Toni Morrison, author, professor, editor, and speaker, has penned novels, works of nonfiction, children’s books, and other works. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel Beloved. Morrison’s work has been instrumental in opening doors for a mainstream readership of African American literature. Her works are known for their exposure of racial issues through strong characterization, difficult themes, and varied points of view. The Bluest Eye, her first novel, is based on the memory of a childhood acquaintance’s desire for blue eyes.
One of Morrison’s common themes is community versus the individual. This theme confronts race issues through the consideration of the individual as other and the examination of a community’s unwillingness to provide for or support the oppressed. Early in The Bluest Eye, Claudia MacTeer relates how she and her sister Frieda learn about their community. Their conversation is like a gently wicked dance: sound meets sound, curtsies, shimmies, and retires. . . . We do not, cannot, know the meanings of all their words, for we are nine and ten years old. So we watch their faces, their hands, their feet, and listen for truth in timbre.
In listening to this “dance,” the girls learn how to behave, what to believe, and how to view the individuals in the community. Pecola’s pregnancy, specifically, is related through this communal gossip.
Another community issue is intraracial tension. Maureen Peal, the wealthy light-skinned girl who temporarily befriends Pecola, and Geraldine, the light-skinned Southern mother of Junior, personify the issue of skin tone. Their denunciation of Pecola reflects the rejection of African Americans through white oppression.
Family is the strongest example of community in the novel. While the...
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