Bluest Eye Summary The Bluest Eye Summary
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Bluest Eye Summary The Bluest Eye Summary





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The Bluest Eye: Summary & Setting

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Pecola Breedlove has it tough. Ignored by her mother and molested by her father, Pecola will do just about anything to find someone she can actually talk to.

The Bluest Eye: Summary and Setting

Have you ever thought that nothing worse can happen…and then it does? Well, that is the life poor Pecola Breedlove lives. In the prologue, we learn that she had her father’s baby, that it was a year no marigolds would grow, and that the baby and Pecola’s father have died. This lesson will focus on the summary and setting of the novel The Bluest Eye.

In the very beginning of the novel, we get a sequence out of a children’s book, where the quintessential children’s family (Dick and Jane and their parents) perform a few actions. We see Jane try to play with her mother, father, a cat, and a dog. None of them will play with poor Jane…the mother laughs, the father smiles, the dog runs. At the very end, a friend comes to play with Jane.

Pecola’s Background

The story starts out with the MacTeer sisters, Claudia and Frieda. Their mother has temporary tenants, Mr. Henry and his niece, Pecola Breedlove. Pecola is staying with her uncle because her father is in jail. He burned down the family house, making them homeless. Pecola loves Shirley Temple and wishes she was white. Claudia, on the other hand, hates white things and white people. While at the MacTeer house, Pecola gets her period for the first time and develops a preoccupation with sex and love.

Soon, Pecola returns home to live with her father Cholly and her mother Pauline. We learn their backstories. Both are, in their own ways, abusive to each other and their children. They often have physical fights. Pecola wishes she could disappear, but her brother Sammy joins in the fighting and urges their mother to kill Cholly.

Trying to Make Friends

Pecola makes friends with a new girl at school, Maureen. Maureen is light-skinned and idolizes white people. She starts out friendly to Pecola, but soon betrays her. Claudia, of course, hates Maureen on sight.

We meet another family in town, the light-skinned Geraldine and her son, Junior. Junior believes (correctly) that his mother loves her cat more than she loves him. Junior tricks Pecola into playing at his house. While she’s there, he kills his mother’s cat but blames it on Pecola. Pecola runs off.

Claudia comes home from school and finds her sister crying that Mr. Henry has molested her. Frieda and Claudia go in search of Pecola to tell her what has happened. They find Pecola, right after the incident with the cat. Pecola has gone to the house where her mother is a maid for a white family. Pauline shows her preference for the little white girl when Pecola accidentally ruins a pie.

The Wrong Kind of Attention

One afternoon, Pecola is at home washing the dishes. Her father comes home drunk and rapes her. She faints from the shock, and Cholly pulls a blanket over her and leaves the house. When Pecola regains consciousness, she sees Pauline looking at her.

Distraught and pregnant by her own father, Pecola thinks everything would be okay if she just had blue eyes. So she goes to visit Soaphead Church, a local mystic. He tells her that she needs to give some meat to a dog. If the dog reacts, then God will grant Pecola’s wish for blue eyes. Soaphead has poisoned the meat, so the dog dies.

Claudia and Freida learn that Pecola is pregnant. They decide to plant some marigold seeds, telling each other that if the flowers live, so will Pecola’s baby. Meanwhile, Pecola has lost her grip on reality. Through a conversation with an imaginary friend, we learn that Pecola believes she now has blue eyes. Cholly has raped her again. Pecola didn’t bother telling her mother, who beat her last time for mentioning it. We learn that the marigolds refused to grow, and that the baby died.

Lorain, Ohio: 1941

This novel is set in Ohio in the years following the Great Depression. There are two major problems faced by the black population of Lorain at that time. First, there was never enough money. The MacTeers and the Breedloves never seem to have enough money, even though the adults in their families are working. While many black families had left the Deep South in the beginning of the century, their prospects are not as good as those of the white families around them.

The prejudice faced by the blacks in Ohio is also difficult for the characters in this story. People with light skin (like Maureen) are seen as more attractive than darker skinned people (like Pecola and the MacTeer sisters). And we see how some families, like Junior and his mother and Soaphead’s family, try to make sure all their children are light skinned. So even within their own communities, the black kids are taught that lighter skin means more opportunities.

Lesson Summary

At the heart of this story is poor Pecola Breedlove. We know that she has had a terrible upbringing, subject to emotional abuse by her mother, who loves the little white girl she is a maid for more than she loves her own daughter. And Pecola suffers even more at the hands of her father, who rapes and impregnates her.

Pecola believes that the only way she can be truly loved is to be whiter. She thinks that if she had blue eyes, then all of her problems would disappear. She even goes to a neighborhood shaman, who uses her to get rid of a dog and doesn’t actually help her in any way. His actions just add more pain to the already traumatized girl.

The entire novel ties into the children’s story at the beginning. Jane, obviously, represents Pecola. Pauline and Cholly never really give her any positive attention. The cat and the dog, animals which Pecola treats with love and kindness, both end up dead. Though Claudia and Freida try to help her, they fail. And the friend who will actually speak with Pecola is imaginary, and only appears after poor Pecola has lost her mind.


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Toni Morisson’s The Bluest Eye: Summary & Analysis

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The Bluest Eye is about the life of the Breedlove family who resides in Lorain, Ohio, in the late 1930s. This family consists of the mother Pauline, the father Cholly, the son Sammy, and the daughter Pecola. The novel’s focal point is the daughter, an eleven-year-old Black girl who is trying to conquer a bout with self-hatred. Everyday she encounters racism, not just from white people, but mostly from her own race. In their eyes she is much too dark, and the darkness of her skin somehow implies that she is inferior, and according to everyone else, her skin makes her even “uglier.” She feels she can overcome this battle of self-hatred by obtaining blue eyes, but not just any blue. She wants the bluest eye. Morrison is able to use her critical eye to reveal to the reader the evil that is caused by a society that is indoctrinated by the inherent goodness and beauty of whiteness and the ugliness of blackness. She uses many different writing tools to depict how “white” beliefs have dominated American and African American culture. The narrative structure of The Bluest Eye is important in revealing just how pervasive and destructive social racism is. Narration in novel comes from several sources. Much of the narration comes from Claudia MacTeer as a nine year old child, but Morrison also gives the reader the insight of Claudia reflecting on the story as an adult, some first person narration from Pecola’s mother, and narration by Morrison herself as an omniscient narrator.

Pecola’s experiences would have less meaning coming from Pecola herself because a total and complete victim would be an unreliable narrator, unwilling or unable to relate the actual circumstances of that year. Claudia, from her youthful innocence, is able to see and relate how the other characters, especially Pecola, idolize the “ideal” of beauty presented by white, blue-eyed movie stars like little Shirley Temple. In addition to narrative structure, the structure and composition of the novel itself help to illustrate how much and for how long white ideas of family and home have been forced into black culture. Instead of conventional chapters and sections, The Bluest Eye is broken up into seasons, fall, winter, spring, and summer. This type of organization suggests that the events described in The Bluest Eye have occurred before, and will occur again. This kind of cycle suggests that there is notion that there is no escape from the cycle of life that Breedloves and MacTeer live in. Further, dividing the book are small excerpts from the “Dick and Jane” primer that is the archetype of the white upper-middle class lifestyle. Each excerpt has, in some way, to do with the section that follows. So the section that describes Pecola’s mother is started with an excerpt describing Dick and Jane’s mother, and so on. The excerpts from “Dick and Jane” that head each “chapter” are typeset without any spaces or punctuation marks. The “Dick and Jane” snippets show just how prevalent and important the images of white perfection are in Pecola’s life; Morrison’s strange typography illustrates how irrelevant and inappropriate these images actually are. Names play an important part in The Bluest Eye because they are often symbolic of conditions in society or in the context of the story.

The name of the novel, “The Bluest Eye,” is meant to get the reader thinking about how much value is placed on blue-eyed little girls. Pecola and her family are representative of the larger African-American community, and their name, “Breedlove,” is ironic because they live in a society that does not “breed love.” In fact, it breeds hate; hate of blackness, and thus hatred of oneself. The MacTeer girls are flattered when Mr. Henry said “Hello there. You must be Greta Garbo, and you must be Ginger Rogers”, for the names ring of beauty that the girls feel they will never reach. Soaphead Church represents, as his name suggests, the role of the church in African-American life. “I, I have caused a miracle. I gave her the eyes. I gave her the blue, blue, two blue eyes,” Soaphead says. The implication is that the church’s promise that if you worship God and pray to Him that everything will be alright is no better than Soaphead’s promise to Pecola that she will have blue eyes. Morrison reveals the significance of Pecola’s name through the character of Maureen Peal. Maureen confuses Pecola’s name with the name of a character in the movie Imitation of Life. By this allusion, Morrison illustrates that Pecola’s life is an imitation of the real experiences of black women. Morrison also uses metaphors to describe the conditions under which African-Americans in general and Pecola in particular are forced to live. There are two major metaphors in The Bluest Eye, one of marigolds and one of dandelions. Claudia, looking back as an adult, says in the beginning of the novel, “there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941”. She and her sister plant marigold seeds with the belief that if the marigolds would grow and survive, so would Pecola’s baby. Morrison unpacks the metaphor throughout the book, and, through Claudia, finally explains it and broadens its scope to all African-Americans on the last page. “I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruits it will not bear . . .” The implication is that Pecola, like so many other African-Americans, never had a chance to grow and succeed because she lived in a society (“soil”) that was inherently racist, and would not nurture her. The other flower, the dandelion, is important as a metaphor because it represents Pecola’s image of herself. Pecola passes some dandelions going into Mr. Yacobowski’s store. “Why, she wonders, do people call them weeds? She thought they were pretty”. After Mr. Yacobowski humiliates her, she again passes the dandelions and thinks; “They are ugly. They are weeds”. She has transferred society’s dislike of her to the dandelions.

In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison tells the story of a little black girl who thinks that if she can live up to the image of the blue-eyed Shirley Temple and Dick and Jane that she will have the perfect life that they have. The importance of this book goes beyond its value as a work of literature. Morrison speaks to the masses, both white and black, showing how a racist social system wears down the minds and souls of people, how dominate images of white heroes and heroines with blue eyes and wonderful lives show young black children that to be white means to be successful and happy, and then they look around at their own lives of poverty and oppression and learn to hate their black heritage for keeping them from the Dick and Jane world. Morrison does not solve these problems, nor does she even try, but she does show a reflection of a world that cannot call itself right or moral.

Tags:  Analysis Cholly Claudia MacTeer Paulie Pecola Sammy Summary The Bluest Eye Toni Morisson

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