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In Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, the Foreword and Afterword (which are combined in some editions) make a number of points, including the following:
- Most people know how it feels to be disliked; some even know how it feels to be hated for traits they cannot change. Support from family and friends can help diminish the pain of such situations.
- Even worse than being disliked by others is being disliked by oneself, because one has internalized and accepted the dislike of others. Such self-hatred can result either in withdrawal or in hatred or in self-destruction.
- Because Pecola, the main character of The Bluest Eye, was young, a girl, and black, she was the kind of person least likely to cope effectively with such self-contempt.
- The idea for the book came from Morrison’s own friendship with a black girl in elementary school who wanted to have blue eyes.
- This desire of her friend’s made the young Morrison angry.
- Morrison’s conversation with this friend made her think about beauty for the first time.
- Morrison was intrigued by the origins of her friend’s strange and sad desire.
- In the 1960s, when the novel was written, many African Americans began to realize the need to appreciate the physical beauty of their own race and thus to reject the self-contempt from which many of them suffered.
- Pecola was an unusual case because she was so vulnerable in so many other ways besides her race.
- Morrison wanted to depict Pecola’s sufferings while not making the other characters simple villains:
I did not want to dehumanize the characters who trashed Pecola and contributed to her collapse.
- Morrison wanted to keep Pecola from becoming an object of mere pity. If readers simply pitied Pecola, they might fail to examine themselves, their own views, and their own possible responsibility for the plights of people like Pecola.
- Morrison is now unsatisfied with the way she chose to structure the novel, since the structure made many readers feel “touched but not moved.”
- One problem in writing the novel was how to find the appropriate language – language that could challenge racist views without strengthening them.
- Morrison tried to use colloquial language that would be immediately grasped by other African Americans.
- Finding appropriate language still remains a difficult task for Morrison and other writers.
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