Consider carefully before reading, and read within a supportive, inquisitive community.
[Editor's Note]: This book contains heavy sexual content. This review should only be read with parental supervision.
11-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a black girl growing up in America during the 1940’s, prays diligently for blue eyes so that she will be beautiful, noticed, and loved. As she enters puberty, she is eventually noticed, but by the wrong person, and with tragically horrifying results.
Although the morality of this book is the subject of countless academic treatises and articles, at its simplest, The Bluest Eye is an exploration of the human need for love and fulfillment. It explores these themes by looking at the destructive and awful ways in which people try to attain and express love. Rather than condemning specific characters’ conduct, Morrison mainly seeks to show the damage and chaos that result from their actions. The moral issues explored are extremely mature and include incest, rape, sexual dysfunction, racism, marriage, and prostitution.
Again, there are many possible interpretations of Morrison’s spiritual implications. The most common sense interpretation suggests that God gifts people with free will, and that people can and do use this free will to perpetuate evil. Some passages suggest that this saddens God, as when Pecola experiences a vicious show of injustice (she is wrongly accused of killing a woman’s cat and the woman orders her away, calling her a nasty, racist name), and a picture of Jesus looks down at the scene with “sad and unsurprised eyes.” God is generally portrayed as distant and forgotten by most people, an entity who never intervenes on behalf of the weak or downtrodden.
This is an extremely violent and disturbing book. Pecola is a victim of incest, and her experience is described graphically though not gratuitously or exploitatively. There are several other characters who experience verbal or physical violence (Pauline is a victim of domestic violence and most of the children in the book are beaten or verbally abused at some point).
Drug and Alcohol Content
No drug use. A character named Cholly drinks alcohol to excess and becomes violent. Other characters drink alcohol recreationally.
This book is heavily sexual. I would argue that the sexuality in this book is always tied to a deeper theme (love, misery, power, control, identity, etc), and is not in the book simply for shock value. Sexual content includes but is not limited to incest, pedophilia, a graphic description of one married woman’s distaste for intercourse with her husband, an odd description of the same woman’s affinity for masturbating with a pet in her lap, and a graphic flashback in which Pauline recalls when intercourse with her husband was pleasurable.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
This book contains several racist epithets.
Arguably one of Morrison’s most accessible books, The Bluest Eye is a deeply disturbing story that is best read with other people who are willing to thoroughly discuss and explore the book’s message with you. It is definitely not an entertaining or escapist piece of fiction. However, it rewards a careful reader with many thought provoking questions and meditations on meaningful issues like racism, relationships (all types), social responsibility, love, the nature of beauty, and identity.