This novel is a blistering modern romance between reality and desires. With her blunt evocation, definite voice and unequivocal description of a child’s yearning and the ultimate tragedy to having fulfilled it at last, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye has the power to wake you up, rob you of sleep and mock the privileges that come easy to some of us.
There are only a few stories which contain the power to have a tight grip on you and expose your bare heart to diverse and extreme weathers. And through a subtle dichotomy- the same stories shield you from being part of an ignorant population and lets you feast upon the rawness and beauty of truth. ‘’Nuns go by as quiet as lust’’, the author sets the tone for the whole novel and dares the reader for the abraded explicit.
Expected like a father’s fallibility and unexpected like a harsh slap across your face, Toni Morrison feeds you reality checks through the eyes of the underprivileged and makes you question your position in the society. Morrison’s words contain magic - both haunting and austere. Claudia’s journey of loving Shirley temple from “pristine sadism to fabricated hatred to fraudulent love’’ is closely related to Pecola’s journey of hating herself due to the insatiable thirst for blue eyes.
The themes evolve around the complex realistic nature of circumstances and encounters, desires and outcomes; each symbolising something or the other of the black struggle.
Like a pinch in the sleep, the words deliver a commendable picture of the story's setting, very clearly establishing the racist experiences of the minorities in 1940's America and how the dysfunctional and unfavourable environment can impose indestructible notions of self hatred and solidify internalised racism.
The language itself is filled with black colloquialism, slang which helps establish a convoluted narrative, completely eliminating the white point of view. Pecola’s journey is closely intertwined with that of Claudia. Pecola and Claudia in the novel are the vehicles to figuring out an important question - “how does a child learn to hate themselves?”.
Pecola and Claudia are shown as misfits or outsiders in their own community of people who are silently suffering the ostracisation from the rest of the privileged, the only difference being that these two young girls dared to ask themselves- ‘’why?’’.
The novel shows the feeling of “otherness’’ growing inside of them as they traced their peripheral existence in a regime of Eurocentric beauty standards and the plight of the ones in its destitution. The self criticism by the ones devoid of the standard ‘beauty’ tightens like a knot.
The bluest eye is a secret confession of sorrow experienced by one who considers for their natural self to be incapable of love and insufficient for praise.
The yearning for acceptance sets the girls laid on an easel, waiting to be coloured so as the world sees the beauty in them. It is a journey of womanhood and the tyranny faced due to the multidimensional consequences of oppression and how it feeds off the most vulnerable.
The tragedy of being unaccepted is embodied by Claudia and Pecola who struggle for a place in the world with white girls. Pecola’s biggest enemy being her apparent “ugliness’’, her most desired wish is granted to her at the cost of her sanity. The blue eyes through which she wished to see the world are now useless as her perversely received gift is a form of blindness without a stable mind. The emasculation of Cholly Breedlove in the Novel leads to his anger settling on Pecola as he loses his last remaining humanity.
The young girl pays the price of her father’s unresolved conflict as she grew his sin in her womb.
Her delusion and self conviction for coping up with a traumatic experience drives her to a periphery of sense as she spends the rest of her life being emotionally distraught and disturbed.
The author points out how the community as whole failed in the protection of a young girl. And how like earth’s new child, yet to receive our first bath, we step into a new atmosphere where we are forced to feel ugly unless we please a few people and try to untangle the intangible doubts laid for us.
The author has given a realistic portrayal of children dealing with cruelty through the means of denial. Pecola is one of the many people using physical beauty to make up for the ugliness of her trauma. The most powerful quality of this novel is the casual yet overpowering exemplification of human autonomy and possession. These dominating emotions are not only mentioned for materialistic things but also on a qualitative scale.
The novel contains the power of conviction. The reader quickly sympathises even with the worst characters, understanding the cause of their state and continuing to empathise with the most affected. It redefines the perceptions of racial discrimination in our minds through a story of complex characters and brilliant literary tools.
Toni Morrison’s The bluest eye is a must read for plethora of reasons but one of the most significant being its exquisite narration of inherent and simple qualities of humans alternating through tough circumstances, abstract from the white norm. Toni Morrison describes the ripple effects of slavery which are intertwined due to different yet haunting experiences of every individual.
Morrison describes and beautifies the essence of an individual in the repression and not the community as whole with the belief of keeping every unique soul who was a victim of slavery, alive through her words both blithe and exquisite and connects daily instances during The Depression to a much broader picture.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.