The Bluest Eye Questions and Answers
by Toni Morrison

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What is the significance of the title of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye?

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Mary Sutton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title is significant for the obvious reason that the main character, Pecola Breedlove, longs for blue eyes. She believes that if she has blue eyes people will love her and not recoil from her. If she had blue eyes her mother, Pauline, would hug her with the warmth that she demonstrates to the little white girl whom she cares for. If Pecola had blue eyes Mr. Yacobowski, the candy store owner, would not try to avoid touching her hand while taking coins from Pecola's palm.

There is not much interaction between blacks and whites in the novel, certainly not of the friendly variety, because generally there wasn't much interaction between the groups in 1940s America. Lorain, Ohio, the novel's setting and Toni Morrison's actual hometown, was not part of the Jim Crow South, but it was a town in which there was de facto segregation--that is, blacks and whites would not have interacted. Having said that, the presence of the white supremacist influence is implicit in the title. Morrison uses the superlative "bluest" to demonstrate that Pecola doesn't merely want to claim a piece of whiteness, blue eyes, but that she wants to surpass other blue eyes. She wants to see the world and experience it as the most beloved little white girl would.

It's important that Morrison begins the story in the fall of 1941, which is when the United States entered World War II. The nation's entry was prompted by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on September 7, 1941. Morrison uses the war, and its fight against tyranny and genocide, particularly in Europe, as an ironic metaphor: why would the United States fight for the liberation of Jewish people and other white minorities in Europe while simultaneously subordinating black people and interning its Japanese citizens? This, Morrison implies, comes from the failure to be white, which makes non-white Americans both vulnerable and burdened by a permanent sense of inadequacy. Pecola Breedlove is the embodiment of this sense of inadequacy which, ultimately, drives her insane.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye is very significant to the main theme of the novel. Pecola Breedlove, the central character of The Bluest Eye, is a Black-American girl who longs for blue eyes (in fact, the bluest eyes!). This is because she feels that if she has blue eyes, she will look extremely beautiful, her parents will not fight and, in simple terms, all her problems will come to an end. Pecola's idea of beauty and happiness actually stems from the pressures of White standards of beauty, i.e. white skin and blue eyes, on the Black-American community. Through Pecola, Morrison presents the harsh truth of Black-American community's lost faith and belief in their own beauty and perfectness. Pecola’s deep desire for bluest eyes shows that she accepts that being black isn’t being beautiful and happy. In this novel, Morrison doesn't focus on the ideology of Whites, or the interaction of Whites and Blacks. She is more interested to depict the interaction of members of Black community with each other, and how the Blacks see themselves.

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