Love is as good as the lover...
Each night Pecola prayed for blue eyes. In her eleven years, no one had ever noticed Pecola. But with blue eyes, she thought, everything would be different. She would be so pretty that her parents would stop fighting. Her father would stop drinking. Her brother would stop running away. If only she could be beautiful. If only people would look at her." (Back Cover)
The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio named Pecola. It takes place in the years following the Great Depression. The Bluest Eye is told from the perspective of Claudia MacTeer as a child and an adult, as well as from a third-person, omniscient viewpoint.
The Bluest Eye contains a number of autobiographical elements. It is set in the town where Morrison grew up, and it is told from the point of view of a nine-year-old, the age Morrison would have been the year the novel takes place (1941). Like the MacTeer family, Morrison’s family struggled to make ends meet during the Great Depression. Morrison grew up listening to her mother singing and her grandfather playing the violin, just as Claudia does. In the novel’s afterword, Morrison explains that the story developed out of a conversation she had had in elementary school with a little girl, who longed for blue eyes. She was still thinking about this conversation in the 1960s, when the Black is Beautiful movement was working to reclaim African-American beauty, and she began her first novel.
While its historical context is clear, the literary context of The Bluest Eye is more complex. Faulkner and Woolf, whose work Morrison knew well, influenced her style. She uses the modernist techniques of stream-of-consciousness, multiple perspectives, and deliberate fragmentation. But Morrison understands her work more fundamentally as part of a black cultural tradition and strives to create a distinctively black literature. Her prose is infused with black musical traditions such as the spirituals, gospel, jazz and the blues. She writes in a black vernacular, full of turns of phrase and figures of speech unique to the community in which she grew up, with the hope that if she is true to her own particular experience, it will be universally meaningful. In this way, she attempts to create what she calls a “race-specific yet race-free prose.”
In the afterword to The Bluest Eye, Morrison explains her goal in writing the novel. She wants to make a statement about the damage that internalized racism can do to the most vulnerable member of a community—a young girl. At the same time, she does not want to dehumanize the people who wound this girl, because that would simply repeat their mistake. Also, she wants to protect this girl from “the weight of the novel’s inquiry,” and thus decides to tell the story from multiple perspectives. In this way, as she puts it, she “shape[s] a silence while breaking it,” keeping the girl’s dignity intact.
Plot: N ine-year-old Claudia 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 making ends meet than with lavishing attention upon their daughters, but there is an undercurrent of love and stability in their home. The MacTeers take in a boarder, Henry Washington, and also a young girl named Pecola. Pecola’s father has tried to burn down his family’s house, and Claudia and Frieda feel sorry for her. Pecola loves Shirley Temple, believing that whiteness is beautiful and that she is ugly.Pecola moves back in with her family, and her life is difficult. Her father drinks, her mother is distant, and the two of them often beat one another. Her brother, Sammy, frequently runs away. Pecola believes that if she had blue eyes, she would be loved and her life would be transformed. Meanwhile, she continually receives confirmation of her own sense of ugliness—the grocer looks right through her when she buys candy, boys make fun of her, and a light-skinned girl, Maureen, who temporarily befriends her makes fun of her too. She is wrongly blamed for killing a boy’s cat and is called a “nasty little black bitch” by his mother.
We learn that Pecola’s parents have both had difficult lives. Pauline, her mother, has a lame foot and has always felt isolated. She loses herself in 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 reinforce her own role as a martyr. She feels most alive when she is at work, cleaning a white woman’s home. She loves this home and despises her own. 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 but was rebuffed by him. By the time he met Pauline, he was a wild and rootless man. He feels trapped in his marriage and has lost interest in life.
Cholly returns home one day 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 sham mystic, and asks him for blue eyes. Instead of helping her, he uses her to kill a dog he dislikes.
MAJOR CHARACTERSPecola is the protagonist of The Bluest Eye, but despite this central role she is passive and remains a mysterious character. Morrison explains in her novel’s afterword that she purposely tells Pecola’s story from other points of view to keep Pecola’s dignity and, to some extent, her mystery intact. She wishes to prevent us from labeling Pecola or prematurely believing that we understand her. Pecola is a fragile and delicate child when the novel begins, and by the novel’s close, she has been almost completely destroyed by violence. She is also a symbol of the black community’s self-hatred and belief in its own ugliness. Others in the community, including her mother, father, and Geraldine, act out their own self-hatred by expressing hatred toward her. At the end of the novel, we are told that Pecola has been a scapegoat for the entire community. Her ugliness has made them feel beautiful, her suffering has made them feel comparatively lucky, and her silence has given them the opportunity for speaking. But because she continues to live after she has lost her mind, Pecola’s aimless wandering at the edge of town haunts the community, reminding them of the ugliness and hatred that they have tried to repress. She becomes a reminder of human cruelty and an emblem of human suffering.
Claudia MacTeerClaudia narrates parts of The Bluest Eye, sometimes from a child’s perspective and sometimes from the perspective of an adult looking back. Like Pecola, Claudia suffers from racist beauty standards and material insecurity, but she has a loving and stable family, which makes all the difference for her. Whereas Pecola is passive when she is abused, Claudia is a fighter. When Claudia is given a white doll she does not want, she dissects and destroys it. When she finds a group of boys harassing Pecola, she attacks them. When she learns that Pecola is pregnant, she and her sister come up with a plan to save Pecola’s baby from the community’s rejection. Claudia explains that she is brave because she has not yet learned her limitations—most important, she has not learned the self-hatred that plagues so many adults in the community.
Claudia is a valuable guide to the events that unfold in Lorain because her life is stable enough to permit her to see clearly. Her vision is not blurred by the pain that eventually drives Pecola into madness. Her presence in the novel reminds us that most black families are not like Pecola’s; most black families pull together in the face of hardship instead of fall apart. Claudia’s perspective is also valuable because it melds the child’s and the adult’s points of view. Her childish viewpoint makes her uniquely qualified to register what Pecola experiences, but her adult viewpoint can correct the childish one when it is incomplete. She is a messenger of suffering but also of hope.
Cholly BreedloveBy all rights, we should hate Cholly Breedlove, given that he rapes his daughter. But Morrison explains in her afterword that she did not want to dehumanize her characters, even those who dehumanize one another, and she succeeds in making Cholly a sympathetic figure. He has experienced genuine suffering, having been abandoned in a junk heap as a baby and having suffered humiliation at the hands of white men. He is also capable of pleasure and even joy, in the experience of eating a watermelon or touching a girl for the first time. He is capable of violence, but he is also vulnerable, as when two white men violate him by forcing him to perform sexually for their amusement and when he defecates in his pants after encountering his father. Cholly represents a negative form of freedom. He is not free to love and be loved or to enjoy full dignity, but he is free to have sex and fight and even kill; he is free to be indifferent to death. He falls apart when this freedom becomes a complete lack of interest in life, and he reaches for his daughter to remind himself that he is alive.
Pauline BreedloveLike Cholly, Pauline inflicts a great deal of pain on her daughter but Morrison nevertheless renders her sympathetically. She experiences more subtle forms of humiliation than Cholly does—her lame foot convinces her that she is doomed to isolation, and the snobbery of the city women in Lorain condemns her to loneliness. In this state, she is especially vulnerable to the messages conveyed by white culture—that white beauty and possessions are the way to happiness. Once, at the movies, she fixes her hair like the white sex symbol Jean Harlow and loses her tooth while eating candy. Though her fantasy of being like Harlow is a failure, Pauline finds another fantasy world—the white household for which she cares. This fantasy world is more practical than her imitation of Hollywood actresses and is more socia practical than her imitation of Hollywood actresses and is more socially sanctioned than the madness of Pecola’s fantasy world, but it is just as effective in separating her from the people—her family—she should love. In a sense, Pauline’s existence is just as haunted and delusional as her daughter’s.
· Whiteness is beauty
Throughout the novel, white skin is identified with beauty and purity. There are many recurring implications to the superiority of whites over blacks, specifically in women. The novel questions concepts of blackness and whiteness and describes the negative impact of white cultural domination on both black and white cultural identity. The adoration of Shirley Temple (Frieda and Pecola in particular), the white baby doll given to Claudia, light-skinned Maureen being cuter than the other black girls, and Pauline Breedlove's preference for the little white girl she cares for demonstrate the prevailing dominance of whiteness. As a result, women learn to hate themselves for being black and in turn relay this disgust to their daughters. This is most apparent within the Breedlove family, where Mrs. Breedlove despises the ugliness she sees in her own daughter. Pecola is most affected by this connection of beauty with whiteness, believing that beauty is associated with love and is necessary for affection and respect. Her hopeless desire to be identified as a white girl eventually drives Pecola to insanity.
· Seeing or Perception
Perception is a key element in The Bluest Eye: how the individual is perceived or is seen by others, how the individual internalizes that perception, and how the individual perceives others. The interaction of these perceptions helps to create and reinforce the individual's sense of identity or lack of a sense of identity.
Some psychologists theorize that the process of identity-building begins when the infant sees itself reflected in the mother's eyes; this gives the child what is sometimes called a sense of presence. This experience enables the infant to see others and to give presence to them. This reciprocal exchange--seeing oneself and being given a presence through the eyes of others and in turn giving them presence-- continues through childhood and adulthood.
An existentialist view of the relationship between perception and identity differs slightly. Sartre identifies "the Look" (being seen) as crucial to developing identity. The Look confirms the individual's identity; however, it simultaneously threatens the individual's sense of freedom. The Look reduces the individual to an object in someone else's reality and takes away the individual's sense of self and potential to be. In other words, the Look controls and reduces the individual to the status of the Other. A power struggle ensues as the individual tries to regain control by reducing the "Looker" to an object; that is, the individual tries to reduce the person with the Look to the status of the Other. In Sartre's view, true identity results only when the following two conditions are met:
- The individual gives up the effort both to take way someone else's autonomy and to make the person an object or the Other.
- The individual accepts his/her autonomy and responsibility for his/her own life as well as his/her status as an object in someone else's view/reality. This process may occur between individuals, between groups in a society, and between societies.
In The Bluest Eye, characters in the black community accept their status as the Other, which has been imposed upon them by the white community. In turn, blacks assign the status of Other to individuals like Pecola within the black community.
Morrison uses seeing/not seeing and being seen/not being seen throughout the novel. Pecola is invisible in that her beauty is not perceived, and she desires to disappear or not be perceived. The eye is a natural symbol for perception or seeing.
· Love is only as good as the lover
The Bluest Eye is a novel that contains several relationships, although the relationships never end pleasantly. Morrison sees love as a dynamic force, which can be extremely damaging depending on who is doing the loving. The biggest example of this is the relationship Cholly has with his daughter Pecola. Cholly is the only character in the whole book that can see past Pecola’s seemingly revolting shell enough to touch her. While this sounds like a beautiful thing, in actuality it is the violent rape that serves as the climax of the story. As Claudia points out in the final chapter of this novel, “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly” While Cholly definitely loves, the core of his personality forces him to manifest this love in violent ways. Because he has had extremely damaging experiences as a child, his love is extremely tainted. The reader can look at this in one of two ways. It can be seen as a very pessimistic view, claiming that true love can only be achieved if the lover is a good, honest person. However, the reader can also see this as uplifting. Even though love can be distorted, Morrison makes the point that everyone can, in fact, love. Even if an evil person loves in an evil manner, they are still able to love.
· Gender Disparity
The bluest eye is a novel based on the lives of black women and it is written by a black woman. Toni Morrison has described the world wide gender disparity by her characters like Pecola, Frieda, Pauline and the narrator Claudia,who once mentions in the novel that three things have greatly affected her life: being a child, being Black and being a girl. All the women characters are abused by both white women & men, as well as by Black
Black women of this novel are presented as the victims of the white beauty standards of society and some of them, like Pauline and Geraldine, are greatly affected bycultural hegemony and start loving and adopting the ways of white people. Not only Pauline and Geraldine, but many of the black characters fall prey to this, loving white people more than themselves. We can find a better example of it when Pauline beats Pecola for spilling a pie on the floor of the Fishers' house and when schoolboys tease Pecola and stop it when Maureen, the light skinned girl, goes to rescue her from those boys. Boys tease Pecola for her ugliness due to her blackness, but run away after seeing Maureen, as they don't want to do bad things in front of her.
- Freedom and "Bad" Men
To be free, the individual must take risks. Morrison sees men ordinarily regarded as "bad," men who leave their families and refuse responsibilities, as free men. (She is using bad to mean both bad and good.) These men, who have "a nice wildness" and who are fearless and "comfortable with that fearlessness," are misunderstood and therefore condemned. Morrison admires them as adventurers who refuse to be controlled and who are willing to take risks. Because they own themselves, they are able to choose their own way to live their lives. She explains:
They felt that they had been dealt a bad hand, and they just made up other rules. They couldn't win with the house deck and that was part of their daring. . . . whereas other Black people--they were horrified by all that "bad" behavior. That's all a part of the range of what goes on among us, you know.
Their behavior points out a valuable principle to the non-outlaw blacks. Blacks have been cut off from their own natures and needs by conforming to the rules of white society. The outlaw serves as a partial solution to the problem of being out of touch with the essential self. Until blacks understand in our own terms what our rites of passage are, what we need in order to nourish ourselves, what happens when we don't get that nourishment, then what looks like erratic behavior but isn't will frighten and confuse us. Life becomes comprehensible when we know what rules we are playing by.
She knows that, in our society, these outlaws have unfortunate and even disastrous effects on others and often end up unemployed or in prison. Nevertheless, in her world view, "evil is as useful as good" and "sometimes good looks like evil; sometimes evil looks like good."
Morrison is not advocating irresponsibility and destructive or chaotic behavior, however. She believes in the necessity of being responsible for one's choices: "freedom is choosing your responsibility. It's not having no responsibilities; it's choosing the ones you want." Jan Furman comments, "She respects the freedom even as she embraces the responsibility."
Unfortunately, in our society, "many women have been given responsibilities they don't want" and which they could not refuse. Consequently, they are not free.
Morrison shows understanding of and, often, compassion, for characters who commit horrific deeds, like incest-rape or infanticide. This trait springs in large part from her attitude toward good and evil, which she distinguishes from the conventional or Western view of good and evil. She describes a distinctive view which, she claims, blacks have historically held toward good and evil:
It was interesting that black people at one time seemed not to respond to evil in the ways other people did, but that they thought evil had a natural place in the universe; they did not wish to eradicate it. They just wished to protect themselves from it, maybe even to manipulate it, but they never wanted to kill it. They thought evil was just another aspect of life.. . . It's because they're not terrified by evil, by difference. Evil is not an alien force; it's just a different force.
She shifts the boundaries between what we ordinarily regard as good and what as evil, so that judgments become difficult. This reflects the complexity of making moral judgments in life. Her villains are not all evil, nor are her good people saints.
The Dick-and-Jane NarrativeThe novel opens with a narrative from a Dick-and-Jane reading primer, a narrative that is distorted when Morrison runs its sentences and then its words together. The gap between the idealized, sanitized, upper-middle-class world of Dick and Jane (who we assume to be white, though we are never told so) and the often dark and ugly world of the novel is emphasized by the chapter headings excerpted from the primer. But Morrison does not mean for us to think that the Dick-and-Jane world is better—in fact, it is largely because the black characters have internalized white Dick-and-Jane values that they are unhappy. In this way, the Dick and Jane narrative and the novel provide ironic commentary on each other.
The Seasons and NatureThe novel is divided into the four seasons, but it pointedly refuses to meet the expectations of these seasons. For example, spring, the traditional time of rebirth and renewal, reminds Claudia of being whipped with new switches, and it is the season when Pecola’s is raped. Pecola’s baby dies in autumn, the season of harvesting. Morrison uses natural cycles to underline the unnaturalness and misery of her characters’ experiences. To some degree, she also questions the benevolence of nature, as when Claudia wonders whether “the earth itself might have been unyielding” to someone like Pecola.
Whiteness and ColorIn the novel, whiteness is associated with beauty and cleanliness (particularly according to Geraldine and Mrs. Breedlove), but also with sterility. In contrast, color is associated with happiness, most clearly in the rainbow of yellow, green, and purple memories Pauline Breedlove sees when making love with Cholly. Morrison uses this imagery to emphasize the destructiveness of the black community’s privileging of whiteness and to suggest that vibrant color, rather than the pure absence of color, is a stronger image of happiness and freedom.
Eyes and VisionPecola is obsessed with having blue eyes because she believes that this mark of conventional, white beauty will change the way that she is seen and therefore the way that she sees the world. There are continual references to other characters’ eyes as well—for example, Mr. Yacobowski’s hostility to Pecola resides in the blankness in his own eyes, as well as in his inability to see a black girl. This motif underlines the novel’s repeated concern for the difference between how we see and how we are seen, and the difference between superficial sight and true insight.
Dirtiness and CleanlinessThe black characters in the novel who have internalized white, -middle-class values are obsessed with cleanliness. Geraldine and Mrs. Breedlove are excessively concerned with housecleaning—though Mrs. Breedlove cleans only the house of her white employers, as if the Breedlove apartment is beyond her help. This fixation on cleanliness extends into the women’s moral and emotional quests for purity, but the obsession with domestic and moral sanitation leads them to cruel coldness. In contrast, one mark of Claudia’s strength of character is her pleasure in her own dirt, a pleasure that represents self-confidence and a correct understanding of the nature of happiness.
SYMBOLS( characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.)
The HouseThe novel begins with a sentence from a Dick-and-Jane narrative: “Here is the house.” Homes not only indicate socioeconomic status in this novel, but they also symbolize the emotional situations and values of the characters who inhabit them. The Breedlove -apartment is miserable and decrepit, suffering from Mrs. Breedlove’s preference for her employer’s home over her own and symbolizing the misery of the Breedlove family. The MacTeer house is drafty and dark, but it is carefully tended by Mrs. MacTeer and, according to Claudia, filled with love, symbolizing that family’s comparative cohesion.
Bluest Eye(s)To Pecola, blue eyes symbolize the beauty and happiness that she associates with the white, middle-class world. They also come to symbolize her own blindness, for she gains blue eyes only at the cost of her sanity. The “bluest” eye could also mean the saddest eye. Furthermore, eye puns on I, in the sense that the novel’s title uses the singular form of the noun (instead of The Bluest Eyes) to express many of the characters’ sad isolation.
The MarigoldsClaudia and Frieda associate marigolds with the safety and well-being of Pecola’s baby. Their ceremonial offering of money and the remaining unsold marigold seeds represents an honest sacrifice on their part. They believe that if the marigolds they have planted grow, then Pecola’s baby will be all right. More generally, marigolds represent the constant renewal of nature. In Pecola’s case, this cycle of renewal is perverted by her father’s rape of her.
QUESTIONS1. The Bluest Eye uses multiple narrators, including Claudia as a child, Claudia as an adult, and an omniscient narrator. Which narrative point of view do you think is most central to the novel and why?
2.The Bluest Eye is a novel about racism, and yet there are relatively few instances of the direct oppression of black people by white people in the book. Explain how racism functions in the story.
Unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, in which an African-American is persecuted by whites simply on the basis of skin color, The Bluest Eye presents a more complicated portrayal of racism. The characters do experience direct oppression, but more routinely they are subject to an internalized set of values that creates its own cycle of victimization within families and the neighborhood. The black community in the novel has accepted white standards of beauty, judging Maureen’s light skin to be attractive and Pecola’s dark skin to be ugly. Claudia can sense the destructiveness of this idea and rebels against it when she destroys her white doll and imagines Pecola’s unborn baby as beautiful. Racism also affects the characters of the novel in other indirect ways. The general sense of precariousness of the black community during the Great Depression, in comparison with the relative affluence of the whites in the novel, reminds us of the link between race and class. More directly, the sexual violation of Pecola is connected to the sexual violation of Cholly by whites who view his loss of virginity as entertainment.
1.Chapter 1 Claudıa hates white dolls (she dismembers them): Claudia’s hatred of white dolls extends to white girls, and -Morrison uses this process as a starting point to study the complex love-hate relationship between blacks and whites. What horrifies Claudia most about her own treatment of white girls is the disinterested nature of her hatred. Claudia hates them for their whiteness, not for more defensible personal reasons. Ultimately, her shame of her own hatred hides itself in pretended love. By describing the sequence of hating whiteness but then coming to embrace it, Claudia diagnoses the black community’s worship of white images (as well as cleanliness and denial of the body’s desires) as a complicated kind of self-hatred. It is not simply that black people learn to believe that whitenes is beautiful because they are surrounded by white America’s advertisements and movies; Claudia suggests that black children start with a healthy hatred of the claims to white superiority but that their guilt at their own anger then transforms hatred into a false love to compensate for that hatred.
2. In chapter 3 the narrator comments that Mrs. Breedlove and Cholly need each other—she needs him to reinforce her identity as a martyr and to give shape to an otherwise dreary life, and he needs to take out a lifetime of hurt upon her. When Cholly was young, two white men once caught having sex with a girl. They forced him to continue while they watched. Instead of hating the white men, Cholly hated the girl. Because of this and other humiliations, Cholly is a violent and cruel man. The fights between him and Mrs. Breedlove follow a predictable pattern, and the two have an unstated agreement not to kill each other. Sammy usually either runs away from home or joins the fight. Pecola tries to find ways to endure the pain.
3. In chapter 5 we are introduced with the details of a particular type of black woman. Geraldine comes from some small, rural town in the South, full of natural beauty, where everyone has a job. She takes special care of her body and her clothes. She goes to a land-grant college and learns how to do the work reserved for her, the care and feeding of white people, with grace and good manners. She marries and bears the children of a man who knows that she will take good care of his house and his clothes. But she also is a tyrant over her home and over her own body. She does not enjoy sex. She feels affection only for the household cat, which is as neat and quiet as she is. She caresses and cuddles the cat in a way that she refuses to caress or cuddle her family.
This chapter also demonstrates how those who hate most often misdirect both their feelings of love and their feelings of hatred, multiplying the suffering of the oppressed. Geraldine, instead of directing her hatred toward the subtle racism that requires her to repress the disorderly parts of herself, expresses hatred toward her own family through her coldness. Meanwhile, she misdirects her capacity for affection toward the family pet. Junior, who hates his mother for her coldness, redirects his hatred toward the cat and Pecola. The extremity of Junior’s sadism suggests that children suffer from emotional neglect and misplaced hatred in particularly intense ways. Pecola and the cat (which, it is important to note, resembles Pecola in its blackness and possesses the blue eyes she desires) then become Junior’s scapegoats, suffering the effects of a hatred that has nothing to do with them.
4. In chapter 6 Henry touches Ferieda’s breasts and this chapter emphasizes the ignorance and confusion that accompany Frieda’s experience of becoming a sexual being. Frieda is not given the chance to step gradually into her sexual identity; instead, this identity is forced upon her by an adult.The girls don’t know what the term “ruined” refers to.
5.In chapter 7 Pauline’s story is told in the most sympathetic terms. The majority of it is told by an omniscient narrator, with the more poignant moments of her story narrated by Pauline herself and set off in italics. Our sympathy for Pauline comes in part because of the difficult circumstances she has faced—a deformed foot, loneliness, poverty, racism, and an alternately cruel and tender husband. The sections she narrates herself deal with even more personal subjects: her love for Cholly, her experience of pregnancy, and the mistreatment she receives from others. As well as mixing third-person and first-person narration, Morrison uses color to emphasize the beauty of Pauline and Cholly’s relationship. Pauline describes the green flash of the june bugs that she misses from her hometown. When she falls in love with Cholly, this green imagery merges with a memory of having her hips stained purple while picking berries and the yellow of her mother’s lemonade. When she remembers her and Cholly’s lovemaking, these colors reappear and form a rainbow. This repetition gives a lyricism to Pauline’s memories.
Like the other characters in the novel, Pauline creates narratives to explain her life. These stories provide her life with meaning, but the meanings she creates are frequently damaging. She imagines that she is isolated because of her deformed foot, and accepts this isolation as her fate, when in fact she might have countered her isolation by being more outgoing. She falls in love with Cholly in part because he fits the story she has been telling herself about the stranger who will come to her. Without this story, she might have noticed sooner that they are not perfect for each other. Her addiction to the movies is most damaging in this regard; she comes to believe the stories that imply that love is about beauty and possession rather than about “lust and simple caring for.” According to the narrator, romantic love and physical beauty are “[p]robably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” The movies Pauline sees are destructive because they are imposed from the outside rather than created from her own experiences and needs. Finally, she considers the story she tells herself about her position in the Fisher family as more meaningful than the story of her relationship to her own family, causing her daughter great suffering.
6. The novel begins with two prologues, perhaps the best way to think of the ending of The Bluest Eye is to understand it as two endings. The first ending, the close of the previous chapter, is a hopeful one: Claudia and Frieda selflessly sacrifice their own desires to help Pecola, planting seeds to suggest that nature always promises rebirth, saying magic words and singing to suggest that lyrical language can redeem a fractured life. The second ending is a despairing one: Claudia too is capable of selfishly using Pecola to reinforce her own sense of worth, the earth is cruel, and, in any case, nature cannot redeem human failings. The book closes on this second, bleak vision. But the lyric beauty of Morrison’s language, which picks up momentum in this final section, suggests that there may be a kind of redemption in remembering, in telling stories, and in singing, after all.