The Bluest Eye: A Review


In Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, the author explores a variety of themes including race, physical beauty, sexuality, youth, and most profoundly, love. In The Bluest Eye, Morrison brings about an array of issues that beg the reader to contemplate the question: How might have Pecola’s fate been different had she been in a more stable environment?

The setting plays an important role in the novel, as the characters live in Ohio in 1941, post the Great Depression. Pauline and Cholly migrate to Ohio in hopes of a brighter economic future, free from the racism of the south. However, their efforts are thwarted by the problems that they encounter, such as judgment based on looks and race. These issues, in conjunction with their tumultuous pasts, create turmoil in the family, which soon bleeds into the formation of how Pecola perceives herself.

Pecola, the young daughter of Pauline and Cholly, faces a self-loathing about her own physical/racial identity that is heartbreaking and poignant. Pecola exists in a lonely world, in which she is alienated from both her parents and her lighter-skinned peers. Her insecurities lead her to fantasizing about becoming somebody different—a person with blue eyes (representing a white person) as opposed to who she is. The tribulations of Pecola’s life eventually spiral into her father raping her, and then losing her baby. Ultimately, Pecola becomes mentally unstable by the end of the book, believing that she actually has the blue eyes that she coveted for so long.

The torment that Pecola undergoes, particularly as a young child, is a painful result of abusive parents and social malice. Might have Pecola’s fate turned out differently, had her parents confronted their own demons and had become stronger from their past as opposed to taking out their aggressions on her? Would Pecola been able to be comfortable with herself, had her mother been more supportive? How do these issues in parenting relate to what we see in our very own classrooms with our students? And who is mostly to blame: her parents or society?


3 thoughts on “The Bluest Eye: A Review

  1. Your final question, VM, is profound. The answer, I think, is that society is to blame first. Society causes Cholly’s problems and Pauline’s. Therefore society causes Pecola’s problems. Although this may seem like a tenuous sequitur, I believe that it is true in this case.
    After all, Pecola’s insecurities are derived just as much from her parents’ issues and reputations as from society’s standard of beauty. (Not to mention society’s other arbitrary standards.) In fact, society’s biases may cause Pecola’s troubles more than her parents.
    Thanks for this thought-provoking post, VM. You raise great questions.


  2. I agree with SD, this is a thought provoking and interesting post. It really brings up an additional component to the nature vs nurture debate: there’s a third component, society, what is seen and valued by the world around the child will also affect him/her. JMV

  3. Hey VM,
    This was a thought-provoking and insightful post. The questions you wrote at the end are ones to consider as educators because many times if there are problematic students in our classrooms, we have to look beyond their behavior. We will have to look at the students’ parents, living condition, and our society. Toni Morrison did a brilliant job in showing the effects of a terrible cycle that almost never gets broken. Pecola was destroyed because of her parents. Her parents couldn’t deal with their own demons, and they did not know how to raise her. Pecola’s father couldn’t see her as his precious child who needed comforting and protection from the world, his views were distorted and instead of being her loving father, he became her ultimate enemy. Students are by-products of their homes, and their behaviors are almost always a reflection of how they are being raised so teachers should be aware of that. As far as the question of who is to blame may not be as important as to how can we assist in helping our students. What can we do in our classrooms, as teachers to help students in difficult homes? I feel like there is nothing we can do to change the past, but to learn from it and make progress for a better future. JA

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