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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not needed for this black woman's beautiful perspective
The Bluest Eye was Toni Morrison's first novel, published in 1970. The story is based in Ohio, USA, and the central figure is Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who has been convinced by her parents and society that she is hideously ugly. Her mother, Pauline, is influenced by society's perception of beauty: "all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired,...
Published on 29 July 2011 by Greenleaf

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but incomplete
The Bluest Eye is about race relations and, as such, can never be completely understandable to a non-American such as me. It revolves around a simple and very sad story of rape, incest and the victimisation of a little girl in 1940s America. It is told from the point of view of blacks - this was before the term African-American - and partly in another child's voice. The...
Published on 11 April 2008 by reader 451


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not needed for this black woman's beautiful perspective, 29 July 2011
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
The Bluest Eye was Toni Morrison's first novel, published in 1970. The story is based in Ohio, USA, and the central figure is Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who has been convinced by her parents and society that she is hideously ugly. Her mother, Pauline, is influenced by society's perception of beauty: "all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured", hence Pecola prays for blue eyes because she believes that it will lead to a better life: "Long hours she sat looking in the mirror, trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at school, by teachers and classmates alike."

The book is told from the viewpoint of Claudia MacTeer, as a child and an adult, and by an unknown third-person narrator. Claudia MacTeer lives with her sister Frieda, their parents, a lodger called Mr. Henry and Pecola Breedlove, as the MacTeers take her in after her home is almost burned down in a fire during one of her parents' ourbursts.

The Bluest Eye is a text rich with symbolism, hence its use in school curriculums across the world despite its graphic nature. Pauline and Cholly Breedlove are constantly at war and Pecola is often caught up in their verbally abusive and often physically violent dramas. We learn that the Breedloves have experienced immense hardship or forms of abuse that have led them to act the way they do: it seems that the pattern is in escapable. They are particularly victims of rejection: Pauline because of a deformity she has had since her youth, and Cholly because of abandonment by his mother as a young child: "They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly... No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly."

We watch helplessly as the powerless young Pecola joins this trend when her drunken father, Cholly, rapes her while she is washing the dishes. "What could he do for her - ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him - the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How?" It seems that abuse is Cholly's only understanding of love, and his powerless leads to his self-hate and perhaps also hatred of his race.

Soaphead is another character who is a victim of his own powerlessness. He is the local psychic, but he feels inadequate when Pecola asks him if he can make her eyes blue: "Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty. A surge of love and understanding swept through him, but was quickly replaced by anger. Anger that he was powerless to help her." He tricks her into thinking that she will get her wish for blue eyes.
The plot is rife with tragedy. Pauline refuses to believe that Cholly has raped Pecola, Cholly disappears, Pecola becomes pregnant and suffers has a miscarriage. Claudia and Frieda plant marigold seeds in a superstitious vision that Pecola's baby will live if the flowers bloom, but they do not, just as, the narrator tells us, many of the seeds they plant there fail to bloom: "This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers." The baby dies, and society is glad of it, as there is little pity for the ugly girl. Pecola's tragic life seems to have no relief.

There are several poignant themes in this book. Racial and class issues were prevalent in the American South in the 70s, however there are also further issues stemming from them such as notions of beauty and self-hate, hence Pecola's innocent prayer for 'the bluest eye'. Pecola thinks that if she had blue eyes and was therefore pretty then her parents would stop fighting and people would favour her in the same way that her schoolmate Maureen is favoured for being light-skinned. Sex coupled with beauty is also a strong theme throughout the book. Pecola finds kindness in the prostitutes Poland, China, and Miss Marie, who flaunt their independence and their bodies equally. Cholly succumbs to them: "They give him back his manhood, which he takes aimlessly", and this is where their strength lies. This society feeds off each other with abuse of power, and Morrison suggests that prostitution is a black woman's only way out of the powerlessness forced upon her by society.

Towards the end of the book Pecola deludes herself into thinking that she has blue eyes after the trick Soaphead plays on her works. It may be that she has succumbed to madness, or that her eyes are clearly still brown in the mirror but mentally she is no longer convinced that she is ugly. I like to think that it's the latter. Blue eyes, then, are perspective, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and by accepting the power of her beauty as a black girl, Pecola gains some power in her life.

The reason I love this book, though, is not for its rich literary merits alone. I found the story to be deeply moving and the characters easy to empathise with. I also felt a strong sense of place when reading The Bluest Eye, despite never having experienced life the 1970s American deep South. Contrasting with the heavy topics of the book are Morrison's beautifully crafted tone, her poetic imagery of the South, and a unique and refreshing tone of storytelling. By the end of the novel I felt that despite the tragedy it is Morrison's eyes that are metaphorically blue, in their sharp observance of this time, their acceptance of the black American's learned powerlessness, and their willingness to overcome it. If you're planning to read The Bluest Eye, be prepared for helplessness and tragedy, but also be willing to look beyond it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragmentary but beautiful, 3 Jan. 2007
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
More a collection of mini-stories than a fully developed narrative, The Bluest Eye looks at the different factors involved in a young girl's becoming pregnant by her father, from her stay with friends to the histories of her parents and their relationship. It is sensitively told without judgement, and you get a feel for the tragedies of all the characters concerned.

One of her earlier works, this isn't the best book if you want to discover Toni Morrison, but it is beautifully written as always, and a fascinating insight into her early development. Most useful here is a postscript by Morrison where she identifies her intentions and some of the weaknesses in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but incomplete, 11 April 2008
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reader 451 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
The Bluest Eye is about race relations and, as such, can never be completely understandable to a non-American such as me. It revolves around a simple and very sad story of rape, incest and the victimisation of a little girl in 1940s America. It is told from the point of view of blacks - this was before the term African-American - and partly in another child's voice. The little girl thinks herself ugly and envies the looks of blue-eyed whites. That a black child could consider herself physically inferior was a real shock to me, and for considering this only, the book is worth reading. One wonders how much this has changed in the last four decades.

There is a broader subject, however, which is the psychological impact and destructive power of models of beauty, especially feminine beauty. This, unfortunately, is only alluded to and could have been addressed in far more depth. The book also lacks the victim's own voice. Because it is told in chronological disorder and from different protagonists' angles, the story tends to be less strongly felt. At times it almost reads like a documentary. Perhaps this is for the best, since some scenes might have been unbearable if told by the central character herself. Still, while interesting and often revealing, this book too often gave me the impression of being unfinished.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and meaningful, 16 Dec. 2009
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nishee (london, UK) - See all my reviews
Story of "ugliness" being the absolute absence of love and how it works in a vicious circle. Little Pecola being at the centre of this story of abuse, Morrison goes into the cases of those who inflict the abuse and how they themselves have been victims of rejection, lovelessness, a displaced identity and consequenty shame. There was a point past the half way mark of this book (at the perverseness of Soaphead Church) when I put it down and said to myself I didn't want to read anymore as it was disturbing me! Im glad I read til the end though. The book was meaningful to me, and touched me. Morrison's use of words were wonderful. I appreciated Morrison's Afterword very much and she shone light on the depth of the issue of beauty in her novel. I related to the story in parts and Morrison does mention that she believed "some aspects of her [Pecola's] woundability were lodged in all young girls". I look forward to reading more of Toni Morrison as this was my first by her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another amazing story, 25 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
This is yet another amazing story by Toni Morrison. It tells the story of a young girl who suffers abuse at the hands of her father and subsequently becomes pregnant. This story at times is almost heartbreaking as all throughout her life the young girl is told that she is ugly and she dreams of being pretty with lovely blue eyes. This is a heartfelt story sometimes brutally honest which will stay with you long after you have read it. At times this book can come across as a bit confusing, with a number of different themes going on at once, but Morrison compliments the story with powerful imagery that is so poignant of her style. I would definitely recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book club favourite, 24 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
Read with Feminist Book Club @FeministBC

This is my contribution to the discussion:

I think the main theme of the novel is the self-hatred produced by a racist culture. The most overt image of this is Pecola's pathological desire for blue eyes, but it is also powerfully evident in the character of Geraldine, mother of Junior, who is one of the women who `come from Mobile' and dedicate themselves to the erasure of their natural `funk', and even more so in Pauline, Pecola's mother. I found Pauline's story the most affecting, because she was unable to show any tenderness to her own children, yet doted on the white child of the family she worked for (the berry cobbler scene is as disturbing to me as the rape) and was described by them as the perfect servant. Evidently, she doesn't neglect Pecola because she is a cold, cruel person, but because a racist culture has ingrained in her a hatred of what it has designated as blackness (her husband's fecklessness, her home's hopeless poverty and cheerlessness, and her children's `ugliness'). Morrison, in describing her behaviour to her family, ends by saying `and the world itself agreed with her'. This is unquestionably a racist world.

I think this blackness-as-designated-by-white-supremacy is the same thing as the `funk' that the `women from Mobile' try to expunge from themselves. Geraldine's son yearns for blackness in sexual terms when he longs to play with black boys. White-supremacy (and the black self-hatred that is its offspring) is a hatred and fear of the black body and its sexuality.

Just before the rape scene, Cholly's `freedom' is described. I struggle to understand this idea of freedom, but it seems to arise from a litany of proscriptions he has transgressed. He has refused to conform to the demands of white supremacy, but as no alternative narrative to make sense of his experience or identity is available to him (Morrison suggests music could provide one, pointing, I guess, to the Black Arts movement and the reclamation of Black beauty/body/sexuality) he is almost a person without socialisation, without culture, so he can only behave reactively or out of emotion. As his experiences are largely negative, so are his actions. He is able to rape his own daughter without shame, in fact partially out of confused tenderness towards her, as he has no longer any way to make sense of relationships or the feeling of love - or, perhaps, since all his feelings are despised by white supremacy, they are in total confusion, with no way to distinguish kind from cruel, transgression from goodness.

Claudia (and her sister) is to some extent liberated from racialized self-loathing, as exemplified by her rejection of the white dolls she was given. However, I don't think Morrison has made Claudia immune, rather, she is pointing out that there are moments and points of resistance in the onslaught of the white supremacist hegemony.

I loved the book. I felt every word of it was a poisoned dart in the flesh of oppression. I was quite rightly discomforted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All things being relative..., 25 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
Five stars for The Bluest Eye? Morrison herself admits, in the Afterword, that the book is flawed. But, all things being relative, something less-than-par from Morrison is still a whole lot better than the best most others ever produce, and if a 5-star recommendation makes prospective readers just that wee bit more likely to use this story as a launch-pad to take them into Sula, Beloved, Jazz or any of Mossison's great corpus, so be it.
Highly recommended as an entree for a proper Morrison feast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for ANYONE with eyes (or ears to be read to)!!!, 15 May 2012
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This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
This isnt a book. It is an experience.
It is a book that requires digesting.

Stylistic and eloquent, Toni Morrison manages to articulate the intangible, capturing the individual experience in perfect synchrony with the human experience without devaluing the unique perspective of each character and the deep rooted spiritual connection shared with a vast demographic of readers each with their own identity. This book reviews age, innocence, self definition, gender, culture, tradition and society in a unique and thus far unrivalled way. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I picked it up thinking it was a walk in the park, a book that would take me a number of hours to read... I was wrong. This sorrowfully brilliant book changed me. I have never been a Toni Morrison fan...but this book...this book is incredible.

Enjoy,

Ama Live

P.S. I have purchased it 3 times... Each time I lend it out...it never comes back as it is sent on...!
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written, 14 Dec. 2003
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
This book holds the truth about girls stereotyping, that beauty only comes from blonde hair and blue eyes. The story flows very gracefully and beautifully. When you read it, you understand Pecola's feeling; her dream, her fear, her hopes. Your heart goes with her. You will also love Frieda and Claudia and astonished by how children's minds work. Pecola's dream of having bluest eyes is beautiful, sad and sorrowful.
I read this book for a few times and am still thrilled by the richness of words and the real meaning of it.
By the end of the book, I keep questioning why this thing happens? Sometimes life can be so unfair and there is nothing we can do about it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful novel, 14 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Bluest Eye (Paperback)
This has to be one of my favourite books- there is a richness in the language that had me hooked from the first page. The imagery within the book was gorgeous. Morrison is able to explore many sensitive issues with a tenderness and without being 'preachery'. I found Pecola's constant wish for blue eyes heartbreaking, it raised questions on the society we live in and why we deem certain qualities as 'beautiful.' There is a primary focus on seeing throughout the novel and Morisson strongly confronts how what we see, relates directly to how we are seen.

Beautifully written and emotionally charged to the core. Great book.
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The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Paperback - 4 Mar. 1999)
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