Discuss the narrative strategies used by Toni Morrison in The Bluest Eye.

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One of the key narrative strategies Toni Morrison deploys in The Bluest Eyeis the inclusion of the "Dick and Jane" prologue. Dick and Jane was a series of books for children learning to read, characterized by simple sentences like "See Jane run." Morrison's riff on the Dick and...

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One of the key narrative strategies Toni Morrison deploys in The Bluest Eye is the inclusion of the "Dick and Jane" prologue. Dick and Jane was a series of books for children learning to read, characterized by simple sentences like "See Jane run." Morrison's riff on the Dick and Jane books at the outset of a novel that explores racism and sexual abuse strikes an interesting note. Given that the story follows the formative experiences of young black girls, the Dick and Jane prologue underlines the process of education. But it also, crucially, marks the difference between popular images of what was seen to be wholesome, healthy American childhood and the experiences of Claudia, Frieda, and Pecola. Growing up aware of the disparity between this public idealized image and their own self-image, the girls—and in particular Pecola—internalize the prevailing racism of the culture, seeing themselves as fundamentally different from popular images of happiness and beauty. This idea also inspires the title The Bluest Eye, as Pecola wishes for eyes bluer than the blue eyes of the dolls she covets.

Another notable element of the Dick and Jane prologue is that it is not rendered straightforwardly, to merely juxtapose the events of the novel with the pristine and wholesome simplicity of these books. Instead, Morrison unravels the Dick and Jane story as it gradually loses punctuation and even spaces between the letters, culminating in a paragraph with the words entirely running together: "Hereisthehouseitisgreenandwhite," and so on. The narrative strategy here is unconventional and remarkable. Perhaps the effect of this warping of the story is to reproduce the warping of a mind like Pecola's, as it is subjected to the repetition of this message, particularly as it stands in stark contrast to her own experience. Morrison's manipulation and deconstruction of this ostensibly simple text demonstrates that the effects of seemingly innocent pieces of culture are not so simple.

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The overall strategy that Toni Morrison employs is multiplicity. She conveys the complexity of the situation that the novel explores in part through the book's complicated structure. She employs multiple genres as well as multiple narrators (and types of narrators) and frames the past from the perspective of the present. Although the novel is not essentially a mystery, the gradual revealing of significant information creates a thread of suspense that runs through it.

While much of the novel is concerned with Pecola and her many problems, the reader primarily gets to know her through Claudia. As the two women are the same age and Claudia is concerned about her, the reader could infer that they were close while growing up. Instead, by using Claudia as a first-person narrator, the author shows the distance between the two girls, stemming in large part from their distinct family situations. Rather than make them polar opposites, which would reduce both to stereotypes, Morrison endows Claudia with the characteristic of curiosity and, to some extent, compassion.

In this way we are guided into understanding why Claudia is so concerned with the other woman's problems. Providing some sections that use a third-person narrator, the author allows the reader insights into situations and people that Claudia would not readily access. In addition, by using a reading primer with an all-white world, Morrison offers examples of the kind of dominant media image that appealed to Pecola and other children who grew up with unfulfillable desires and, tragically in her case, self-loathing.

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Perhaps the most interesting narrative strategy in the novel is the way that Morrison uses and manipulates the chronology of the story. After the initial Dick and Jane section, she jumps to the very end (in chronological terms) of the story she is going to tell. This creates a fatalistic perspective for the reader, letting us know what is going to happen ahead of time. Then she proceeds through the four seasons, taking the unusual step of starting in autumn. She uses each season to show how things progressively unravel in the characters' lives. We then end with Pecola's conversation with an imaginary friend, showing that she is no longer fully sane, and Claudia's description of Pecola's dark fate: the madness and utter isolation she experiences in the end.

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Toni Morrison employs several narrative strategies in her novel The Bluest Eye.  First, the main storyline of the novel is preceeded by a primer that is a play on the Dick and Jane readers which were popular in the 1950's.  Morrison uses the primer as a motif throughout the novel to develop various themes in the novel:  at the beginning of each chapter, a piece of the primer heads the page to characterize the chapter.

Next, the novel is broken into four parts that correspond with the seasons of the year.  However, the seasons begin in autumn when things begin to decay, and this sets the tone for the events to come. 

Throughout the novel, Morrison uses much figurative language to develop her story.  Metaphors such Pecola's wish for blue eyes allow Morrison to develop theme and purpose.

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