The crowning achievement of a story is when it stops being just a collection of words and transcends into reality. With Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, crosses that boundary easily. In her debut novel, Morrison creates reality and mixes it up in words that drop like music. She makes the narrators speak, she makes them croon in blues, when a character moves, she makes the movement a jazz melody. Her lyricism is subtle, but, you feel it run deep into your soul. The novel becomes a mark that you wouldn’t brush off no matter how hard you try.
The novel is a exploration of the meaning of beauty through the life of Pecola, a little girl who believes that she would be more beautiful only if she had blue eyes. However, it also lays bare the hard dislike the colored men and women harbor within themselves. The novel begins with Claudia as a narrator. She narrates sometimes as a young child living through the events and sometimes as a grown woman looking back on her childhood.
Her narration introduces us to the protagonist. She paints with bright strokes a picture of a girl who is subdued in nature, a girl who is bullied and left alone. Claudia is not a girl who despises herself, in her fierce pride she almost shadows Pecola, but, the contrast humanizes our little protagonist too. We see a tortured soul who feels alone, and is bullied, a girl who is led easily into anything that comes her way. Then, we see the narrator, in all her innocence describing things that are adult, and we let that resonate with our very souls.
Morrison works in contrasts, she paints prostitutes and pious women, she creates happy families and unhappy ones and makes us breathe in the pain that her protagonist suffers from. A pain she drives through the descriptions of Pecola’s closed ones. Yet, she is cautious to keep Pecola just out of our reach, she is cautious in making her mysterious, never hiding her and yet, giving the account of her through the eyes of others. She paints her family, a family which takes pride in their ugliness, to the point that they try to make it their own, they try to emphasis on the ugliness. This becomes
Pecola’s downfall, the unhappiness of her parents spreads to her and she wishes she could just disappear. Where Claudette’s innocence wishes to explore and is unabashed, Pecola’s innocence avoids and wishes to disappear.
Mrs. Breedlove, Pecola’s mother, pushes her daughter is subtle ways. Morrison humanizes her as the woman who blames her misfortune on her husband and on her ugliness. Here lies the author’s brilliance. Even when she creates someone like Cholly, a drunk man who would not care for any of his family, she still manages to humanize him, to make us sympathize with him. In this way the Breedloves are created as a dysfunctional family, but, at its heart a human one.
In its humanity the novel breathes. When a laughing prostitute lets go of a jar of liquor nly to make it burst at the feet of some young girls. When a little woman discovers she is menstruating and she asks if she was dying. The instances become part of something living.
The author says in the foreword that she wrote the story after her friend expressed her wish to have blue eyes. However, the book delves into her own life too, and in a way that is painful and aso eye opening, she creates something spectacular. “The Bluest Eye” is a living novel, it grows on you and consumes you, leaving behind a changed person and in that Morrison conquers. She asks questions about whether the beauty we assign to people is a representation of the truth, and then she makes us investigate that ourselves.