The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – Book review and images to explore

9B54F624-1784-4F05-B4C9-78478513BE06You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy

I kenneled him in the backyard
No proper life to a dog
For a big dog

This is America, Childish Gambino


Published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel. It tells the disturbing story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who desperately desires to have the bluest eyes, believing that blue eyes could transform her life. It is a story that tells, in a non-chronological order, in whispers and shared secrets, the devastating effects of racial self-loathing and the uglification of black.

In Pecola’s blue-eyed fantasies her parents would look at her and say “Why, look at pretty-eyed Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty eyes.” Because Pecola believed she was ugly. Her mother “knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly.”

Pulizer prize winner Morrison invites us to look at Pecola’s young life, and possibly perceive her misfortunes as the accumulation of a history of deprivation, of poverty, of lack of dignity. This environment provided the momentum for the downward thrust that was Pecola’s life, a life surrounded by incest, prostitution and domestic violence.

Written at the time of the Black Is Beautiful movement of the late 1960s African-American culture, Morrison wrote a novel about internalised racism and its damaging effects on young black girls – some petty and slight as in the case of the main narrator Claudia, some tragic and life stifling as in the case of the young and vulnerable Pecola.

There have been numerous attempts to ban this book from libraries and schools due  to controversial topics including racism, incest and child molestation. Yet it remains a really important read for anyone who wants to understand the social element in creating a perpetrator.

Besides, this book is a must read as:

  • It challenges the social and cinematographic ideals of beauty and the belief that love is for the beautiful.
  • It eloquently defines a new concept of beautiful which goes beyond the static.
  • It sensitises the reader to the injustice, cruelty and absurdity of racism.
  • The language is intimate, personal, free.

While preparing these images I tried to recreate the feelings, the tension, the pure simple joy and in the last image the inebriation of a desperate perpetrator and the total helplessness of a being about to be broken.

Marigold hope
Meet Claudia and Frieda, two sisters who desperately prayed for an unwanted, unborn babe to live; “so deeply concerned were we with the health and safe delivery of Pecola’s baby we could think of nothing but our own magic: if we planted the seeds, and said the right words over them, they would blossom, and everything would be all right… We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola’s father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.”
christmas wish
Claudia, when gifted with the usual blue-eyed baby doll for Christmas, expresses with the reader her dismay. “I wanted rather to feel something on Christmas day. The real question would have been, “Dear Claudia, what experience would you like on Christmas?” I could have spoken up, “I want to sit on the low stool in Big Mama’s kitchen with my lap full of lilacs and listen to Big Papa play his violin for me alone.”
“She was washing dishes. Her small back hunched over the sink. … she shifted her weight and stood on one foot scratching the back of her calf with her toe…. The creamy toe of her bare foot scratching a velvet leg.”

Thanks for reading 😊.

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