Describe the Bluest Eyes For the Novel Analysis.
Exploration of the concept of beauty and the hardships faced by the members of the black community
“Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.”
The above quoted lines of Toni Morrison which she delivered at her Nobel Prize Acceptance speech in 1993 speaks volume about the nature of her literary works and the themes that have formed the lacuna of the majority of her works. The major works of Morrison deal with the lives of the people of the black community and the fate which these individuals have received at the hands of not only the white community but also the black community as well (Middleton 19-31). Her novel “The Bluest Eyes” (1970), generally considered to be one of her finest works, is an exploration of the concept of beauty and also the hardships faced by the members of the black community in a world dominated by the white people (Olson 31-45). The novel behind the exploration of the concept of beauty is redolent with the themes of feminism and the dominance of the male members of not only the white community but also the black males.
Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eyes” pertinently explores the meaning of the concept of beauty and what it means to be beautiful in a world dominated by the white folks (Ducille 11-14). Throughout her childhood Pecola Breedlove is being given white “dolls with blue eyes” to play with and thus she comes to formulate the idea that blue eyes are associated with the concept of beauty (Morrison 17). The obsession with the blue eyes and the desire to attain it can be related to the obsession of Paul D with the concept of names and the meaning of it (Mahdi 45-51). It is this particular idea that leads to the reverent longing for blue eyes and the desperate ways to achieve it. Thus, “each night, without fail, she prayed for blue eyes……To have something as wonderful as that would take a long, long time” (Morrison 19). The longing for blue eyes is not just for the attainment of beauty but at the same it can be said that the idea of the blue eyes is a means through which she could rise out of the current situation in which she finds herself in. Pecola is considered “ugly” not only by the members of the white community but also by the members of her own community as well (Morrison 11). It is seen that the members of the community use her as a scapegoat to feel better about themselves and at one point of time Claudia even acknowledges the fact that “All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us” (Morrison 190). Thus, it is can be said that it is the desire of attaining blue eyes through which she is being able to sustain herself in the midst of the ugly and mundane surrounding in which she finds herself in. The novel in this respect can be said to be an exploration of the concept of appearance and reality and it is towards the end of the novel that Pecola realizes that she is her own “best thing” (Morrison 209).
Portrayal of the male members of the black community
Cholly Breedlove is the father of Pecola in the novel and it is through him that Morrison tries to portray the male members of the black community. During the course of the entire novel Cholly is being shown as a haunted soul who had to endure a lot of unjustified hardships throughout his life (Beckmann 405-421). Perhaps one of the most insulting moments of his life was when he had to do sex with his wife in front of white folks in a field. This incident makes him not only embittered but angry at the same time. Thus, through the entire course of the novel he is seen to take refuge under the façade of anger and the narrator even says about him that “Anger is better……An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging” (Morrison 54). However, the fact which deters the readers from feeling sympathy or any kind of feeling for this particular character is the rape which he commits. The incident of rape is described as an incident where he is not in full control of his senses and at the back of his mind the figure of his daughter is presented as the image of his long lost sweetheart when she was young (Beckmann 405-421). However, it is towards the end of the novel that the characters of the novel including Claudia realizes that perhaps this was “the only possible way” in which he could have shown his pure love for her (Morrison 219). Thus, it would be apt to say that Morrison portrays the male members of the community as the victims of the same machinery which torments the female members of the community.
The novel under discussion here is also redolent with the concepts of history, community and black female subjectivity. Morrison uses the character of Cholly to depict the history of the black folks and also the inhuman tortures which they have undergone (Hunt 120). The anger as well as the helplessness which he feels can be said to a representative of the same kinds of feelings which were felt by the members of the black community during the era of slavery (Kuenz 421-431). Thus, the narrator reveals that at one point of time Cholly was “all the bits of color” however the hardships of the black life have changed him. The nature of community is revealed through the interactions of Pecola with the people in it (Morrison 61). For the people of the community she just serves as a scapegoat and it is through her ugliness that they measure their beauty and refinery (Kuenz 421-431). Thus, she was used by the community to “smoothly cultivated ignorance, their exquisitely learned self-hatred, their elaborately designed hopelessness” and all this was thrown back to her (Morrison 110). The work is at the same time redolent with various instances of feminism. For example, one of the best possible instances relating to this particular claim are the incidents when she is being raped by her father repeatedly and is left pregnant (Kuenz 421-431). Throughout the work she is being presented as a subdued soul who just wants to gain the respect as well as the acknowledgement of the community. The character of Claudia, on the other hand, can be said to be a more fully developed portrait of a feministic character. The pursuit of blue eyes or beauty by Pecola, the incidents of sexism, racism and others related to the identity of women as well as her body makes the literary work a very important one from the feministic perspective.
To conclude, “The Bluest Eyes” is not just one of the masterpieces of Toni Morrison but at the same of 21st World Literature as well. The novel on the surface level is a story about the obsession a young black girl to get blue eyes. However, on a deeper level the work is redolent with subtle representations of the concepts of feminism, the portrayal of the male members of the black community, appearance and reality, double colonialism and others. Thus, the novel is generally seen as an account of the life of the members of the black community and the also the efforts of a young black girl to gain recognition in the white community.
Beckmann, Felicia. "The Portrayal of Africana Males in Achebe, Marshall, Morrison, and Wideman." Journal of Black Studies 32.4 (2002): 405-421.
Ducille, Ann. "Of Race, Gender, and the Novel; or, Where in the World Is Toni Morrison?." Novel: A Forum on Fiction. Vol. 50. No. 3. Duke University Press, 2017.
Hunt, Michelle. "Women as Commodities in Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory and Morrison's The Bluest Eye." Pennsylvania Literary Journal 8.2 (2016): 120.
Kuenz, Jane. "The bluest eye: Notes on history, community, and black female subjectivity." African American Review 27.3 (1993): 421-431.
Mahdi, Maher A. "Triangle of Hatred: Sexism, Racism and Alienation in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye." Canadian Social Science 11.9 (2015): 45-51.
Middleton, David L. Toni Morrison's fiction: Contemporary criticism. Routledge, 2016.
Morrison, Toni. "The Bluest Eye. 1970." New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston (1994).
Morrison, Toni. The Nobel lecture in literature, 1993. Knopf, 2009.
Olson, Allisha Tatiana Delarese. " Making Place Out of No Place": The Construction of Identity and Belonging Within Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Home. Diss. California State University, Sacramento, 2017.
Rahmani, Ayda. "Black Feminism: What Women of Color Went Through in Toni Morrison’s Selected Novels." International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature 4.3 (2015): 61-65.