The Power of The Bluest Eye

The Power of The Bluest Eye

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The Power of The Bluest Eye


America has been described by various terms such as melting pot and tossed salad, but what these terms are trying to convey is that America is a country of great diversity. The literature of this country reflects its population in its diversity of genres, themes, language, and voices. One of these voices is Toni Morrison, an author who knows and appreciates the power of language, and uses it. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech she states, "The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers". The "vitality of language" of which Morrison speaks, may very well be the soul of the American novel, or at the very least, the soul of Morrison's novels, such as Sula, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye.


In The Bluest Eye, Morrison uses her ability with language to take her readers into the black community in Lorraine, Ohio, and into the various levels of that society. She utilizes several points of view, both first person and third person omniscient, and universal themes such as love, hate, hope, despair, fear, courage, ugliness, and beauty to bring her characters and their struggles to life. The very universality of her themes provides a common point of contact that allows most readers to see in these people something of themselves or their life experience. For example, she shows a mother's love for a child when in the night, the mother's hand "adjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead" (14). This simple gesture conveys so much, and is familiar to many.


Morrison's powerful language lends depth and detail to every scene. She shows the pain and bewilderment of Claudia, Frieda, and Pecola over the blue-eyed blond ideal of beauty that is even perpetuated by their parents when they are given dolls that fit this mold. She brings to life the upper class "colored people" who were "neat and quiet" and who looked down on "niggers" who were "dirty and loud" (71), with language that flows like molasses on a warm day. "They come from Mobile, Aiken. From Newport News. From Marietta. From Merdian. And the sound of these places in their mouths make you think of love" (67).

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She conveys the hopelessness and anger of taunting children with fierce, biting language, " They seem to have taken all their smoothly cultivated ignorance, their exquisitely learned self-hatred . . . and sucked it all up into a fiery cone of scorn that had burned for ages . . . "(55). She takes the reader into the mind of a helpless little black girl who looks into the mirror "trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, . . . that made her ignored or despised" (39), who tragically withdraws into her own reality where she sees herself with the ideal blue eyes, but is concerned that someone else may have "the bluest eyes in the whole world" (157).


Toni Morrison uses language to draw "imagined and possible lives" and lives that should be unimaginable, but exist. Her contribution to the American novel is the power of her language and the images that the language instills in the hearts and minds of her readers.
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