First of all, this book is nothing like what they said it was on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Admittedly, I still haven’t watched the show yet, but my homegirl did, and the book she summarized to me was not the one that I read.
According to the friend that recommended this book to me, someone on the aforementioned show name dropped this Toni Morrison novel, and the internet somehow managed to agree with the summary. It was to my understanding that Pecola Breedlove was obsessed with whiteness to the point of wanting blue eyes so that she could be pretty. And when she could not achieve this, she killed herself.
Not only is this not what happens, Pecola’s want of blue eyes is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.
The Bluest Eye is the story of what happens to Pecola Breedlove in the year after her father burned her house down. Every chapter is a new narrative about a new person or a new experience that somehow draws back to or interacts with Pecola. Upon reflection, the fact that Pecola doesn’t try to kill herself is surprising, though welcome.
The story switches between a first person point-of-view and a third person multiple. Technically the author is Claudia MacTeer, who is a schoolmate of Pecola Breedlove. Claudia is about two years younger than Pecola, and hates the idea of whiteness as a standard of beauty to the point of violence. At the beginning of the novel, Claudia thinks about inviting a white school mate to walk home with her just so she can beat them up.
Nothing ever happens to Claudia, but her voice is used to tell what happens – and what has happened – to everyone else, specifically Pecola. Claudia tells us about her own family life; the school bully who is only allowed to play with the white children and whose mother loves her cat more than she loves him; Pecola’s mother’s life and how she neglects her family; Pecola’s father’s life and how he comes to rape his daughter; the serial molester and how he “gives” Pecola blue eyes. None of these things Claudia would have known on her own, but is privy to as a narrator.
And I didn’t gloss over Cholly Breedlove’s rape of his daughter: it’s actually the first thing you learn. The surprising thing to me is the fact that it does not happen off page. It, along with the molester, is definitely something that you as the reader will have to prepare yourself to be exposed to regardless of how short it is.
To be quite honest, I found The Bluest Eye utterly fascinating. I mean, I don’t expect to read another Toni Morrison book anytime soon, but I really couldn’t put this one down. I like that we get to know how Mrs. Breedlove got to be so wretched. I like that we got to know where Cholly Breedlove came from, and it still didn’t excuse what he did. This book is the epitome of complicated characters, because the author does not bother to absolve them of anything. That kid that lives by the school doesn’t have any friends and his mother loves the cat more than she loves him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is an unprovoked bully.
The Bluest Eye is about a young girl who was never cherished or properly loved by the people closest to her. Told by the voice of a child who was loved and protected, but not yet unable to understand exactly how complicated life could be.
Blue eyes as truly the least of it.
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