The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye

Christ, you guys. The Bluest Eye is absolutely heart-breaking.

This story is about a young girl named Pecola, a quiet black girl in America in the years after the Great Depression. Pecola’s parents fight all the time, and her brother runs away a lot – no one is there to pay attention to her. And her deepest wish is to have blue eyes – so that she will be beautiful, and loved, and worthy of attention to those around her.

The Bluest Eye takes a really good, long hard look at the implications that black isn’t beautiful. This poor girl has been taught by everyone around her that she isn’t worth noticing because she is ugly – she is not light-skinned, or blonde, or blue-eyed. Each chapter examines the lives of those around Pecola, and even though part of you hates them for how they’ve treated her – you also feel a bit bad for them too. The idea that white is beauty has had profound consequences on everyone in her life, and ultimately leads to her devastating story. I want to tell you more – about the intensely sad scene in which a black girl is given a white doll, about Pecola’s dad, about her mother’s job in a white household… but you’re really better off reading it yourself. Morrison’s writing is absolutely fantastic and that you need to read this book.

I want to mention two other things – that Chris Rock has a documentary called Good Hair, about how natural black hair is still considered “bad”, and that explores the many lengths the black community will go to in order to have “good” hair- in other words, hair that is more straight and “white”. The message in The Bluest Eye is clearly still extremely relevant.

The other thing is that there is brilliant song called “Thieves in the Night” by Talib Kweli and Mos Def that was inspired by this book, by this passage in particular:

“And fantasy is was, for we were not strong, on aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good, but well behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life.”

That passage is specifically referenced at 1:10 and 3:00 in the song. I’ve been listening to this song for YEARS, and never knew that it was a direct connection to the book. I highly suggest listening to it.

Toni Morrison has won a solid place on my shelf, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her books. The Bluest Eye blew me away even more than Beloved did. Those two, and another of her books called Song of Solomon, are her most well-known books. I’ve had Song of Solomon on my shelf since I was about 16 and STILL haven’t read it, but I think now that I’m going to save it. I’m going to read some of Morrison’s other novels – Love, Paradise, A Mercy, Tar Baby, etc. and save Song of Solomon for later, if it’s considered one of her best.

Sarah Says: 5 stars

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19 comments

  1. Couldn’t agree with your more, Sarah. This was the first TOni Morrison book I ever read, and while I admired her other works, this one still blows me away whenever I think about it. i think it’s her best work.

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    1. I think it’s fantastic! But there was an Afterword by her at the end in which she discusses some of the things she doesn’t like about it, and how she should’ve tried to do some ideas in it differently. Such a shock, I think it was so well done.

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  2. Loved this review! I’m glad you like Morrison’s writing, I have good memories from beloved though I *really* need to re-read. (Or read some other, new to me Morrison book.)

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  3. Ugh, this book. And “ugh” in a good way but also a “maaaaaaan this is painful to read and I sort of want to sit and cry and think about happy things for the next few hours because OMG I can’t deal with the emotions from this anymore.”

    Song of Solomon is probably the least depressing Morrison book, and one I should prob re-read.

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  4. My senior seminar for my English degree was on Toni Morrison. I had the privilege of reading 6 of her books in one trimester. It was intense at times, but the end result was a 24 page paper that I wrote about Morrison’s strong mother theme in her books. Let me know if you want to read it 😉

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  5. I own this and Beloved, and I was really excited about reading them and then I feel like everyone was like ‘Morrison is so difficulllllt’, and that put me off. SO now I’m excited again, so thank you!

    Should I read this first or Beloved, iyho?

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    1. I had that “Morrison is difficult” fear too. She is not always plain with what exactly is happening.

      I suggest The Bluest Eye first. It was SO GOOD, and really easily readable, I think. There were a few things in Beloved that I had to go online and make sure I was understanding it right. I’m not so good with subtlety in writing, lol.

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  6. I just read this book last semester in my fiction writing class, and I’m so glad that I did. Morrison’s writing is absolutely stunning and her power to make the reader uncomfortable is amazing and so so important. I have several passages from The Bluest Eye typed up, printed out, and taped to my wall for inspiration. Or just for moments of being in awe of someone so talented — that’s also important.

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  7. I just finished reading this book and it’s all kinds of awesome. I never knew that there was a song with lyrics from the book. I have to go and listen to it now.

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