Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

To say that Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is an easy read would be a blatant lie. That is not to say that the actual text is difficult to understand or construe; in fact, the actual words and narrative are rather simple and comprehensible to virtually anyone with an elementary level reading ability. However, the content and nature of the narrative within the book is harrowing and heavy that requires an open mind and emotional willingness to fully engage and comprehend the words as intended. As stated earlier, it is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one.

The core story focuses on the Breedlove family: Choly, the father; Pauline, the mother; Sammy, the son; and, the primary focus of the tale, Pecola, the daughter. The Breedlove’s story is one of tragedy and despair brought on by generations of trauma and disappointment and loss and experience of being Black people in the South without any real community or family among the oppressive forces of racism and white supremacy. The family is essentially just existing, going through the motions to make it from one day to another. The father, Choly, is a drunk who cannot hold down a job and is dealing with severe abandonment and resentment issues he never acknowledged or dealt with from childhood. Pauline works for an affluent white family and is extremely unhappy and resentful of her husband and life. The children, for as foolish and unintelligent as they are considered by themselves and everyone around them, are not oblivious the tumultuous nature of their home life.

We see the full picture of the Breedlove’s circumstances and history through a series of flashbacks concerning Choly and Pauline and the specific events of their respective pasts that had the biggest, and most traumatic, impact on their developments. As well, we read perspectives from various other characters, including the majority narrator, throughout the story that gives insight into how the Breedloves, Pecola in particular, are seen and considered by the community around them. Suffice to say the rest of the inhabitants of their small town look down on the Breedloves with contempt and pity and a sense of superiority.

The narrative comes to a tragic climax and resolution that even being heavily foreshadowed does not deter from the impact and weight of said conclusion. It is not without cause or reason that the prose and writing is beautiful and elegant in contrast to the themes and topics the book uses and discusses. Morrison’s deft hand and skill in her writing is emphatic of the narrative found in The Bluest Eye. Amid the tragedy and horrors explored, there are also small moments of triumph and victory peppered throughout the story. These small moments of self realization and grace are not without cost as the narrator discusses how Pecola was a sacrificial goat who the women around her used as a means to compare and contrast to feel and be smarter, more beautiful, and better than. There is an odd sense of resilience and freedom mixed with the tragedy and despair of the story that cannot be separated.

Ultimately, Morrison’s work has stood the test of time and received a fair share of accolades because of its unyielding nature and unwavering willingness to present the stark realities of the Black community, especially Black girls and women. It is both beautiful and tragic. Unbending and broken. Harrowing and heartfelt. The Bluest Eye at its core is simply a story of young Black girls and the ways they survive and attempt to thrive in a world that overlooks them, at best, and tears them down, at worst. It is a tale to provide strength and perspective and to give hope that one day such lessons will not be necessary to learn.

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