Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Title: The Bluest Eye
Author: Morrison, Toni
Length: 224 pages
Publisher / Year: Vintage International / 1970
Source: A going out of business sale at Borders.
Why I Read It: Our August read for Year of Feminist Classics.
Date Read: 22/08/12
This book completely blew me away – why have I waited so long to read anything by Toni Morrison?? I know many have studied this or other works by her in school, but we didn’t in any course that I took and I am a bit disappointed by that. I can only imagine what amazing discussions this work, and her others if they are anything like it, would generate.
This story is that of Pecola Breedlove, a young African-American child growing up in a small American town and feeling distinctly unloved and beat upon from all sides. In her mind, what would make her loved is to have blue eyes, and this is her only wish. The book is told mainly from the point of view of various people in the town, allowing us to see the make-up and feel of the town and the people who inhabited it as well as how people viewed her. How they viewed her, however, often was almost a side note, although fully explained. You could see why some people were harsh without intending to, or too downtrodden themselves to see other options.
Morrison brings up so many great discussions of the beauty ideals and myths of whiteness. The young girls learned that to show (fake or real? both) love or affection was safer than to show hatred. They saw how their mothers and aunts praised the white children and learned from that. The young men learned to take out aggression where they could – which usually meant at those less fortunate rather than those causing the grief and pain.
Through the book Morrison explores issues of race and class in incredible ways that leave you thinking about our culture for long after you’ve turned the last page. What she shows is how people as a collective owe others a certain amount of decency, and how much effect our unthinking actions can have on others. None of us live in a vacuum and Morrison reminds us of this by showing how actions and opinions ripple down to affect those most at risk.
Highly recommended, and I look forward to reading more by Morrison very soon.