The Bluest Eye; Toni Morrison

Contemporary Literature. Novel. History of American civil rights. Plot Summary Characters. Themes

  • Enviado por: Harcell Darauche
  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: Venezuela Venezuela
  • 6 páginas
publicidad

Plot summary

Claudia and Frieda MacTeer live in Ohio with their parents. The MacTeer family takes two other people into their home, Mr. Henry and Pecola. Pecola is a troubled young girl with a hard life. Her parents are constantly fighting, both physically and verbally. Pecola is continually being told and reminded of what an “ugly” girl she is, thus fueling her desire to be a Caucasian girl with blue eyes. Throughout the novel it is revealed that not only has Pecola had a life full of hatred and hardships, but her parents have as well. Pecola’s mother, Pauline only feels alive and happy when she is working for a rich white family. Her father, Cholly, is a drunk who was left with his aunt when he was young and ran away to find his father, who wanted nothing to do with him. Both Pauline and Cholly eventually lost the love they once had for one another. While Pecola is doing dishes, her father rapes her. His motives are unclear and confusing, seemingly a combination of both love and hate. Cholly flees after the second time he rapes Pecola, leaving her pregnant. The entire town of Lorain turns against her, except Claudia and Frieda. In the end Pecola’s child is born prematurely and dies. Claudia and Frieda give up the money they had been saving and plant flower seeds in hopes that if the flowers bloom, Pecola's baby will live; the marigolds never bloom.

In the afterword, Morrison explains that she is attempting to humanize all the characters that attack Pecola or cause her to be the way she is.

Ideas of beauty, particularly those that relate to racial characteristics, are a major theme in this book. The title refers to Pecola's wish that her eyes would turn blue. Claudia is given a white baby doll to play with and is constantly told how lovely it is. Insults to physical appearance are often given in racial terms; a light skinned student named Maureen is shown favoritism at school. There is a contrast between the world shown in the cinema and the one in which Pauline is a servant, as well as the WASPsociety and the existence the main characters live in. Most chapters' titles are extracts from a Dick and Jane reading book, presenting a happy white family. This family is contrasted with Pecola's existence.

Characters
  • Pecola Breedlove - The protagonist of the novel, a poor black girl who believes she is ugly because she and her community base their ideals of beauty on "whiteness". The title The Bluest Eye is based on Pecola's fervent wishes for beautiful blue eyes. She is rarely developed during the story, which is purposely done to underscore the actions of the other characters. Her insanity at the end of the novel is her only way to escape the world where she cannot be beautiful and to get the blue eyes she desires from the beginning of the novel.
  • Cholly Breedlove - Pecola's abusive father, an alcoholic man who rapes his daughter at the end of the novel. Rejected by his father and discarded by his mother as a four day old baby, Cholly was raised by his Great Aunt Jimmy. After she dies, Cholly runs away and pursues the life of a "free man", yet he is never able to escape his painful past, nor can he live with the mistakes of his present. Tragically, he rapes his daughter in a gesture of madness mingled with affection. He realizes he loves her, but the only way he can express it is to rape her.
  • Pauline Breedlove - Pecola's mother. Mrs. Breedlove is married to Cholly and lives the self-righteous life of a martyr, enduring her drunken husband and raising her two awkward children as best she can. Mrs. Breedlove is a bit of an outcast herself with her shriveled foot and Southern background. Mrs. Breedlove lives the life of a lonely and isolated character who escapes into a world of dreams, hopes and fantasy that turns into the motion pictures she enjoys viewing.
  • Sam Breedlove - Pecola's older brother. Sammy is Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove's one son. Sam's part in this novel is relatively low key. Like his sister Pecola, he is affected by the disharmony in their home and deals with his anger by running away from home.
  • Claudia MacTeer - Much of the novel is told from the perspective of Claudia.
  • Frieda MacTeer - Claudia's older sister and close companion. The two MacTeer girls are often seen together and while most of the story is told through Claudia's eyes, her sister Frieda plays a large role in the novel.
  • Henry Washington - A man who comes to live with the MacTeer family and is subsequently thrown out by Claudia's father when he inappropriately touches Frieda.
  • Soap head Church (aka Eli hue Micah Whitcomb) - A pedophile and mystic fortune teller who "grants" Pecola her wish for blue eyes. The character is somewhat based on Morrison's Jamaican ex-husband.
  • Great Aunt Jimmy - Cholly's aunt who takes him in to rise after his parents abandon him. She dies when he is a young boy.
  • Della Jones- Henry Washington's landlady before the Macteers.
  • Hattie- Della's sister.
  • Aunt Julia- Della and Hattie's aunt.
  • Peggy- The woman having an affair with Della's husband.
  • Old Slack Bessie- Peggy's mother.
  • Maureen Peal - A light-skinned, wealthy mulatto girl who is new at the local school. She accepts everyone else’s assumption that she is superior and is capable of both generosity and cruelty. She changes her attitude throughout the novel towards Pecola.
  • Bay Boy- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
  • Woodrow Cain- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
  • Buddy Wilson- One of the black boys from school who teases Pecola about her daddy.
  • Junie Bug- One of the black boys from school who tease Pecola about her daddy.
  • Mrs. MacTeer- The mother of Claudia and Frieda. She houses Pecola when her family is "put out."
  • Mr. MacTeer- The father of Claudia and Frieda.
  • China- One of the prostitutes who live above the Breedlove residence. Physically, she is extremely skinny.
  • Poland- One of the prostitutes who live above the Breedlove residence. She speaks the least out of her, China, and Miss Marie.
  • Maginot Line (aka Miss Marie)- One of the prostitutes who live above the Breedlove residence. She is known for being very plump.
  • Dewey Prince- An old boyfriend of the Maginot Line.
  • The Fishers- The rich, white couple who employ Pauline as their servant.
  • Geraldine- A socially-conscious black woman in the community who tries to over exaggerate the fact that she is above traditional black stereotypes, and is more "civilized" than other black families in Lorain, Ohio.
  • Louis- The husband of Geraldine.
  • Louis Junior- Geraldine's son who picks on Pecola, and blames her for the killing of his mother's favorite cat.
  • Rosemary Villanucci- The little girl of the MacTeer's next door neighbor who constantly tries to get Claudia and Frieda in trouble.
  • Blue Jack- Cholly's boyhood mentor.
  • M'Dear- Medicine woman in Cholly's hometown who tends on Aunt Jimmy.
  • Essie Foster- Aunt Jimmy's neighbor whose peach cobbler is blamed for her death.
  • Miss Alice- One of Aunt Jimmy's friends.
  • Jake- Cholly's cousin that he first meets at Aunt Jimmy's funeral.
  • Darlene- Young girl from Cholly's hometown whom he shared his first sexual experience with.
  • Mr. Yacobowski- The immigrant grocery store owner where Pecola goes to buy Mary Janes.
  • Samson Fuller- Cholly's father who lives in Macon, GA.
  • Chicken and Pie- The nicknames of Pauline's younger, twin siblings.
  • O.V. - Aunt Jimmy's half brother.
Themes
Whiteness is beauty

In this book whiteness stands for beauty. This is a standard that the black girls cannot meet, especially Pecola, who has darker skin than the rest. Pecola connects beauty with being loved and believes that if she would just have blue eyes all the bad things in her life would be replaced with love and affection. This desire that is obviously hopeless leads her to madness by the end of the novel.

Beauty is subjective

Pecola’s story is essentially her quest to find beauty. While she believes that the blue eyes of a white girl will make her beautiful, this view of beauty is not Pecola’s. Her society has revered whiteness, so she begins to see that as the essence of beauty. At the end of the book, Pecola believes that she got her wish. She has an eerie conversation with herself, which seems to reveal that Pecola has traded her sanity for the blue eyes she has always dreamed of. However, Claudia clarifies that “A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment”. By trying to conform to everyone else's ideas of beauty instead of her own, Pecola never actually obtains what she wants. She thinks blue eyes are beautiful simply because society thinks that blue eyes are beautiful, which is what fuels her desire for them. The conformity in the end does not lead to Pecola’s true satisfaction, as what she is satisfied with she cannot have. Although she believes that she has the blue eyes, it is clear to everyone except Pecola that the pleasures of being white, and blue eyed is not attainable. Although the goal is unattainable physically, Morrison makes the point that it is unattainable metaphorically as well. We cannot achieve beauty unless we achieve our own idea of beauty, not just what others have led us to believe is beautiful.

Love is only as good as the lover

The Bluest Eye is a novel that contains several relationships, although the relationships never end pleasantly. Morrison sees love as a dynamic force, which can be extremely damaging depending on who is doing the loving. The biggest example of this is the relationship Cholly has with his daughter Pecola. Cholly is the only character in the whole book that can see past Pecola’s seemingly revolting shell enough to touch her. While this sounds like a beautiful thing, in actuality it is the violent rape that serves as the climax of the story. As Claudia points out in the final chapter of this novel, “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly” While Cholly definitely loves, the core of his personality forces him to manifest this love in violent ways. Because he is not a good person, his love is extremely tainted. The reader can look at this in one of two ways. It can be seen as a very pessimistic view, claiming that true love can only be achieved if the lover is a good, honest person. However, the reader can also see this as uplifting. Even though love can be distorted, Morrison makes the point that everyone can, in fact, love. Even if an evil person loves evilly, they still love.

Motifs
Dirty/Uncleanliness

Morrison continually places the idea and image of dirt and impurity-both figuratively and literally-in each new setting. In the beginning she introduces an ill Claudia plagued with bronchial and flu-like symptoms, cooped up in an “old, cold, green” house. The Breed loves own appearance and home is poor and ugly. Pecola befriends the prostitutes living above her, who are impure in their own nature. They sleep around, refute religion, are caked with make-up, surrounded themselves with smoke and are overweight. Altogether, the characters live in a dusty, hot town, separate from the upper-class whites. They themselves are dark and not pristine in appearance with their dark skin and nappy hair; Pecola is especially insecure about her differences and imperfections. Morrison uses this repetitive concept to emphasize the severity of their lifestyles and their desperation to keep up appearances.

Sacrifice

Most of Morrison’s characters are a martyr to some cause or some person. Claudia and Frieda’s mother gave up youth and her own life to stay at home and care for a family. Pecola believes she’s ugly so that others may be beautiful. Her body is sacrificed to Cholly for his self-fulfillment. Claudia and Frieda gave up their bike money and flower seeds to “make magic” for Pecola and her baby. Mrs. Breedlove gave up her family, wealth, and status for Cholly and the trouble he brings economically, physically, and emotionally. Even the Maginot Line and China gave up their bodies and social position to have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. The book’s constant discussion of sacrifice, sin, and an unattainable redemption stresses a larger idea of life’s real purpose and the struggle to make it through something that yields no reward.

Blue Eyes and Vision

Believing a new pair of eyes will change the way she sees things as well as the way she is seen, Pecola’s one deep desire is to have the bluest eyes in the world. The young girl’s innocent wish is marked by her perception of a world where the cruelty and hardships she suffers are a result of her appearance as an ugly black girl with dark eyes. She imagines having blue eyes will earn her respect and possible admiration. This is demonstrated when Pecola is teased by the little boys on the playground—when Maureen approaches staring at them with her light eyes, the boys back down and behave in a more respectable manner. Furthermore, Pecola wishes specifically for new eyes rather than lighter skin because she also hopes to literally views the world in a better way. At home and all around her, Pecola is tortured by the cruelty and dirtiness she constantly witnesses; if she were blessed with new eyes, she would be able to see herself and her world in a new, beautiful way. Pecola’s desire for blue eyes makes a connection between how a person is seen and what he or she sees.

Whiteness

Throughout the novel, white skin is identified with beauty and purity. There are many recurring implications to the superiority of whites over blacks, specifically in women. The adoration of the Shirley Temple doll given to Claudia, light-skinned Maureen being cuter than the other black girls, and Pauline Breedlove's preference for the little white girl she cares for demonstrate the prevailing dominance of whiteness. As a result, women learn to hate themselves for being black and in turn relay this disgust to their daughters. This is most apparent within the Breedlove family, where Mrs. Breedlove despises the ugliness she sees in her own daughter. Pecola is most affected by this connection of beauty with whiteness, believing that beauty is associated with love and is necessary for affection and respect. Her hopeless desire to be identified as a white girl eventually drives Pecola to insanity.