Literature / The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye
is a 1970 novel by Toni Morrison
that explores the relationship between beauty and race. The story is about a year in the life of Pecola, a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio. It takes place against the backdrop of America's Midwest as well as in the years following the Great Depression. Realizing that darker-skinned black people are treated worse than lighter-skinned black people, who more closely fit Caucasian standards of beauty, Pecola comes to believe that if she had blue eyes, she would escape race-based oppression.
Provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Pecola's parents, Pauline and Cholly. Pauline constantly calls her own daughter ugly, and treats her as The Unfavorite to a child that isn't even hers. Cholly is worse, he rapes her, you can't get any worse than that.
- Aerith and Bob: The three whores Pecola hangs out with: China, Poland, and Miss Marie. Although it also gets subverted, since Claudia and her family refer to Miss Marie as the Maginot Line.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Deconstructed. Most of the characters subscribe to this belief, which is extremely damaging to those who are unlucky enough to be labelled "ugly," especially since they're all being judged using Caucasian standards of beauty.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Breedloves.
- Blasphemous Boast: At the end of Soaphead Church's letter to God, he brags that he is superior because he can do the one thing that He can't: grant Pecola her blue eyes.
- Break the Cutie: Pecola.
- Bring My Brown Pants: As shown in a flashback, Cholly has this reaction when he meets his father for the first time and is none-to-kindly rebuked.
- But Not Too Black: Many of the characters subscribe to this, treating mixed-race people more humanely than "blacker" people.
- Butt-Monkey: If something humiliating and depressing can happen to Pecola, it will.
- Crapsack World: especially if you're black.
- Downer Ending: No one's fortunes improve by the end of the novel. Most of them are worse off.
- Driven to Madness: Pecola
- Foregone Conclusion: The narrator spoils the Downer Ending on the third page of the novel.
- Generation Xerox: Pecola and her mother both have the same tragic obsession with being beautiful
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Deconstructed. Both black and white characters alike tend to privilege blonde-haired children above the dark-haired protagonists, which is a source of great ire and confusion for Claudia.
- Hollywood Homely: Deconstructed. In-universe, Pecola is constantly called "ugly" by everyone, even her own mother. No indication is made of her actual appearance, but it's very clear that she's nowhere near ugly enough to justify the constant abuse. Nevertheless, Pecola takes it to heart and believes that all of her problems can be solved if she's prettier. Her mother takes it literally, fostering her own self-loathing by comparing herself to Hollywood movie stars.
- Hypocrite: The boys who bully Pecola for being black and her dad sleeping naked. Claudia lampshades it when she says "That they themselves were black, or that their own father had similarly relaxed habits was irrelevant."
- Innocent Inaccurate: Whenever Claudia narrates.
- Ironic Name: Pecola, which means "brazen". Hardly fits the shy, demure protagonist.
- Kids Are Cruel:
- Rosemary's Establishing Character Moment is her sitting in the back of her dad's Buick eating bread and butter, before stopping to roll down the window just so that she can tell Claudia and Frieda that they can't come in.
- The gang of boys who bully Pecola for her being black and (their assumption that) her dad sleeping naked.
- Junior. He gets Pecola in his house under the guise of giving her a pet cat, and when she tries to leave with it, Junior heads outside and holds the door closed while laughing at her. When Pecola stops crying because she's playing with the cat, Junior, "curious at not hearing her sobs", opens the door, sees her playing with the cat, and tries to take it back, and when Pecola tries to take it from him, the cat ends up being thrown across the room and lands on a radiator and dies. When Junior's mom comes home and sees this, he immediately blames it on Pecola.
- Meaningful Name: Considering what happens to her, Pecola's family name is the cruelly ironic Breedlove.
- Parental Abandonment: Cholly's parents both abandoned him, and he ended up being raised by his great-aunt.
- Parental Incest: Cholly rapes his daughter, Pecola.
- Parents as People: Cholly and Pauline have no business being parents, but it's hardly their fault.
- Phony Psychic: Soaphead Church, who purports to be a "Reader, Advisor, and Intepreter of Dreams"
- The Power of Love: Subverted.
- Claudia's closing narration observes that "love is never any better than the lover," so violent/screwed-up/weak/wicked people will love in violent/screwed-up/weak/wicked ways.
- Rape as Drama
- Shout-Out: To Shirley Temple and Raggedy Ann and Andy. Also, Vulcans are brought up. Presumably, not THOSE Vulcans, though.
- Spell My Name with a "The": Although it's not always capitalized, the word "the" usually appears before the Maginot Line's name.
- Start of Darkness: Several chapters are devoted to the backstory of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove, showing how they got to be so screwed up.
- Take That!: To the Dick and Jane children's books. It indicates how flawed the Breedlove family really are.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: The chapter that Pecola narrates.
- Tragic Dream: Pecola's dream of having blue eyes.
- Unconventional Formatting: A chunk of language intended to spoof the idyllic middle class family perfection of the iconic Dick and Jane books is repeated, first with no punctuation, and then with no punctuation or line breaks, and no spaces between the words.
- The Unfavorite: Pecola is a distant second in her mother's heart to the (white) daughter of the family she serves.
- Uncanny Valley: In-Universe, Claudia states that she's "physically revolted by and secretly frightened of" Raggedy Ann dolls.