The Bluest Eye is Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel. What stands out here is the richness of the language and the depth of emotion that this language evokes in the reader. Toni Morrison in later years has expressed some criticism of this novel, but it remains a powerful work. The themes of self-hatred (not accepting one’s self), of poverty, of equating whiteness with beauty and cleanliness but also sterility, of invisibility versus being seen differently, and of sexuality linked to humiliation and abuse in a cycle of despair, are all powerfully conveyed and relevant.
The novel concerns an 11-year-old girl Pecola, who wishes for blue eyes, in order to attain a white standard of beauty. She sees this as an escape from the horrors of her abusive home life and her own “ugliness”. Although the novel follows her story, the main narrator is her friend Claudia MacTeer, which gives the reader a sense of distance to observe what is happening to Pecola and at the same time see how the community is reacting. The prologue foreshadows the events of the novel with the imagery of the marigold seeds that will not grow and also with explicit details about Pecola. Claudia’s narration provides a clear voice, that shows regret tempered by inevitability and human weakness.
Not a book I would say that I enjoyed reading because the subject matter is devastating and but an excellent read 5 out of 5 stars.