Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Toni Morrison has stated, “I was interested in reading a kind of book that I had never read before. I didn’t know if such a book existed, but I had just never read it in 1964 when I started writing The Bluest Eye. ” Elsewhere, she has observed, “I thought in The Bluest Eye, that I was writing about beauty, miracles, and self-images, about the way in which people can hurt each other, about whether or not one is beautiful.” In this novel, Morrison writes of the forces that thwart a black female child’s coming of age in America while at the same time she suggests the qualities that permit the strong to survive.
White standards of beauty destroy first Pauline Breedlove and then her daughter, cause even a strong child such as Claudia to question her own worth, and result in Geraldine’s denial of her own sensuality and passion. While Claudia will survive such influences (which are counteracted by the loving strength of her family), others, such as Mrs. Breedlove, Geraldine, and Soaphead Church, are perverted by such pressures, and some, like Pecola, succumb to mad fantasies.
Morrison shows how the pressures created by white-defined values as reflected in American popular culture and in America as a whole pervert the relationships within African American families as well as among individuals in the black community. In a 1978 interview, Morrison explained that Cholly “might love [Pecola] in the worst of all possible...
(The entire section is 495 words.)
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Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The principal themes of the novel are summed up in the spring section, when the narrator speaks of the ideas of physical beauty and romantic love as “probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” In this novel with no single major white character, white ideas about beauty still exert their power upon the lives of blacks, creating within the black community a strict caste system based on shades of blackness. Black adults and children alike, with the exception of Frieda and Claudia it seems, admire the “high-yellow dream child” Maureen Peal. The minor character Geraldine teaches her light-skinned son that there is a line between colored people and niggers, a line that must be carefully guarded against attempts to erode it. At the opposite extreme from Maureen Peal is Pecola, whose own mother knew from the moment of Pecola’s birth that her very black baby was ugly. At both the beginning and the end of the novel, Pecola is identified with a certain type of seed that the soil will not nurture. Pecola is described at the beginning as the plot of black dirt into which her father had dropped his seed. By the end, Cholly, Pecola, and their baby are all dead, and Claudia tries to explain why:This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. We are wrong, of course, but it doesn’t...
(The entire section is 436 words.)