Title: The Bluest Eye
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 216
TW: Sexual Assault, Incest, Pedophilia, Racism, Domestic Violence
Has Toni Morrison ever written a novel that didn’t make you want to crawl into a dark corner and slit your wrists? I didn’t like this book as much as Home (I’m not sure why, except that I didn’t find it quite as emotionally affecting) but it’s a powerful piece of work. Pecola Breedlove is a little Black girl living in the 1940’s who goes to stay with the narrator and her sister following a family tragedy.
Pecola wants to have blue eyes so she can be treated with the warmth and compassion afforded to little white girls, she believes she’s ugly and unlovable and most of the people around her only push this belief on her harder. Claudia and Frieda, her cousins, try to help her but when her dad violates her and she becomes pregnant it seems like she’s beyond helping.
I thought it was interesting that Claudia was the main character because Pecola was much better developed. I didn’t feel like I knew either Claudia or Freida that well except in how their stories connected with Pecola’s. As you can expect from Toni Morrison, this book is beautifully written and full of rich language and characters with strong and heartbreaking backstories. I like how different chapters explore the histories of various characters and sometimes it takes a little while to figure out how they connect to each other.
Instead of immediately explaining how one character’s story relates to another, Toni Morrison lets the narratives slowly slide together and create a cohesive whole. The characters are tragic because they feel so doomed, and the author even helps you to understand (but not sympathize with) Cholly, Pecola’s father. They’re heavily influenced by their circumstances and while that’s not an excuse, you can kind of see where even the most contemptable characters get from one point to another. This book masterfully pulled me into situations thankfully far outside of my own personal experiences and refused to let me go.