.
If somebody used too much coal, he could end up outdoors. People could gamble themselves outdoors, drink themselves outdoors. Sometimes mothers put their sons outdoors, and when that happened, regardless of what the son had done, all sympathy was with him.
He was outdoors, and his own flesh had done it. To be put outdoors by a landlord was one thing — unfortunate, but an aspect of life over which you had no control, since you could not control your income.
There is a difference between being put out and being put outdoors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go. The distinction was subtle but final. Outdoors was the end of something, an irrevocable, physical fact, defining and complementing our metaphysical condition. Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment.
Our peripheral existence, however, was something we had learned to deal with — probably because it was abstract. But the concreteness of being outdoors was another matter — like the difference between the concept of death and being, in The Bluest Eye fact, dead. Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership.
The firm possession of a yard, a porch, a grape arbor. Propertied black people spent all their energies, all their love, on their nests.
Like frenzied, desperate birds, they overdecorated everything; fussed and fidgeted over their hard-won homes; canned, jellied, and preserved all summer to fill the cupboards and shelves; they painted, picked, and poked at every corner of their houses.
And these houses loomed like hothouse sunflowers among the rows of weeds that were the rented houses. Cholly Breedlove, then, a renting black, having put his family outdoors, had catapulted himself beyond the reaches of human consideration. He had joined the animals; was, indeed, an old dog, a snake, a ratty nigger. Breedlove was staying with the woman she worked for; the boy, Sammy, was with some other family; and Pecola was to stay with us.
Cholly was in jail. She came with nothing. No little paper bag with the other dress, or a nightgown, or two pair of whitish cotton bloomers. She just appeared with a white woman and sat down. We had fun in those few days Pecola was with us. Frieda and I stopped fighting each other and concentrated i9 on our guest, trying hard to keep her from feeling outdoors.
When we discovered that she clearly did not want to dominate us, we liked her. She laughed when I clowned for her, and smiled and accepted gracefully the food gifts my sister gave her. Frieda and she had a loving conversation about how cu-ute Shirley Temple was. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Boj angles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me. Instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels.
Younger than both Frieda and Pecola, I had not yet arrived at the turning point in the development of my psyche which would allow me to love her. What I felt at that time was unsullied hatred. But before that I had felt a stranger, more frightening thing than hatred for all the Shirley Temples of the world.
It had begun with Christmas and the gift of dolls. From the clucking sounds of adults I knew that the doll represented what they thought was my fondest wish.
I was bemused with the thing itself, and the way it looked. What was I supposed to do with it? Pretend I was its mother? I had no interest in babies or the concept of motherhood. I was interested only in humans my own age and size, and could not generate any enthusiasm at the prospect of being a mother. Motherhood was old age, and other remote possibilities. I learned quickly, however, what I was expected to do with the doll: Picture books were full of little girls sleeping with their dolls.
Raggedy Ann dolls usually, but they were out of the question. I was physically revolted by and secretly frightened of those round moronic eyes, the pancake face, and orangeworms hair. The other dolls, which were supposed to bring me great pleasure, succeeded in doing quite the opposite.
When I took it to bed, its hard unyielding limbs resisted my flesh — the tapered fingertips on those dimpled hands scratched. If, in sleep, I turned, the bone-cold head collided with my own. It was a most uncomfortable, patently aggressive sleeping companion. To hold it was no more rewarding. The starched gauze or lace on the cotton dress irritated any embrace. I had only one desire: To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me.
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. Traced the turned-up nose, poked the glassy blue eyeballs, twisted the yellow hair.
I could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable. The gauze back would split, and I could see the disk with six holes, the secret of the sound.
A mere metal roundness. Grown people frowned and fussed: I-never-had-a-baby-doll-in- my-whole-life-and-used-to-cry-my-eyes-out-for-them. Tears threatened to erase the aloofness of their authority. The emotion of years of unfulfilled longing preened in their voices. I did not know why I destroyed those dolls. But I did know that nobody ever asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
Had any adult with the power to fulfill my desires taken me seriously and asked me what I wanted, they would have known that I did not want to have anything to own, or to possess any object. I wanted rather to feel The Bluest Eye something on Christmas day.
Instead I tasted and smelled the acridness of tin plates and cups designed for tea parties that bored me. Instead I looked with loathing on new dresses that required a hateful bath in a galvanized zinc tub before wearing. Then the scratchy towels and the dreadful and humiliating absence of dirt. The irritable, unimaginative cleanliness. Gone the ink marks from legs and face, all my creations and accumulations of the day gone, and replaced by goose pimples.
I destroyed white baby dolls. But the dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so.
To discover what eluded me: The eye slide of black women as they approached them on the street, and the possessive gentleness of their touch as they handled them. When I learned how repulsive this disinterested violence was, that it was repulsive because it was disinterested, my shame floundered about for refuge. The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love.
It was a small step to Shirley Temple. I learned much later to worship her, just as I learned to delight in cleanliness, knowing, even as I learned, that the change was adjustment without improvement. Three whole quarts. Not a drop. What the devil does any body need with three quarts of milk? The three of us, Pecola, Frieda, and I, listened to her downstairs in the kitchen fussing about the amount of milk Pecola had drunk.
My mother knew that Frieda and I hated milk and assumed Pecola drank it out of greediness. The Bluest Eye Ashamed of the insults that were being heaped on our friend, we just sat there: I picked toe jam, Frieda cleaned her fingernails with her teeth, and Pecola finger-traced some scars on her knee — her head cocked to one side. They were interminable, insulting, and although indirect Mama never named anybody — just talked about folks and some people , extremely painful in their thrust.
She would go on like that for hours, connecting one offense to another until all of the things that chagrined her were spewed out. Then, having told everybody and everything off, she would burst into song and sing the rest of the day. But it was such a long time before the singing part came. Time for me to get out of the giving line and get in the getting line. Look like nothing I do is going to keep me out of there. Folks just spend all their time trying to figure out ways to send me to the poorhouse.
I got about as much business with another mouth to feed as a cat has with side pockets. Not long as I got strength in my body and a tongue in my head. Bible say watch as well as pray. Look like they would just peep in to see whether I had a loaf of bread to give her. But naw. She could be dead for all he know. And that mama neither. What kind of something is that? We wanted to miss the part about Roosevelt and the CCC camps. Frieda got up and started down the stairs.
Pecola and I followed, making a wide arc to avoid the kitchen doorway. It was a lonesome Saturday. The house smelled of Fels Naphtha and the sharp odor of mustard greens cooking. Saturdays were lonesome, fussy, soapy days. She would sing about hard times, bad times, and somebody-done-gone-and-left-me times. But without song, those Saturdays sat on my head like a coal scuttle, and if Mama was fussing, as she was now, it was like somebody throwing stones at it.
What do they think I am? Some kind of Sandy Claus? Pecola looked at her feet. We could go thread needles for the half-blind lady. What you want to do, Pecola? She was bored and irritable. We could make some fudge. With Mama in there fussing? She wants the bluest eye.
Morrison is able to use her critical eye to reveal to the reader the evil that is caused by a society that is indoctrinated by the inherent goodness and beauty of whiteness and the ugliness of blackness. The narrative structure of The Bluest Eye is important in revealing just how pervasive and destructive social racism is.
Narration in novel comes from several sources. In addition to narrative structure, the structure and composition of the novel itself help to illustrate how much and for how long white ideas of family and home have been forced into black culture.
Instead of conventional chapters and sections, The Bluest Eye is broken up into seasons, fall, winter, spring, and summer. This type of organization suggests that the events described in The Bluest Eye have occurred before, and will occur again. This kind of cycle suggests that there is notion that there is no escape from the cycle of life that Breedloves and MacTeer live in.