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A Review Of The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison was born February 18, 1931 and is one of the most prominent authors in world literature, having won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 for her collected works. She was born Chloe Anthony Wofford and was the second of four children in a working-class American family. In 1949 Morrison entered Howard University to study humanities. While there she changed her name from "Chloe" to "Toni," from her middle name, Anthony. Morrison received a B.A. in English from Howard in 1953, then earned a Master of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1955. After graduation, Morrison became an English instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas (from 1955-57) then returned to Howard to teach English. In 1958 she married Howard Morrison. They had two children and divorced in 1964. After the divorce she moved to Syracuse, New York, where she worked as a textbook editor. Eighteen months later she went to work as an editor at the New York City headquarters of Random House. In 1970 she published her first novel, the Bluest Eye. In 1984 she was appointed to an Albert Schweitzer chair at the University at Albany, The State University of New York. Morrison was appointed Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University in the spring of 1989, a position she held until May 2006. The same day she announced her retirement from this post, the New York Times Book Review named her novel Beloved the best novel of the past 25 years.

Ms Morrison is one of the most qualified authors to write about and discuss the issues of race and gender and this is sadly and remarkably seen in her first novel, the Bluest Eye. In this book, Ms Morrison attempts to make a statement about the damage that internalized racism can do. She evaluates racial self-loathing; its causes and effects by following the experiences and interactions of several members of the small community of Lorain, Ohio in the early 1940's. She shows us how the prevalent cultural beliefs of the day; that white is beautiful and black is ugly and bad can be believed so innately that it literally drives people to self destruction and madness. Morrison discusses this in the afterward as she explains her desire to understand "the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority originating in an outside gaze". (1) It is the outside gazes of all the townspeople that help to destroy the character of Pecola Breedlove, but more importantly it is the established cultural white norms that inculcate the minds of each of the characters in this story. This is the demon that is really responsible for creating a situation where each of these black characters are supported to feel ugly and stupid and inferior. This is the demon that allows the white characters to feel better and smarter and superior.

Ms. Morrison shows this most poignantly through one of the main characters: a young girl named Pecola Breedlove, but also through other characters as well. The story begins as a narrative by nine-year-old Claudia as she talks about her daily life. She and ten-year-old Frieda MacTeer live in Lorain, Ohio, with their parents. It is the end of the Great Depression, and the girls' parents' are more concerned with food and shelter than with attending to the mental health of their daughters. However, through the actions of their parents, it is clear they care and love their children. The MacTeers take in a boarder, Henry Washington, to help with their finances and also a young girl named Pecola, who has been forced "outdoors" by her father's drunken act of trying to burn down their home. Frieda and Claudia feel pity for Pecola and befriend her. They are in fact the only two characters in the entire story who show Pecola any kindness or support whatsoever. Pecola loves Shirley Temple, believing that whiteness is beautiful and that she is ugly. In fact, Pecola drinks three quarts of milk simply o handle the "Shirley Temple cup" and see "sweet Shirley's face". Of note is Pecola's onset of menses.

Pecola moves back in with her family and her life is pathetically sad. Her father is an alcoholic, her mother is far more concerned with the well-being of the white family for whom she works. The couples most common interaction is that of violence and the two of them often beat one another. Her brother, Sammy, frequently runs away. Pecola is entirely convinced of her ugliness and believes that if she had blue eyes, she would be loved and her life would be transformed. Meanwhile, she continually receives confirmation of her ugliness: the grocer, Mr. Jacobowski looks down at her when she buys candy, the local boys make fun of her, Maureen, a light skinned black girl who temporarily befriends her, makes fun of her too. She is wrongly blamed for killing Junior's ( a neighbor) cat and his mother Geraldine calls her a "nasty little black bitch".

We learn that Pecola's parents have both had difficult lives. Pauline, her mother, has a crippled foot and has always felt "different" and isolated. She goes to movies, which reaffirm her belief that she is ugly and that romantic love is reserved for the beautiful. She encourages her husband's violent behavior in order to feel good about her superiority above something. She feels most alive when she is at work, cleaning a white woman's home because that gives her power she does not have in her own home . So, her home and her children suffer for it.

Cholly, Pecola's father, was abandoned by his parents and raised by his great aunt, who died when he was a young teenager. He was humiliated by two white men who found him having sex for the first time and made him continue while they watched. He ran away to find his father and when he found him, he was turned away in a sad and traumatic fashion. By the time he met Pauline (his wife and Pecola's mother), he was a damaged man. He feels trapped in his marriage and has no direction.

Cholly returns home one day drunk and finds Pecola washing dishes. With mixed motives of tenderness and hatred that are fueled by guilt, he rapes her. When Pecola's mother finds her unconscious on the floor, she disbelieves Pecola's story and beats her. Pecola goes to Soaphead Church, a fake healer and abuser of young girls, and asks him for blue eyes. Unbeknownst to her, he uses her to perform the odious task of killing a neighbor's dog while making her believe he can help her to her goal.

Claudia and Frieda find out that Pecola has been raped by her father

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