Well oh my good God, look at that everybody! A book that’s been finished! And oh, what a book it was. I should probably go ahead and let y’all know now that this post is full of spoilers. So, if you’ve yet to get your hands on this wonderfully written piece of fiction, perhaps avert your eyes now and come back when you’ve had your full dose of the beautiful woman that is Toni Morrison.
Toni Morrison has long been one of my favorite authors. This stems, most likely, from watching the movie Beloved with my mother as a child (okay, teenage to be fair. My mom was a bit better than that about controlling what my prepubescent eyes landed on) and then using the book as my central focus when I took my Intro to Literary Analysis class my sophomore class. Since then, I’ve been able to work closely with a faculty mentor who emphasizes in teaching Morrison, looking even more closely at both Beloved and Jazz. This was my first time reading The Bluest Eye though, and thank God my parent’s have a number of Morrison’s work tucked away in our dusty little home library!
The Bluest Eye is, most simply, a story of beauty and what makes beauty. More specifically, it tells the story of Claudia, her sister Frieda, and their neighbor and sometimes friend Pecola Breedlove. Pecola and Claudia, while often not getting along – Pecola is a bit of the town oddball, and everyone knows how cruel kids can be – share similar feelings about beauty in relation to race. Claudia hate Shirley Temple and some of her fellow white classmates because they’re white and, thus, are given attention and praise. Pecola also realizes the power behind being white, but instead of becoming angry, she desires to be like them. More specifically, she desires to have blue eyes, because she believes that blue eyes are what make white people so beautiful. However, more than a story of just beauty, The Bluest Eye also makes comments on race, gender, and getting caught in a life you didn’t intend. Themes that, if you’ve ever read Morrison, you know she’s touched on in practically all her other books.
Running along side the story of Pecola and Claudia is the story of Polly and Cholly, Pecola’s mother and father. The two are trapped in a marriage of hate, violence, and frustration. However, out of what seems to be a sense of proving the ability to stay, a misguided sense of duty, the two remain together. Both stories are told, Polly’s about a young woman with a lame foot who takes her strength not from her husband and children but from the movies she escapes in to and the luxuries she can pretend to have from the white family she works for. Cholly, abandoned by mother and father and raised to his teens by an aunt who passes away, is a man who enters in to marriage without knowing why, knowing the whole time that the thing most abhorent to him is sameness and obligation. Obviously, putting the two together results in the kind of marriage that **spoilers** leads to the rape and impregnation, and eventual miscarriage and insanity, of Pecola, raped by her father and beaten and berated by her mother. It is also the relationship that teaches Pecola her ugliness, an ugliness that forces her to the local witch-doctor to ask for blue eyes. The price she has to pay? ‘Sacrificing’ a local dog via poison. **End spoilers**
Morrison’s writing style is always addicting. At once complicated and simple, the book hits on a level that somewhat goes beyond conscious understanding. While her individual sentences can sometimes be convoluted, and there are many times when you just have to trust her, trust that it will all be explained in due course, the power of her story comes through and comes through swimmingly. Morrison reminds me of one of the primary reasons I read – for the awesome power of stories, for the deep root that a really good story reminds you exists (I really hope that last sentence was grammatically correct! I think it is, but it still doesn’t sound right to me).
I don’t think there could have been a better book to pull me out of my recent slump, and I’m already on to the next book that I’m hoping will be just as addicting – Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune. I started her Island Beneath the Sea earlier this summer, but didn’t get the chance to finish it before I had to return it to the library. I loved what I was able to read, though, and am really hoping this one works out just as well! As far as real life goes (since, you know, I know that’s what you’ve been waiting for this whole time. Updates on my life.) things are a little hectic right now, with moving out of the apartment and in to the townhouse right around the corner, but nothing says distraction like a fantastic book to read. Happy reading!