The Bluest Eye: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 1970
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Oprah Book Club® Selection, April 2000: Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel. In an afterword written more than two decades later, the author expressed her dissatisfaction with the book's language and structure: "It required a sophistication unavailable to me." Perhaps we can chalk up this verdict to modesty, or to the Nobel laureate's impossibly high standards of quality control. In any case, her debut is nothing if not sophisticated, in terms of both narrative ingenuity and rhetorical sweep. It also shows the young author drawing a bead on the subjects that would dominate much of her career: racial hatred, historical memory, and the dazzling or degrading power of language itself.
Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:
You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.... And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.
This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison's novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: "Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison's imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel's modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. --James Marcus --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Recorded Books expands the Morrison audiobook collection by revisiting the Nobel prize winner's early works. Her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, explores the impact of racism and poverty on adolescent Pecola Breedlove. Surrounded by images of white iconsDShirley Temple, Mary Jane, and the classic family from Dick & Jane readersDPecola is tormented by both her family and peers. Alcoholism, rape, and humiliation drive her into the relative safety of madness where she finally finds the only bit of self-worth, believing her eyes are truly the bluest. In 1981's Tar Baby, Morrison deals with a different set of cruelties. The six major characters are her most diverse, and the conflicts are both realistic and symbolic, embodying the opposition of wealth and poverty, youth and age, male and female, black and white, in a microcosm of society found on a Caribbean island. Lynne Thigpen again expertly captures the richness of the author's characters, descriptions, and language. These two new releases are important to any collection of current American social fiction.DJoyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I would recommend The Bluest Eye to anyone interested in reading books that tell true life stories. Though I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not everyone will.Read more ›
Toni Morrison describes a young black girl named Pecola that grows up in the lowest social class in the society at that time. Her family situation underlines the cliché of dirty black people: Her father is an alcoholic that beats his wife who works for a white rich family and seems to love their blond, cute, curly haired girl more than her own children.
As a consequence Pecola does not find her place in the world and feels because of her outer appearance disliked. The fact that she gets raped by his father and her wish of blue eyes to be beloved by the adults concludes a girl that goes mad in the end.
Toni Morrison uses a very colloquial language that is at first for me, as my mother language is not english, difficult to understand but second I also do not like this style of writing. In my opinion, there are too many violent and even pornographic scenes for example when Pecolas father sleeps for the first time with a girl or when she gets raped. This is only disgusting and these explicit describtions are not necessary to underline the message the author wants to make.
Obviously, this book is important for black literatur but for me it was not very interesting to read. It is just nearly the same as in all books containing the black/white conflict where the Whites are the bad boys and the Blacks have to suffer under them. Even Pecolas father who is so cruel to his environment behaves only like that because he is made by the Whites to the person he is.
I had high expectations before I read this novel because of the Nobel Prize of Literature it won but unfortunately they did not get fulfilled.
This was a difficult story to read. Each of the characters started life with a reasonable shot at happiness. But the smallest change in circumstances can have a huge impact that seem to magnify over time. I wouldn't have thought that by injuring her foot, Pecola's mother's life would take such turns that would lead to a husband who would be the one to lead to Pecola's final break.
I can't say 'good book' nor 'bad book'; it's one of those books you need to read and decide for yourself. In 2000, Oprah selected this for her book club.
Most recent customer reviews
A little confusing at times, but over all not a horrible book.Published 16 months ago by Linda Carter
A tough read to be sure, but an amazing one. As moving and as poignant as Morrison's other highly acclaimed works The Bluest Eye is a must read for anyone interested in the topics... Read morePublished on Oct. 27 2013 by Jasmin
I am so glad I read this book again. It is really easy to understand why it was and is such a phenomenal work. Read morePublished on July 23 2012 by nomadmama
This is a brutal, sad story. On the surface it is the story of being black and poor in the forties. It is also a story of rape, incest, racism, and self-loathing. Read morePublished on Nov. 8 2008 by Nicola Mansfield
I will give you the basic premise of the book:
I have saved you however long it may have taken you to read that. Read more