The Bluest Eye

by

Author: Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye

Genre: Literary Fiction,  African-American

Publication Date: 1970

No. of Pages: 224

Geographical Setting: Lorain, Ohio

Time Period: Years following the Great Depression

Series: NA

Plot Summary: An African-American family, the MacTeers, is struggling out of the Great Depression in Lorain, Ohio when they take in a troubled girl from a rough background, Pecola, when she is forced “outdoors.” All her life Pecola has hid behind the “ugliness” of her dark skin and brown eyes, always wishing and praying for beautiful blue eyes. As she struggles to find her way with a strange new family, her own family fights against their demons of racism, alcoholism and sexual depravity.

While Pecola and her fervent wish for blue eyes may be the focus of The Bluest Eye, her character is rarely developed throughout the story. Rather her struggles and gradual surrender to insanity are documented through the eyes of those closest to her, effectively underscoring the actions of the remaining characters. This is a story of vulnerability and of a young girl unable to overcome her circumstances, even to get blue eyes. Readers should be aware of several disturbing scenes that are sexual in nature.

Subject Headings: African-Americans, Racism – United States, Family Relations

Appeal: unhurried, emotionally-charged, character-centered, vivid, flawed, historical details, timeless, intimate, poignant, dialect, gritty, stark

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: emotionally-charged, flawed, gritty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (Explores the unwritten rules of segregation in the South that guided child development)

Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith (A Southern white view of the psychological and moral consequences of the Southern mindset on sin, sex and segregation)

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (The companion book to the PBS series, Gates helps 19 individuals explore their pasts while gaining a better understanding of their own personality)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (A collection of powerful novellas illustrating the racism and oppression African-Americans lived with in the post-slavery era – originally published in 1938, this plays out in the same time period of The Bluest Eye and delves into some of the same issues of race)

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (A poor white family of sharecroppers struggles to survive during the Depression and retain their slim social standing among the black community they live – similar backdrop of the Great Depression and familial tensions)

Oral History by Lee Smith (A college student returns to her childhood home in the Appalachians to research the complex and cursed history of her family – a similar story of a doomed family and all their flaws and foibles)

by Denise

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