The Bluest Eye book review
Can it be? Am I actually posting?!? I can’t believe it my damn self. School is over, my last final is tomorrow, and then the break comes. But what about all those papers, assignments, and test you took during the semester? What, you go just throw ’em in the trash? Gotta be crazy. I have most of my college papers since my freshmen year and it’s always cool to re-read them because you get a sense of where you were at during that period in your life. It’s pretty much equal to 1000+ words that creates a picture, stamped in time. No? Don’t agree? No need to. Check out this book review I did for my African American women’s history class. Maybe you’ve read the book or maybe you will want to. Either way is cool with me ———————————————–
The Bluest Eye
The Blues Eye. Toni Morrison. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970. 224 pp.
Beauty is an ideal that has been redefined, reinforced, and reinvented over and over. The idea of beauty has consistencies over the decades and centuries but the ideal beauty is defined differently by different societies with different cultures. In some cultures, having big breast, big hips, and “curvy” shapes is the definition of beauty because it reinforces the idea of childbirth. In this American culture of the 1970’s, white skin is still what the general, implied definition for the catalyst of beauty is. For some people, it was very explicit in being the main, if not the only, definition of what beauty is. In this 1970’s tale by Toni Morrison, you get the chance to see through the eyes of a young, manipulated black girl of what beauty means to her. The Bluest eye is a tale of Pecola and her family, the Breedloves, as they live in many states of “ugliness” that they cannot break free from. Along with the idea of desire, the idea of perception is very important in this book.
The most important theme in this book that I see goes right to the title. Pecola hates her identity. She believes if she has “her blue eyes,” then this will lead to happiness because people will accept her more lovingly. What is love according to Pecola? She doesn’t quite know. As the man hating prostitutes who live above her house tell her about their “boyfriends,” Pecola wonders is love the kind of love the prostitutes tell her about or is love the kind of sad, angry love her mother and father has? She wonders if real love is, “Daddy sounding like he’s in pain and Mommy laying their silent.” Though Pecola might not know what love is, she definitely knows what hate is. All the kids at her school tease her because of her brown skin color while the kids with lighter skin get treated kindly. The more of this teasing and harassment she faces, the more it reinforces in her mind that she is ugly and that light skinned plus blues eyes equals the sole definition of beauty.
This look at beauty from Pecola comes to light when her sister, Claudia, has this white doll with blue eyes that she rips apart so she can “find” the “beauty.” When she rips off the doll’s arms and legs to only find that there is a piece of metal in the inside, she is even more confused by what this “beauty” is that she doesn’t have. Her mother sees the doll and is angry with Claudia. Claudia insisted, “no one even asked me what I wanted.” What does she want? Maybe she wants her own version of beauty? Maybe she already had her own version of beauty but the constant reinforcement of “light is right” and “your ugly” changed her mind. Even more symbolic is that she is implying that no one asked what color I wanted to be because if she could’ve chose, she most likely would’ve chose light skin. The quote on what she wants is important because it illustrates how impressionable a child’s mind is at a young age.
Claudia isn’t a three year old, but what the parents preach, the kids teach. That sounds backwards but I wrote it correctly. What does that mean? The phrase “What the parents preach, the kids teach” touches on two important points: the literal idea that typically, whatever the parents okay become okay with the kids and whatever the parent was constantly “preached” on becomes instilled in them which then becomes perpetually in the next generations. At the beginning of this review, I mentioned how beauty has been redefined. I would say beauty has been redefined in post 1970 because there is more pride in diversity outside of the typical “box.” The other reason beauty has been redefined is because of what we have been told is beautiful. These are the main two factors that can define beauty to me. This doesn’t mean that the specifics of these factors are true/false because the specific examples are vast and diverse. The point I’m trying to make is that these two factors are general and unbiased but the specifics of them are subjective. What are you told and tell your self is generally accepted to be true and therefore is. You can tell Pecola that having blue eyes or the bluest eyes wont guarantee people will treat her nicer but how can she believe you when her life experiences have presented the opposite?
This is where the example of the dandelion comes into play. Pecola doesn’t understand why people think the dandelion is an ugly flower. She also doesn’t feel it is an ugly flower but in the end, she comes to accept the opinion of everyone else that it is one. Though it seems simple, I believe Toni Morrison uses this scene to symbolize self hate and self-doubt based off the opinions of others. The entire family experiences both these emotions about themselves and at times, each other. Even the “ugliness” of the house is representative of the constant reinforcement that they are, in all forms, ugly.
The hope of this book is still alive and well to me. Most wise men have been great fools to learn what they now know. Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda still have a chance to discover that the beauty they seek is a beauty they will never have permission to have. They must create their own beauty by their own standards. Maybe that’s realistic? Maybe it’s impossible for the Breedlove children to ever create “their” beauty because their parents’ mentalities have been shaped by the actions and opinions of others who defined their beauty and therefore, will define the beauty of Pecola and her siblings. This is not something I can truly believe in though. I’m not beautiful, but I am not “ugly” because someone tells me so. The struggle to deny the power of others to influence the perception of self is well illustrated and covered in this book. The symbolism, blatant actions, and subtle expressions of the confusion from a child, a poor, innocent, Black child at that, are what make this book effective in its goal to illustrate the range of identity issues associated with the “White power” in the 1970s. I experienced the book in the audio form from audible.com. If you have the money and the time, I’d suggest the audiobook to gain a different, more personal experience.