Essay on The Importance of the Eye in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

Essay on The Importance of the Eye in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

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The Importance of the Eye in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

    In Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, the characters' eyes are everything. The word "eye" appears over and over with rich adjectives that describe color, movement, and nuance of expression to signify a character's mood and psychological state. Morrison emphasizes the paradox of eyes: Eyes are at times a window to enlightenment, however, what eyes see is not always objective truth, but instead a distortion of reality into what a person is able to perceive.


The concept of "the bluest eye" symbolizes unattainable beauty based on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed model that permeates 1940s Lorain, Ohio. Morrison initially presents the concept with a literary device: In the first passage of the novel, Morrison frames and repeats the traditional "Dick and Jane" text, first with normal syntax; a second time with the same text repeated, but without punctuation; finally, the third time, all the text is repeated as one continuous word. Morrison's repeated references to this text show that the words, which trumpet a white and therefore happy family as the ideal, are rote; they are recited by all school children - black and white - without pause or any consciousness of what those words imply. Blind recitation inculcates the myth.


Along with the Dick and Jane frame, the novel's narrative shifts back and forth from Claudia's first person voice to an omniscient third person perspective that reveals the life stories of the novel's main characters.


This narrative shift allows the reader to see the community from two vantage points. Claudia's memories reveal her perception of her world that includes her reasonably stable family survivi...

... middle of paper ...

... of hope because it is the first step toward change.


Morrison uses many techniques to amplify symbols and themes in her novel. Her words are meant to be historical, to spark change, and to create an inclusive world within the pages of the book. Claudia and Pecola, about the same age and on about the same social strata, see the world through very different eyes. Claudia is able to intellectualize her experiences and to feel sorrowful guilt for Pecola's plight. She is free to deconstruct dolls and outdated, non-inclusive models of beauty. Pecola, on the other hand, is able to cope only through the delusions that she sees through the bluest eye. Each girl rises to the level that society allows her, and this means that Pecola will always be alone in her mind.


Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Penguin Books, 1970.


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