I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, trying to decide what to say about this novel. It was a difficult read, and although fiction, it was full of gritty, heartbreaking realities that we often would like to pretend don’t exist. (The book was inspired by a statement made by one of Toni Morrison’s childhood friends.)
The Bluest Eye is about many different people, but at its heart it is the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young, poor Black girl who wishes she could trade her brown eyes for blue ones. Pecola is mistreated by society, by institutions, and by her family and peers. She’s been taught that she is ugly and worthless. When her father rapes and impregnates her, she does not receive the care, understanding, or even compassion that she so desperately needs.
The Bluest Eye is about beauty and how the world perceives it. It is about the mistreatment of Black people in America. It’s about how a little girl can internalize the belief that she is less-than.
Morrison has a beautiful writing style. She switches points of view throughout the book, and I found each narrator and character to be compelling. Not only do we see victims and attackers, we also learn of the victims’ past struggles and inner thought patterns. We see the way oppression leads to more oppression, and the way victims seek to victimize others.
My favorite part of The Bluest Eye was Claudia’s narration. Claudia and her sister Frieda, who are nine and ten years old, befriend Pecola and treat her with compassion. Claudia was a very entertaining narrator. Some of the things she said were so funny I laughed out loud.
Although The Bluest Eye takes place in the 1960s, it made me think about American beauty standards today. People (and their bodies) are objectified and used far too often, and race still plays a heavy role in what society deems “beautiful.” This is a moving and important book, and I highly recommend it.