Study Guide

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye Summary

Overview

Summary of the Novel
Claudia MacTeer is a young black girl growing up in the small mill town of Lorain, Ohio. Life for her is difficult because her parents are too busy to show loving compassion. Claudia often finds it necessary to fight for herself, because other children try to put her down while adults are too busy with their own affairs and only notice children when there is work to be done. Claudia finds a lot of her anger and aggression directed towards the little white dolls that she receives as presents. It seems to her that these white dolls are given more love and attention than a flesh-and-blood black child.

The lives of Claudia and her sister Frieda take an interesting turn when Pecola Breedlove is temporarily placed in the MacTeer home by county officials. Pecola’s father burnt down their home, and Pecola needs a place to stay while her father serves his jail sentence. Claudia and Frieda like Pecola because she is quiet and shy and responds to their offers of graham crackers and milk. The milk is brought in a Shirley Temple mug. Pecola and Frieda both love Shirley Temple and soon become involved in a discussion about her. Claudia finds it hard to relate to this topic, but nevertheless they enjoy each other’s company.

The Breedlove family soon comes together again and finds a different home in an ugly house on the corner of a forgotten street. We learn that the entire Breedlove family has serious problems with self-esteem. The Breedloves go through life believing in their ugliness. Pauline, or Mrs. Breedlove, devotes her time to fighting with her husband, Cholly, and taking care of a white family. Cholly, when he is not fighting his wife, spends his days drinking. Their children are either abused or neglected, and each child has coped with this abuse or neglect in a special manner. Sammy has already run away from home many times, while Pecola spends her time trying to be invisible. Pecola prays for blue eyes because she believes that if she were a beautiful girl, everyone in town would treat her nicely.

Pecola, however, is abused by almost everybody in the town. One day, she is brutally teased by a group of boys when she is unexpectedly saved by Frieda, Claudia, and a new girl named Maureen Peal. Maureen Peal is a beautiful, light-skinned girl that becomes friendly towards Pecola for a while. However, Maureen soon turns on the other girls, using her own beauty as a weapon against them. Pecola is also the victim of a cruel prank by a light-skinned boy named Louis Junior, who is resentful towards dark-skinned blacks.

The reader is shown how Pecola’s parents met each other. Pauline Williams’ dreams are dashed at an early age when she steps on a nail and develops a crippled foot. It is only when she meets Cholly Breedlove that she begins to feel the magic of life. However, when the newly married couple move to Lorain, they begin to drift apart from each other. Pauline takes solace in the movies, watching the pretty actresses and emulating their hairstyles, but she becomes uglier and uglier. Once she has two children, she begins to spend most of her days taking care of a white family so that she can at least keep the illusion of being beautiful.

Cholly also had a difficult childhood, having been abandoned by both parents. The only person who takes care of him is his Aunt Jimmy, but she dies while Cholly is still a young boy. At Aunt Jimmy’s funeral, Cholly meets another girl and they go off into a nearby field. Their kissing is interrupted by two white hunters, who order Cholly to make love to the girl while they watch. Cholly, shamed and humiliated, transfers this anger to the girl rather than the hunters. Soon after this incident, Cholly travels to Macon, Georgia, in search of his natural father. Cholly finds his father but is too afraid to introduce himself and runs away. Without his parents, Cholly lives a life of total freedom but is confused once he has children with Pauline. He is unable to understand how to love his children and deals with this confusion by drinking. One drunken night, he comes home and finds Pecola washing the dishes. When Pecola scratches her leg with her foot, it causes Cholly to remember when he first met this wife. The memory of tickling his wife’s foot, as well as his drunken state, are factors which lead him to rape Pecola.

After the rape, Pecola decides to go to Soaphead Church, the “spiritual advisor” of the town. Pecola asks him for blue eyes, and the man is moved. He decides to help the girl and deceives her into poisoning a dog that he hates, telling her that it would be a sign that God has heard her prayers. Once Pecola leaves, Soaphead Church writes a letter to God, telling Him that he has granted this girl her wish because God has obviously not been listening to her prayers.

Pecola’s pregnancy at the hands of her father causes a terrible scandal, and Pecola is thrown out of school. The town condemns Cholly but feels that Pecola must share some of the blame for not fighting back. When Claudia and Frieda hear about their friend, they decide to pray for her and sacrifice some flower seeds that they were going to use to make money. However, the seeds that the girls planted refuse to grow, and Pecola’s baby dies. Claudia and Frieda avoid Pecola afterwards, thinking that they had failed their friend. Pecola is left to wander the streets. She has been driven insane by the abuse and spends her time looking in a mirror and talking with her imaginary friend about her blue eyes. Claudia, now grown up, looks back at that time and understands that it was not her fault that Pecola had become insane, and it is now too late to help Pecola recover.

The Life and Work of Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931. Her birthplace was Lorain, Ohio, which also serves as the setting for The Bluest Eye. Her parents both moved to Lorain from the South in search of better living conditions. Young Chloe was influenced greatly by her parents and their never-ending quest to improve the lives of their children. The small community was also very supportive of others, and although she was a shy girl, she remembers fondly the support she received as a youngster.

Toni was an excellent student, with a particular fondness for literature. She graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English and received a master’s degree from Cornell University two years later. At Howard, she changed her name to Toni and was an active participant in their drama club. She continued to love literature, however, and after receiving her master’s degree, she taught literature at Texas Southern University briefly before returning to Howard.

It was at Howard University that she met Harold Morrison, an architect, whom she later married. The Morrisons had two sons together but divorced in 1965. Morrison then relocated to Syracuse, where she became an editor for Random House. By 1967, she was a senior editor but still desired some sort of release for her creative energy.

She was active in writers’ support groups while at Howard but still had not published any works. In Syracuse, she decided to rewrite a short story she had written at Howard about “a girl who wanted blue eyes.” She was encouraged by a fellow editor, Alan Rancler, to turn this story into a full-length novel. The Bluest Eye was turned down by a few publishing companies before being printed by Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston in 1970. The book was given favorable reviews and established her as a talented new writer with a gift for language. A second novel, Sula, was published in 1973 and received a nomination for the National Book Award.

It was her third novel, Song of Solomon, that catapulted her to national prominence. Published in 1977, this novel also won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most famous novel is undoubtedly 1987’s Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize. The Bluest Eye, as well as Morrison’s other novels, have been studied in schools around the country. In addition to writing, Morrison has produced a play, taught and lectured at Yale, Berkeley, and Princeton, and edited anthologies and critical studies of African-American literature. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first African-American woman to do so.

Estimated Reading Time

The 160-page novel is short but rather complex. While it is possible to complete the novel in ten hours, it might be necessary to review and reread the entire novel in order to gain a better understanding of Morrison’s use of structure. Teachers should probably allow extra class time for discussion, since there are some controversial scenes (such as Cholly’s rape of his daughter) that will provoke serious debate among the students.

The Bluest Eye Summary (Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The Bluest Eye opens and closes with Claudia MacTeer’s reflection on the meaning and significance of a little girl’s suffering and her community’s responsibility and obligation to her. Using marigold seeds as a metaphor for the affection that might have allowed her abused friend Pecola Breedlove to thrive, Claudia realizes that the failure of her seeds to sprout demonstrates that the soil of her community “is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear.” While Claudia MacTeer withstands that world’s harshness through the strength and love of her family, a fragile child such as Pecola has no chance.

Dark-skinned Claudia values herself more than the world does. Although kindly relatives and parents present her with fine white baby dolls for her to love and mother, she sees them only as something unlike herself, something to dismember, “to see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me.” Frighteningly, such destructiveness carries over to Claudia’s perception of real little white girls such as film star Shirley Temple; Claudia also resents her light-skinned African American classmate Maureen Peal, who possesses not only matching skirts and kneesocks, muffs to warm her hands, and beautiful, long, “good” hair, but also something that draws the attention of teachers and prevents the playground harassment of boys. In spite of all, Claudia remarks, “Guileless and without vanity, we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness.” That “Thing,” as Claudia calls it, that makes Shirley and Maureen and white baby dolls desirable and darker-skinned children not, the thing to which Claudia cannot assign a name, is racism.

Pecola, on the other hand, bears her “ugliness” like a cross. Recalling Pecola’s birth, her mother Polly thinks, “I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly.” Polly Breedlove prefers her white employer’s little girl, with her perfect curls and pretty dresses, to her own daughter. Never having felt loved and valued, Pecola wonders: “How do grown-ups act when they love each other?” Her only clues are the choking sounds that emerge from her parents’ bed when they make love. When Maureen taunts Pecola, Claudia notes that her friend “seemed to fold into herself, like a pleated wing.” Junior, another hateful child, invites Pecola into his house after noting that “nobody ever played with her. Probably, he thought, because she was ugly.” Such treatment makes her ripe for Junior’s abuse; he throws his family’s cat against the wall and blames the incident on Pecola, which leads Junior’s mother to shout at the hapless girl, “You nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house.” Pecola cannot bear that much pain and rejection. Soaphead Church, seizing the occasion to use Pecola to poison his landlady’s offensive, mangy dog, wishes he could really perform the miracles he promises, especially for this “little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes.” Instead, her vulnerability allows Soaphead to indulge in his perverted sexual fantasies and gives Cholly the opportunity to rape his own daughter. Pecola becomes pregnant as a result, but the baby dies.

Living alone with her mother on the edge of town, Pecola sinks into madness following the death of her baby. Claudia and her older sister Frieda feel sorry for Pecola and for her baby, because no one else in the community seems to care. Claudia remarks that “I felt a need for someone to want the black baby to live—just to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals.” Frieda and Claudia resolve to give the money they had saved to buy a bicycle to the baby, but it does not survive. Pecola reminds the community of its failure, the emblem of “all the waste and beauty of the world—which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to all of us.” Claudia realizes, however, that the blame for Pecola’s suffering cannot be limited to a few black people in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941. “It was the fault of the earth, the land, and town,” she says. Pecola’s pain is rooted in white America’s racism, and in African American self-hatred.

The Bluest Eye Summary (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The events in The Bluest Eye are seen from the point of view of Claudia MacTeer. As the novel begins, Claudia is looking back at the year when she was nine and when her friend Pecola Breedlove, then eleven, became pregnant, having been raped by her own father, Cholly Breedlove. In the summer of 1941, Claudia and her sister, Frieda, planted marigold seeds in the childish belief that if the marigolds survived, so would Pecola’s baby. Even as the novel opens, however, the reader knows that the seeds never germinated and that the baby died. Years later, it is still impossible for Claudia to explain why the events of that year happened, so the novel becomes instead her account of how they happened.

The Bluest Eye has two structuring devices. One is the four seasons, which provide the four major divisions of the book. Claudia begins her account with the fall of 1940, when Pecola is placed temporarily in the MacTeer home because her father has tried to burn down the storefront apartment that serves as the Breedloves’ home. In the spring, Pecola is raped by her father, and by summer, her increasingly obvious pregnancy is the subject of gossip all over town, and Pecola herself has retreated into madness, kept company in the fantasy world of her own mind by an imaginary friend.

Also giving structure to the novel is a passage that imitates the Dick-and-Jane readers once so popular in elementary schools. The picture that the passage presents of the perfect white family—Mother and Father, Dick and Jane, the dog and the cat, all living happily in their pretty green and white house—contrasts sharply with the world of the Breedloves and the MacTeers, the world of poor blacks. To show the contrast, Morrison repeats the passage three times: first, as it would normally appear on the printed page; then, with all punctuation removed; and finally, with even the spaces between words removed. The Dick-and-Jane story degenerates on the page into a jumble of letters; lines from the storybook-perfect account of its characters’ lives are interspersed throughout the Breedloves’ story to emphasize the contrasting ugliness and disorder of theirs. A few run-together sentences describe Dick and Jane’s pretty house. The Breedloves’ home is a converted store with beaverboard panels providing the only inner walls. The mother from the world of Dick and Jane is laughing and playful. Pecola’s mother, Pauline Breedlove, has seen all of her dreams fade into nothingness. She finds escape from the ugliness of the storefront and her life there as a maid in a white family’s home as clean and orderly as the world in which Dick and Jane live. Her own family is an intrusion into that orderly world, and she returns from that world each day to fight with her husband and to beat her children into respectability. The father, too, unlike the smiling father of Dick and Jane, has seen his dreams shattered and has suffered the humiliation associated with growing up black in a white-dominated world. He has responded to the mistreatment he has received with violence. Ironically, even the love that he wants to express to his daughter takes a violent form when he returns home drunk one afternoon and rapes her.

Early in the novel, Pecola lies in bed listening to her parents go through the mechanical but painful ritual that their fights with each other have become. She longs to make herself disappear, and in her mind she does make her whole body cease to exist, except for her eyes. She can never make her eyes go away. Eyes become the center of Pecola’s life and of her constant search for love. She believes that if only she had beautiful blue eyes, the world would look prettier—that even her parents would be hesitant to fight in front of such pretty blue eyes.

After the rape and the resulting pregnancy and suspension from school, Pecola goes to Lorain’s “Spiritual and Psychic Reader,” Soaphead Church, to ask him to give her blue eyes. Fraud that he is, he does in a sense grant her wish. Soaphead knows that from that day on, Pecola will have blue eyes, but only in her own mind. Before she leaves the house, Soaphead uses Pecola to rid himself of a nuisance: a mangy old dog that spends its days on his doorstep. He gives Pecola poisoned meat to feed the dog, telling her that the dog’s response will be a sign to her whether she will get her wish. Pecola watches in horror as the dog stumbles around the yard and dies. This episode, combined with the earlier rape as well as a second assault on her by her father, drives Pecola over the edge into insanity. In her madness, Pecola does have blue eyes, although no one sees them except for her and the imaginary friend that she invents to reassure her constantly that her eyes are indeed the bluest in the world.

The Bluest Eye Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the autumn of 1940, Claudia MacTeer, a nine-year-old African American child, begins the school year. The weather cools, and Claudia becomes ill. Her mother takes care of her, but Claudia does not understand that her mother’s harsh words come from worry rather than anger. Claudia later remembers the pain she felt when her mother rubbed ointment on her to heal the illness; she also remembers the touch of soft hands (not connected to a real person) that comforted her in the night. Claudia reveals knowledge about the lives of the people around her family in the community of Lorain, Ohio. She and her older sister Frieda learn about life after hearing adult conversations.

The family is exposed to two boarders at their home: Mr. Henry and eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. The older girls become friends, but Claudia is different than the older children. Pecola and Frieda have reached a point in their lives where they appreciate and even adore film star Shirley Temple and white baby dolls. Claudia, on the other hand, hates what they represent. She complains about the gifts of hard white dolls given at Christmas and wishes that she could just have a day when she matters to someone. She dissects the dolls, searching for what makes them so appealing. She does not find an answer, and is reprimanded by adults.

Autumn also brings a description of Lorain, a small, depressed town where African Americans and poor whites live their lives. Housed in one particular building are a family of Roma (gypsies), a Hungarian baker, the Breedlove family, and prostitutes.

The Breedloves—Cholly, Pauline, Sammy, and Pecola—now live on the first floor in a poorly constructed apartment with poorly constructed furnishings. The family’s ugliness comes to light, along with the way each family member lives with their respective physical deformity. Pecola yearns for blue eyes. Her desire for affection is divulged in her friendship with the three prostitutes—China, Poland, and Miss Marie—who live upstairs, and Miss Marie’s life story is exposed.

Winter comes, bringing a new girl to the school. Claudia immediately shares her distinct dislike for Maureen Peal, the child of wealthy black parents. When Claudia, Frieda, and Maureen see Pecola being teased by a group of boys, Frieda steps in to protect her friend. Maureen’s curiosity about the boys’ taunting of Pecola opens a dialogue about the novelty of sexual changes. She treats Pecola, but not the MacTeer girls, to an ice cream cone, and then feels this gives her the right to ask Pecola questions about the taunts. When Pecola refuses to answer, Maureen’s curious questions become jeers, and Pecola wilts. Claudia and Frieda chase Maureen away, calling her names, but Claudia becomes angry at Pecola’s lack of backbone. The inquisitiveness about sexuality increases when the girls return home to find Mr. Henry entertaining prostitutes while their mother is out.

Winter also brings a new family to town. Contrasted to the hardworking MacTeer family and the dysfunctional Breedlove family is the oddity of an educated, sophisticated, untouchable, and Southern, light-skinned black woman. Geraldine is married to Louis, and they have a child named Junior. Geraldine has a well-kept home with nice furnishings, a supportive husband, and a son whom she does not know how to love. Geraldine’s inability to do anything more than skim over the surface of life has left her son searching for emotion. Junior finds his outlet in cruelty. Unfortunately, his path intersects with that of Pecola.

As life for the girls passes into spring, more tragedies ensue. Mr. Henry touches Frieda’s breasts, and Frieda’s father attacks Mr. Henry in defense of his child. Frieda, again through hearing adult conversations, fears she has been damaged. Later, a childish misunderstanding leads Claudia and Frieda on a mission to get alcohol from Pecola, whose father is a known drunk. They find their friend waiting outside the home where her mother, Pauline, works. While they wait to help Pecola take the wash back to the dwelling, the white family’s child comes into the kitchen. A pie is knocked off the counter. Though Pecola is the one burned by the hot juices, Pauline rebukes her and chases her away, then gently comforts the white child.

Spring also brings childhood memories to Pauline and Cholly Breedlove. Pauline remembers a childhood injury, the discovery that organization brings comfort, and her early married years. Early married life had been good, but loneliness, poverty, responsibility for her own family, and abuse had taken its toll. Pauline finds that working for a white family gives her the sense of belonging that she could not find with Cholly or her children. Cholly uses his history of being rejected as an excuse for his adult behavior. His story ends abruptly when he rapes eleven-year-old Pecola.

Soaphead Church advertises his services as a psychic, spiritualist, healer, and detective of sorts. His high opinion of himself does not take into account that he is a sexual predator. When Pecola comes to him asking for blue eyes, he tricks her. He then justifies his actions in a letter to God, expressing his superiority over the Creator.

It is now the beginning of summer. Claudia and Frieda learn through adult gossip that Pecola is pregnant with her own father’s child. None of the adults want the baby to live, and Claudia longs for someone to care for the innocent life. She and Frieda decide to make a sacrifice to help the baby, so they bury the bike money they have been saving and plant marigold seeds, sure that the growth of the seeds will lead to the healthy development of Pecola’s baby in God’s eyes.

Next, Pecola is in conversation with an alternate personality that she had created while she was pregnant. Pecola believes that the baby has gained the blue eyes she herself so desired. As troubling as the split in Pecola’s psyche, so too are the subtle hints that Cholly still rapes his daughter.

The baby dies, and Pecola is now a shadow, living in her own world. Claudia and Frieda fear their friend because they feel they have failed her in some unspoken way.

The Bluest Eye Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Morrison’s first published novel, The Bluest Eye, is marked by much narrative experimentation and a dedication to exploring the struggles with dignity and violence that especially confront blacks. The wide-ranging narrative experimentation is something that, for the most part, her later novels would not continue; the themes with which it deals, however, were to remain important in all of her later works.

The novel begins with a brief sample story such as might be found in a typical child’s reader about “Dick and Jane.” This story is repeated twice, first without any punctuation, and a second time without even any spaces between the words, as if to suggest the unreasoning power that such stories have over the mind of the main character, Pecola Breedlove.

After this, the voice of the character who is the main narrator, Claudia McTeer, appears, and she very quickly summarizes the plot of the novel that follows: Pecola was raped by her father and became pregnant with a child who never grew. Claudia relates this from a child’s point of view, calling the reader’s attention not to the rape itself but to the marigold seeds that she and her sister, Frieda McTeer, planted at the same time but which never grew. In this way, the shock value of this rape is removed from the narrative and the focus of the novel is shifted away from what happened to why and how it happened.

The main body of the novel is broken into four sections, titled “Autumn,” “Winter,” “Summer,” and “Fall.” The first part of each section is narrated by Claudia and is followed by other parts, which are headed by quotations from the child’s reader and are narrated from a variety of perspectives, usually in the third person. The first section begins in the autumn of 1940, in Lorain, Ohio. Shortly after Claudia and her sister Frieda recover from the flu, Pecola comes to stay with the McTeer family temporarily because her father, Cholly Breedlove, started a fire in their rented home, landing himself in jail and putting the rest of his family out of a home.

When Frieda offers Pecola a Shirley Temple mug from which to drink milk, the two girls discuss how “cu-ute” Shirley Temple is. Pecola drinks three quarts of milk in one day for the pleasure of looking at this mug. Pecola clearly idolizes Shirley Temple as the ideal girl, even though such a fair-skinned ideal leaves the dark-skinned, brown-eyed Pecola to be condemned as ugly. The reader later learns that Pecola’s nightly prayer is for God to make her eyes beautiful and blue so that her family will be so impressed by them that they will never fight in front of them again.

In fact, this ideal is almost a mental inheritance from Pecola’s mother, Pauline Breedlove, who adopted her own standards of beauty from the silver screen—to the point of taking Pecola’s name from “Peola,” a light-skinned girl of mixed race in the film Imitation of Life (1934).

While she is still staying with the McTeer family, Pecola begins menstruating. Learning that this means she can have a baby now, she asks Claudia, “How do you get somebody to love you?” Much of the rest of the novel is a presentation of different people’s ways of asking and answering that question. Pecola herself takes her question to three prostitutes; they do not answer her question, but they do make her feel welcome. Pecola also buys some Mary Jane candies so she can experience, as she eats them, what it might be like to be lovely and loved, as the girl on the candy wrapper is. These two passages between them epitomize the idea that love is something which is packaged and sold—but only in imitations.

Some of the most engrossing passages of the novel are the ones that trace the personal histories of Cholly and Pauline Breedlove. One passage that is narrated alternately by a third-person narrator and by Pauline recalls the beginning of her relationship with Cholly and the deterioration of their marriage after they moved north to Ohio. It is clear that Cholly has become increasingly harsh over the years, but she nevertheless recalls their lovemaking fondly, and this fondness is part of why she stays with him.

Cholly’s story leads directly to his rape of Pecola. At the funeral of his Aunt Jimmy, who raised him, he coaxes a cousin, Darlene, into having sex with him, but they are caught by a group of white men who point guns at them and tell them to keep going. This event lodges itself in Cholly’s mind as an initial moment of depravity which always urges him on to other depravities. By the time he meets Pauline, the reader learns of a variety of crimes, including murder, of which he is guilty. His courting of her comes to look like only one more thing he did simply to prove that he could; his turning against her seems inevitable. His rape of Pecola is not excused, but it is seen as an extension of the early experience that forever linked violence and tenderness together for him. When, one evening while she is doing dishes, he glimpses Pecola’s enormous longing for his affection, he feels that he “wanted to break her neck—but tenderly.” He rapes her on the kitchen floor, then covers her with a blanket and leaves.

Pecola, pregnant, eventually takes her wish for blue eyes to Soaphead Church, a light-skinned West Indian man who supports himself as a “Reader, Advisor, and Interpreter of Dreams.” He gives Pecola poison to feed to a lazy dog with the instructions that when the dog dies, she will have blue eyes. The next one sees of Pecola, she is clearly mad and is having a conversation with an imaginary friend who assures her how blue her eyes are.

The Bluest Eye ends with Claudia telling the reader that Pecola lives on as a beggar, picking through people’s garbage. Claudia sees Pecola as a victim who was sacrificed by the entire community. The responsibility does not belong only to Cholly, who, she allows, tried in his destructive way to love her. Instead, the major responsibility for Pecola’s victimization lies in the society into which she was born. Speaking for the novelist, Claudia wants to indict the way society encourages people such as Pecola and Cholly to measure themselves by arbitrary standards (such as race) that deny them individual value.

The Bluest Eye Summary

Part I: "Dick and Jane" and Preface
The Bluest Eye opens with a short "Dick and Jane" primary reader story that is...

(The entire section is 1394 words.)

The Bluest Eye Chapter Summary and Analysis

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“Dick and Jane” and Preface Summary and Analysis

“Dick and Jane”

Summary
The novel begins with a small passage that is similar in style to the “Dick and Jane” readers that were used for young children. Morrison uses this passage to emphasize the ideal of beauty that children are taught at an early age. The family lives in an idyllic “green-and-white” house, and Jane is wearing a “pretty red dress,” which is not the most practical of garments since she “wants to play.” The passage in the section is repeated three times, and the words come closer to each other with each repetition until the passage becomes nonsense. Morrison uses this technique to emphasize how lessons are often “drummed” into children at...

(The entire section is 613 words.)

AUTUMN: Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Claudia: a nine-year-old girl living in a quiet Southern town

Frieda: Claudia’s older sister who is ten years old

Mr. and Mrs. Mac Teer: Claudia and Frieda’s parents

Mr. Henry Washington: a middle-aged man who rents a room from Claudia and Frieda’s parents

Pecola Breedlove: an eleven-year-old girl who lives with Claudia and Frieda briefly when her father burns down the family home

Rosemary Villanucci: a rich girl who lives next door to Claudia and Frieda

Summary
It is the autumn of 1940. Claudia is nine years old and lives in an old house with her parents and her ten-year-old sister, Frieda. She...

(The entire section is 1731 words.)

AUTUMN: Chapter 2 (Hereisthehouse…) and Chapter 3 (Hereisthefamily…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 2 (Hereisthehouseitisgreenandwhiteithasareddooritisverypretty itisveryprettyprettyprettyp)
Chapter 3 (Hereisthefamilymotherfatherdickandjanetheyliveinthegreen andwhitehousetheyareveryh)

New Characters
Mrs. Breedlove (Pauline): Pecola’s mother; works as a housekeeper for a rich white family and has a crippled foot

Cholly (Charlie) Breedlove: Pecola’s father; a terrible drunk who fights often with his wife

Sammy Breedlove: Pecola’s older brother

China, Poland, and Miss Marie: three prostitutes who live in the apartment above the Breedlove family

Mr. Yacobowski: the owner of a local grocery store

...

(The entire section is 1894 words.)

WINTER: Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Maureen Peal: a new girl in school who immediately becomes very popular

Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Buddy Wilson, and Junie Bug: four boys who are teasing Pecola in the playground

Summary
Maureen Peal, a new girl in Claudia and Frieda’s school, becomes popular because she is rich and light-skinned. Claudia tries to concoct a plan to humiliate her, but to her dismay, she discovers that everyone loves Maureen and wishes to become her friend. One day Maureen starts a conversation with Claudia, who holds the locker next to hers. When Maureen decides to walk home with Frieda and Claudia, Frieda is delighted, but Claudia is still wary of her. As the girls...

(The entire section is 1499 words.)

WINTER: Chapter 5 (Seethecatitgoesmeow…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 5 (Seethecatitgoesmeowmeowcomeandplaycomeplaywithjane thekittenwillnotplayplayplaypla)

New Characters
Louis Junior: a light-skinned black boy who invites Pecola back to his house

Geraldine: Louis Junior’s mother

Summary
There is a type of woman who lives in Lorain but comes from one of the bigger cities of America. This type of woman has dedicated her life to her own appearance, her education, and her family life. She has lived hoping that she will marry so that she may possess a house and a yard. Once she is married, she will become the head of the household and preserve this title at the expense of her own family. This type of woman has...

(The entire section is 1573 words.)

SPRING: Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

New Character
The Fishers’ daughter: the adorable daughter of the family that has hired Mrs. Breedlove as a maid

Summary
One spring Saturday, Claudia returns from playing outside and finds the house unusually quiet. She goes to her bedroom and finds Frieda crying on the bed. Frieda tells her sister that Mr. Henry had touched her breasts. When Frieda’s father found out, he tried to shoot Mr. Henry but missed. Frieda cannot stop crying, and Claudia wonders if their mother had beat her. Frieda finally breaks down and tells Claudia that a neighbor told their parents that Frieda might be “ruined.” Frieda is scared because she believes she will turn out like the...

(The entire section is 1309 words.)

SPRING: Chapter 7 (Seemothermotherisvery…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 7 (Seemothermotherisverynicemotherwillyouplaywithjane motherlaughslaughmotherlaughla)

New Characters
Ada and Fowler Williams: Pauline Breedlove’s parents

Chicken and Pie Williams: Pauline’s younger twin brothers

Ivy: a singer in Pauline’s childhood church

The Fishers: the family that hires Mrs. Breedlove as a maid

Summary
Ever since Pauline Williams was a child, she felt inadequate because of her crippled foot. A childhood injury left her with a deformity and means of identification, but she felt that no one paid her attention. She was the only child in her large family that did not have a nickname, no one told...

(The entire section is 1355 words.)

SPRING: Chapter 8 (Seefatherheisbigand…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 8 (Seefatherheisbigandstrongfatherwillyouplaywithjanefatheris smilingsmilefathersmilesmile)

New Characters
Aunt Jimmy: the aunt of Cholly’s mother, who had abandoned Cholly right after he was born; raised Cholly herself

Blue Jack: an old man who worked at the feed store with Cholly; he used to entertain Cholly with stories

M’Dear: a respected midwife who also prescribed home remedies for the ladies of the town

O. V.: Aunt Jimmy’s brother

Jake: an older cousin who tries to pick up girls with Cholly

Darlene: Cholly’s first girlfriend

Samson Fuller: Cholly’s father

Summary
...

(The entire section is 1538 words.)

SPRING: Chapter 9 (Seethedogbowwow…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 9 (Seethedogbowwowgoesthedogdoyouwanttoplaydoyouwant toplaywithjaneseethedogrunr)

New Characters
Soaphead Church (Elihue Whitcomb): a child molester who works as a “spiritual guide” for the people of Lorain

Velma: Elihue’s wife for a brief period of time

Summary
Elihue Whitcomb was a person who always seemed to prefer the company of objects rather than people. However, his dislike for others could only mean that he would be in a profession that serves others. Although he briefly considered becoming a priest, he decided against it, instead choosing to be an analyst and interpreter of dreams. He enjoyed his job immensely because he could...

(The entire section is 1505 words.)

SUMMER: Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 (Looklookherecomes…) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 10
Chapter11 (Looklookherecomesafriendthefriendwillplaywithjanetheywill playagoodgameplayjaneplay)

Summary
Claudia and Frieda are delighted to receive the packages of seeds that they had been waiting for all spring. They hope to sell enough seeds to earn a bicycle, so they begin to knock on the doors of their neighbors. They begin to pick up some gossip and eventually realize that Pecola is pregnant by Cholly. They are hurt and ashamed for their friend, but they are hurt even more when they find out that no one seems to care about Pecola, and everyone hopes that the baby will be stillborn. Frieda and Claudia decide that they must want the baby to live in order “to counteract the...

(The entire section is 1272 words.)