Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman

“Love is never any better than the lover.” – Toni Morrison

How do you get somebody to call you beautiful? How do you get somebody to love you? How do you get yourself to look attractive? Why do we even think like this? Is beauty that sold out? Well, if you’re gonna be a cynical self-lover, then that’s all the love you’re gonna get.

“There can’t be anyone, I am sure, who doesn’t know what it feels like to be disliked..”

Toni Morrison through her novel, The Bluest Eye caresses the idea of acceptance through the element of beauty and constructs the storyline through a rainbow of encounters, some familiar to the readers, some firsts, each carrying a moral within its own season. I think that’s a very brave thing to do considering how sticky and peppery the situation around beauty truly is. And the worst part is, it still breeds on the people’s selective mindset of attraction based on racial outlines. Toni Morrison calls out that the only reason why roses are so loved by the world, is because of the ill-favoured dandelions growing wild under lampposts.

“We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness.”

The Bluest Eye talks about a young, black girl’s quest for blue eyes in a sea of carbon people, who prefer to love conditionally; the ones who’d rather love the sunlight through closed eyes. Pecola Breedlove dreams of the bluest eyes because she thinks that those are the only true licence of beauty; and even under the weight of this implausible dream, her wish seems to be the only honest plot, the only purest appeal among the rest of the lives in the story. However, there is more emphasis on the secondary characters in the story, more so to underline Pecola’s “non-existence” and “unbeing,” not because of her ugliness, but because of the world’s humour on beauty.

“He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see.”

The novel is a powerful petition on the ideology of beauty and its misinterpretations, and it connects the reader to its every hook. From Pecola’s unloving family to her bullies in school, from her parents’ early spiteful life to the helpless gazes of people who couldn’t love her, this novel exploits all the colours of reality, a reality that sadly, might be still in existence.

“(It) Ought to be a law: two ugly people doubling up like that to make more ugly. Be better off in the ground.”

The Bluest Eye starts like a poetry and ends in a litany; it starts with natural visions and sights and ends with a war for more closure to the world of the lost; it starts with a dream of a lighthouse and ends with an aggressive wave. The end is so powerful, so surreal, that the reader is left with a rattled cognisance of how ignorant the world truly is to beauty and to languorous innocence.

“You forgot, Lord. You forgot how and when to be God.”

It’s hard to put this novel into words. It has vulcanised my beliefs of the world and what people think about beauty. This internalisation of unnatural morals, specifically about beauty, makes me poignant for the believers of rigid faiths, who believe that beauty could only be theirs; that their concept of beauty could never belong to anyone else’s self-expression of it; not even in a novel.

Quotes:

1. Quiet as its kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.

2. The best hiding place was love.

3. Adults do not talk to us- they give us directions.

4. Misery coloured by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took all of the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet.

5. “But how do you do that? I mean, how do you get somebody to love you?”

6. The furniture had aged without ever having become familiar. People had owned it, but never known it.

7. An escapade of drunkenness, no matter how routine, had its own ceremonial close.

8. To deprive her of these fights was to deprive her of all the zest and reasonableness of life.

9. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.

10. When you ask them where they are from, they tilt their heads and say “Mobile” and you think you’ve been kissed.

11. Eyes that questioned nothing and asked everything.

12. He came with his own music.

13. She married a man with a slash in his face instead of a mouth.

14. Their laughter had been more touch than sound.

15. White women said, “Do this.” White children said, “Give me that.” White men said, “Come here.” Black men said, “Lay down.”

16. His feelings about her were mostly fear- fear that she would not like him, and fear that she would.

17. It seemed to him that lonely was much better than alone.

18. And then the tears rushed down his cheeks, to make a bouquet under his chin.

19. The pieces of Cholly’s life could become coherent only in the head of a musician.

20. He could go to jail and not feel imprisoned.

21. (He was) free to take a woman’s insults, for his body had already conquered hers.

22. Evil existed because God created it.

23. We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure and thought recklessness was freedom.

24. Our manhood was defined by acquisitions. Our womanhood by acquiescence.

25. She left me the way people leave a hotel room.

26. What makes one name more a person than another?

27. We looked for eyes creased with concern, but saw only veils.

28. We tried to see her without looking at her..

29. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life.

30. There is no gift for the beloved.

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