The Bluest Eye 2

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The Bluest Eye – Protrait Of A Victim Essay, Research Paper Portrait of a Victim: Toni Morrison s The Bluest Eye The Bluest Eye (1970) is the novel that launched Toni Morrison into the spotlight as a talented African-American writer and social critic. Morrison herself says It would be a mistake to assume that writers are disconnected from social issues (Leflore). Because Morrison is more willing than most authors to discuss meaning in her books, a genetic approach is very relevant. To be truly effective, though, the genetic approach must be combined with a formal approach. The formal approach allows the unpacking of the rich language, imagery, and metaphors of Morrison s writing, and the genetic places it in the larger context of her social consciousness. In The Bluest Eye,

Morrison s uses her critical eye to reveal to the reader the evil that is caused by a society that is indoctrinated by the inherent goodness and beauty of whiteness and the ugliness of blackness. In an interview with Milwaukee Journal staff writer Fannie Leflore, Morrison said that she confronted and critiqued the devastation of racial images in The Bluest Eye. The narrative structure of The Bluest Eye is important in revealing just how pervasive and destructive the racialization (Morrison s term for the racism that is a part of every person s socialization) is (Leflore). Morrison is particularly concerned about the narration in her novels. She says, People crave narration . . . That s the way they learn things (Bakerman 58). Narration in The Bluest Eye comes from several

sources. Much of the narration comes from Claudia MacTeer as a nine year old child, but Morrison also gives the reader the benefit of Claudia reflecting on the story as an adult, some first person narration from Pecola s mother, and narration by Morrison herself as an omniscient narrator. Morrison says, First I wrote it [the section in The Bluest Eye about Pecola s mother] out as an I story, but it didn t work . . . Then I wrote it out as a she story, and that didn t work . . . It was me, the author, sort of omnipotent, talking (Bakerman 59). Morrison intentionally kept Pecola from any first person narration of the story. Morrison wanted to try to show a little girl as a total and complete victim of whatever was around her, and she needed the distance and innocence of Claudia s

narration to do that (Stepto 479). Pecola s experiences would have less meaning coming from Pecola herself because a total and complete victim would be an unreliable narrator, unwilling (or unable) to tell relate the actual circumstances of that year (Stepto 479). Claudia, from her youthful innocence, is able to see and relate how the other characters, especially Pecola, idolize the ideal of beauty presented by white, blue-eyed movie stars like little Shirley Temple. In addition to narrative structure, the structure and typography of the novel itself help to illustrate how much and for how long white ideas of family and home have been forced into black culture. Instead of conventional chapters and sections, The Bluest Eye is broken up into seasons Fall, Winter, Spring, and

Summer. This type of organization suggests that the events described in The Bluest Eye have occurred before, and will occur again. Linda Dittmar, in her article examining form in The Bluest Eye, says, Inherent in the notion of the seasons is the fact that they are an annually recurring condition from which there is no escape (143). Further dividing the book are small excerpts from the Dick and Jane primer that is the epitome of the white upper-middle class lifestyle. Each excerpt has, in some way, to do with the section that follows. So the section that describes Pecola s mother is started with an excerpt describing Dick and Jane s mother, and so on. The excerpts from Dick and Jane that head each chapter are typeset without any spaces or punctuation marks. The Dick and Jane