Toni is an acclaimed author who has won several awards for her writing including The Noble Prize in 1993. The Bluest Eye is Morrison’s first novel written in 1970.
Having heard and read a lot about Toni Morrison in various online and offline magazines and having read her few columns in NYT, I was tempted to read one of her works. I picked up The Bluest Eye because it spoke about a cause that I deeply feel about and the cause is colorism.
Few weeks back, Oprah asked on her FB page about stories on colorism. She asked the readers to send in our stories of color discrimination to her, if we felt discriminated against because of our color. I sent in my story – a story of feeling inferior because of my dark color.
Two days later, I heard from the Harpo Media Studios. Yes! You read that right. One of the producers of Oprah’s Life Class contacted me to ask if I would be willing to appear on the show to speak about discrimination against dark color. Things proceeded well but I could not get onto the show because we had very limited internet capacity here and they wanted super high internet speed.
I am dark and I have no qualms about it whatsoever. It won’t be true if I say I never had any grudges against my complexion. I did. When I was young, I used to talk to God and ask him why I was dark. I would look at almost all the girls of my class, who were mostly fair, and wonder why I couldn’t be as fair as them.
With time, I learnt a lot. About colorism. I learnt that color is just a shade. A mere shade of skin.
While there were people who made me inferior for my dark skin color, there were men who made me feel beautiful. Truly beautiful. My dad was the first man who made me feel so comfortable in my skin. And now its Sanjay who feels I made dark skin look sexy and beautiful.
But despite these, there were times when I wish I was fair. The fairest of all. And this is where I resonate with this book – The Bluest Eye.
The book is about a young black girl named Pecola who is so black that she is made to believe she is not just ugly but the ugliest. She then wishes to have The Bluest Eyes so that she could become beautiful.
The book is the story of Pecola, a poor, young black girl who suffers a lot in life apart from her deep rooted inferiority complex.
Pecola fervently wishes to have deep blues eyes so that she becomes beautiful. But why only blue eyes? Because white people mostly have blue eyes and white is considered beautiful.
The story revolves around Pecola and her life that has many other characters including Claudia and Freida, two sisters who are also Pecola’s neighbours. Pecola’s family in which his mom and dad keep fighting always, verbally and physically.
The book deals with many sensitive issues other than just colorism. Incest is another main plot of the story. One day Pecola is doing the dishes in the afternoon and her intoxicated father rapes her. He does not rape her because he wants to be wild with her but because he loves her and he imagines ‘having sex with her’ is a way of expressing that love.
Pecola becomes pregnant at a young age and now the whole neighbourhood pray for the life of the baby. They plant marigolds in the hope that the baby would live but this year, nor the marigolds bloom and Pecola gives birth to a premature baby who dies soon.
In end of the novel, Pecola contacts a pastor and requests him to grant her wish – blue eyes. He manipulates her to make her believe that she has got blue eyes. In the end, Pecola begins to believe that she was granted her wish and that she indeed got blue eyes.
The novel ends on a very poignant note when Claudia narrates that she feels, everyone, including them used Pecola as a scape goat to feel beautiful. In order to feel prettier, they all made Pecola feel uglier.
This is a marvellous book by Toni Morrison and I don’t feel the need to say that this is a must read book. It is evident that you must read the book to feel the anguish and the laments of a woman who feels she is not pretty enough.
The language is simply yet pathos laden. Morrison uses multiple narrations through out the book which sometimes confuses for a while but it helps in conveying the message clearly. There are numerous incidents in the book that jolt you as you read. Like how the fair new girl in the school calls these black women ‘ugly’. She shouts ‘you are ugly, I am pretty’.
Before adding more and ruining the thrill, I would suggest, you go and pick up a copy of the book right away. Here is the link you can buy it from.
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