“The Bluest Eye” is a book that has been banned from many schools and libraries due to its controversial nature. Yes, this book is graphic, and it contains a story that most authors would be too afraid to tell, but nevertheless, it’s a story that needs to be told.
Based on a true encounter that Morrison experienced, “The Bluest Eye” is the tale of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl growing up in the years following the Great Depression. Her family is poor, and her parents are abusive to each other and their children. When Pecola’s father is arrested, the MacTeer family takes her in. Claudia MacTeer, the young narrator of the novel, observes Pecola, who she sees as much different from herself. Both girls have experienced racism throughout their lives, but they handle it in different ways. Claudia has grown to resent white children. She is jealous of the affection shown to them by adults and confused as to why their skin color makes them better than her. Pecola, on the other hand, is fascinated by white people. She dreams of being just like Shirley Temple, and she wishes more than anything that she was Caucasian. In Pecola’s mind, white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes would make her life complete. Pecola has been taught that she is “ugly,” and she suffers from low self-esteem. Claudia has been raised by a strict but loving family, so some of her pride is still intact, enough to save her from going down the same road as Pecola.
The book explores not only Claudia and Pecola’s perspectives, but also Pecola’s mother and father. Her mother, Pauline, has been taught to be ashamed of her heritage and her real family, so she pretends her home is that of the rich, white family she is employed by. She despises her own child for being black, but most of all, she hates herself. This self-loathing is mirrored in Pecola’s father, Cholly, whose childhood pain has turned him into a monster. He drinks and fights to numb himself, and he replaces his desire for love with sex. The lack of affection from her family makes Pecola desperate for love of any kind, but she has no idea what true love is. She is eventually molested and raped by her own father, and the entire novel is spent trying to explain how something so tragic could happen.
All of the problems stem from the prejudice of others, and the readers are sent back in time to watch the descent of multiple characters as this inequality destroys their souls. The seeds of hatred planted years ago grow into a tangled mess of weeds that strangles the life out of everyone around them. A close-minded society taught a group of people that they were not good enough, and then they taught their own children that they were worthless. The novel does not leave out a single detail of the pain, the anger and the confusion. It’s blunt; it’s provocative; it’s difficult to read. But as you follow the story of an innocent young girl who thinks having blue eyes would change the way the world sees her and the way she sees the world, you realize just how vital it is that people understand the consequences of discriminating against others. The characters of this book are vivid, the plot is heart wrenching, and its moral is unforgettable. The book will leave you wondering, “Why?”
But as Morrison succinctly states in the opening chapter, “There is really nothing more to say - except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”
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