The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.

"You can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. BelovedSong of Solomon, The Bluest EyeSula, everything else — they're transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them."--Barack Obama

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307386588
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/24/2007
Series: Vintage International
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,429
File size: 881 KB

About the Author

Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019.

Hometown:

Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan

Date of Birth:

February 18, 1931

Date of Death:

August 5, 2019

Place of Birth:

Lorain, Ohio

Place of Death:

New York

Education:

Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

Nuns go by as quiet as lust, and drunken men and sober eyes sing in the lobby of the Greek hotel. Rosemary Villanucci, our next-door friend who lives above her father's cafe, sits in a 1939 Buick eating bread and butter. She rolls down the window to tell my sister Frieda and me that we can't come in. We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more than that wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth. When she comes out of the car we will beat her up, make red marks on her white skin, and she will cry and ask us do we want her to pull her pants down. We will say no. We don't know what we should feel or do if she does, but whenever she asks us, we know she is offering us something precious and that our own pride must be asserted by refusing to accept.


School has started, and Frieda and I get new brown stockings and cod-liver oil. Grown-ups talk in tired, edgy voices about Zick's Coal Company and take us along in the evening to the railroad tracks where we fill burlap sacks with the tiny pieces of coal lying about. Later we walk home, glancing back to see the great carloads of slag being dumped, red hot and smoking, into the ravine that skirts the steel mill. The dying fire lights the sky with a dull orange glow. Frieda and I lag behind, staring at the patch of color surrounded by black. It is impossible not to feel a shiver when our feet leave the gravel path and sink into the dead grass in the field.


Our house is old, cold, and green. At night a kerosene lamp lights one large room. The others are braced in darkness, peopled by roaches and mice. Adults do not talk to us -- they give us directions. They issue orders without providing information. When we trip and fall down they glance at us; if we cut or bruise ourselves, they ask us are we crazy. When we catch colds, they shake their heads in disgust at our lack of consideration. How, they ask us, do you expect anybody to get anything done if you all are sick? We cannot answer them. Our illness is treated with contempt, foul Black Draught, and castor oil that blunts our minds.


When, on a day after a trip to collect coal, I cough once, loudly, through bronchial tubes already packed tight with phlegm, my mother frowns. "Great Jesus. Get on in that bed. How many times do I have to tell you to wear something on your head? You must be the biggest fool in this town. Frieda? Get some rags and stuff that window."


Frieda restuffs the window. I trudge off to bed, full of guilt and self-pity. I lie down in my underwear, the metal in the black garters hurts my legs, but I do not take them off, because it is too cold to lie stockingless. It takes a long time for my body to heat its place in the bed. Once I have generated a silhouette of warmth, I dare not move, for there is a cold place one-half inch in any direction. No one speaks to me or asks how I feel. In an hour or two my mother comes. Her hands are large and rough, and when she rubs the Vicks salve on my chest, I am rigid with pain. She takes two fingers' full of it at a time, and massages my chest until I am faint. Just when I think I will tip over into a scream, she scoops out a little of the salve on her forefinger and puts it in my mouth, telling me to swallow. A hot flannel is wrapped about my neck and chest. I am covered up with heavy quilts and ordered to sweat, which I do, promptly.


Later I throw up, and my mother says, "What did you puke on the bed clothes for? Don't you have sense enough to hold your head out the bed? Now, look what you did. You think I got time for nothing but washing up your puke?"


The puke swaddles down the pillow onto the sheet -- green-gray, with flecks of orange. It moves like the insides of an uncooked egg. Stubbornly clinging to its own mass, refusing to break up and be removed. How, I wonder, can it be so neat and nasty at the same time?


My mother's voice drones on. She is not talking to me. She is talking to the puke, but she is calling it my name: Claudia. She wipes it up as best she can and puts a scratchy towel over the large wet place. I lie down again. The rags have fallen from the window crack, and the air is cold. I dare not call her back and am reluctant to leave my warmth. My mother's anger humiliates me; her words chafe my cheeks, and I am crying. I do not know that she is not angry at me, but at my sickness. I believe she despises my weakness for letting the sickness "take holt." By and by I will not get sick; I will refuse to. But for now I am crying. I know I am making more snot, but I can't stop.


My sister comes in. Her eyes are full of sorrow. She sings to me: "When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls, someone thinks of me. . . ." I doze, thinking of plums, walls, and "someone."


But was it really like that? As painful as I remember? Only mildly. Or rather, it was a productive and fructifying pain. Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window. I could smell it -- taste it -- sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base -- everywhere in that house. It stuck, along with my tongue, to the frosted windowpanes. It coated my chest, along with the salve, and when the flannel came undone in my sleep, the clear, sharp curves of air outlined its presence on my throat. And in the night, when my coughing was dry and tough, feet padded into the room, hands repinned the flannel, readjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead. So when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die.

Table of Contents

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The Bluest Eye (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 396 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great piece in American literature. What I'm having a difficult time with is why there are so many young 'adults' complaining about the violent/graphic nature of the book. It amazes me that a fantastic, socially concious piece of literature, is considered to be offensive for being sexually graphic, especially when our culture is saturated with sex and violence. What bothers me, even more than critically unjustifiable opinions, is that teens are completely caught off guard by sexual and violent material that doesnt contain slap-stick humor and apple pies. This book may be 'graphic', but it isnt gratuitous. If you're focusing so much on the 'graphic' content, you've completely missed the point that Morrison was trying to make.
lesia_trayonna2012 More than 1 year ago
Toni Morrison's spectacular, mind blowing, phenomenal classic, is an eye opening realistic adventure about people who hoped and dreamed for something huge to change their life; something to make them bigger, better, stronger, more powerful, and above everybody else. This book was splendid. It was descriptive, and suspenseful. It tells the story of a young girl's inexhaustible journey to feel beautiful, her courage to want more than anybody else like her has ever had, and the will to do it at any cost. Little Pecola Breedlove's one and only marvel is to have blue eyes so she will be loved, not just any common blue eyes.the bluest. She comes from a broken family, her father is an alcoholic, her mother is distant, and her brother runs away often. Cholly, her father, never knew his mother or father, and was raised by an aunt until she died. He was found having sex for the first time by two white men and was greatly embarrassed. When he goes on a search for his father, he was frightened, for the man was greatly uncouth. Paulina, her mother, had an ugly foot due to stepping on a nail when she was younger, causing her to have a permanent limp. No person has every paid attention to her. Pecola's family is the talk of the town; people find their misery an entertaining story. Pecola believes she is ugly, and every one else thinks so to, and wants to be like Shirley Temple because she believes she is beautiful; beautiful because she has blue eyes. Pecola's father tried to burn their house down, so she temporarily visits her only friends Claudia and Frieda MacTeer. That is just the beginning for young Pecola, one day Cholly returns home and finds Pecola washing dishes and he rapes her; therefore Pecola becomes pregnant. Her mother does not believe that Cholly raped her and almost beats her to death. Nobody wants and/or expects her baby to live, nobody except Claudia and Frieda. Claudia and Frieda plant Marigolds, and if they grow Pecola will have her baby. During that time Pecola goes to see a man name Soaphead Church, he is known to work miracles; her only request is the bluest eyes. His only response is "'I am not a magician.' 'If He wants your wish is granted, He will do it.'". Toni Morrison has an interesting way of bringing out Pecola's role; she is very opinionated for instance she says "They fight this battle all the way to the grave. The laugh that is a little too loud; the enunciation a little too round; the gesture a little too serious." She was speaking of her neighbors, and she doesn't think they are the best looking and/or the best behaved people in the world. Which is surprisingly ironic, because neither is Pecola. Morrison is also very descriptive, even when simply describing a dog "The dog was mangy; his exhausted eyes ran with a sea-green matter around which gnats and flies clustered." And "The dog gagged, his mouth chomping the air, and promptly fell down. He tried to raise himself, could not, tried again and half-fell down the steps. Choking, stumbling, he moved like a broken toy around the yard." I highly recommend this book for anyone, not only does it touch basis with a lot of issues that occur to this very day, it tells a story; a story of how a young girl even yearns to be treasured, cared for, and to incorporate. A story of how anybody will passionately go after what they desire.
Nitzan More than 1 year ago
This is a short book but is very heavy. You cannot read through it in one sitting because the content of each chapter just hits you in the gut. It is defiantly not a light read but is very touching. Great for book clubs because there is so much to talk about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a long time ago when i was younger and i couldnt put it down. The story is so deep and it really pulls at your heart strings. The main little girl is such a sad character and you find yourself wondering why yet understanding why she wants things to be different so badly. Toni Morrison is a wonderful author and this book was not only well written but also a sad, touching and beautiful novel that should be bought, read, and shared
danzchikk18 More than 1 year ago
The Bluest Eye was a fantastic portrayal of what life was like for black children growing up, as well as families in poverty, and how abuse can affect so many people. It used multiple characters to explain the differences in lifestyle and personalities, and it used different seasons to describe the changes the family as well as the world around them begins to change. Although this is a controversial book because of the incest, rape, and child molestation, I think the author chose to include these as important aspects of the story as a representation of the pain and horrific suffering of Pecola as she grows up in a rough homelife. In addition, I think Ms. Morrison chose to write this book to symbolize the common lifestyle during the Great Depression, and the poverty and struggled features that accompanied the tragic times. She also wanted to prove that segregation was wrong and no race should dominate, and she showed this in a unique way by explaining through Pecola that "blue eyes and white faces" would make one pure and superior to all others. In this sense, I think "The Bluest Eye" is an excellent title choice, because this is basically what the novel is all about. (Race, Sacrifice, Dreams) I think the ending was very interesting, because Claudia and Freida use the marigolds in hopes that Pecola's baby will survive. This, like many other factors, contribute to the theme of beauty in the story, such as the "Dick and Jane" excerpts, (a white, happy family in a perfect world) the white porcelain doll and the Shirley Temple cup for Pecola, and the obvious favoritism that follows the light-skinned in the community. It was a good way to sum up the themes and main ideas found in the novel, as well as the characters' lives after one full year. The most exciting part of the book for me was definitely the part where Freida and Claudia stand up for Pecola while Maureen Peal is tormenting her for seeing her father naked. Before this point in the story, the two girls did not have too much to do with Pecola, she was just another child her parents took in kindheartedly. However, they really felt bad for Pecola, as well as hate and jealously towards Maureen, so they stand united and proceed to put up a fight. This was also probably the most interesting part of the book, because of the MacTeer girls' change in attitude. The style of Toni Morrison as seen in the novel is quite engaging, because she does not just give the reader answers, she rather leads the reader to make his or her own conclusions. I loved the way she used literary elements, mostly comparisons and themes, as well as the relationships and changes found in the characters. "The Bluest Eye" was an excellent way to see into the lives of a typical family during the Great Depression, and I would love to read more of her works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bluest Eye is a book about a girl named Pecola who is mocked by other children because she feels that she is ugly. She prays everyday for blue eyes because she believes that it will make her beautiful. The reason why she believes so is because when she was young for Christmas she, Claudia, and Frieda were given white toy dolls with curly hair and blue eyes. She always drank out of a Shirley Temple cup. Hearing everyone talk about Shirley and how cute she is made her believe that its the bIue eyes that makes her cute. Since she doesn't have this, she concludes that she is ugly which makes her pray for this. I think that this book is very well written. Toni Morrison makes the story in a way that you can make connections to your own life. The story makes you really think about what we think about race and class even if you don't want to admit it. While this story sounds like a very beautiful story, the violent rape of Pecola is the climax of the story. In the story, the characters seem to believe that white skin is beauty and purity. The themes in the story are innocence, madness, stereotypes and unconventional families. Toni Morrison writes this book with so much truthfulness and emotions that the book becomes poetry. Morrison also makes you realize the way you think about/of stereotypes even if you don't want to. I believe that Toni Morrison has written this book from some of her own history and background. What she believes herself or experienced, I think, were tied into The Bluest Eye.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this novel and write an essay about it, and at first, I thought, 'What a drag! Anything on a summer reading list should really stink.' I was quickly proved incorrect! As Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye delves into some of the most serious topics surrounding our society. At first it was a little hard to understand, but I read it a second time in 5 days because it was so good! It does have some graphic scenes, so I do not recommend reading it for anyone under my age, unless it is a required read. Don't give this book a second thought: READ IT!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book several times. I will read it many more times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The varying perspectives were interesting; although, reading from the point of view of a child molester was disturbing. I am not sure why this frequently appears on high school reading lists, for it is a mature read. If a reader enjoys this novel, I suggest the powerful Beloved: reading it haunted me for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An extrraordinary work of fiction!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a tough read. It was my first book to read on the nook. I wanted to read this book because of the author's status, but was not what I expected. I wonder if it was difficult to read because it was on the nook and I could not flip back the pages to re read as easily as a regular book.
Nisha Washington More than 1 year ago
great book, very moving, pecola is a character you don't have to feel sorry for, but one everyone can relate to.
Michelle Johnson More than 1 year ago
perhaps one of the best authors of all time. This book gives a great introspective look on how African American viewed themselves after slavery.
km2692 More than 1 year ago
Nine-year-old Claudia and ten-year-old Frieda MacTeer live in Ohio with their hard working parents. Like most families during the time of the Great Depression, the girls' parents are struggling making ends meet. A young girl named Pecola is taken in by the MacTeer family because her father tried to burn down her house and he is sexually abusive. The more Claudia and Frieda spend time with Pecola, the more they begin to realize that she is obsessed with what society thinks of her, and deeply wishes that she had blue eyes like Shirley Temple. Pecola moves back in with her family, only to face mistreatment not only by her parents, but by children at school and adults in her neighborhood. Pecola's obsession with whiteness worsens, causing her to go insane and actually believe that she has the bluest eyes in the world. Claudia MacTeer is the narrator during certain parts of the novel. She does not care about judgment made about her because of her skin color. Claudia is a stubborn girl and rarely follows rules set in place by adults because she doesn't believe that adults should have control of children. Her sister Frieda is the opposite and is concerned about what other people think about her race. Frieda is aware of the realities of the society. Pecola Breedlove has low self-esteem and a lot of self-hatred built up inside her. Pecola is always thinking about being someone else, showing clearly that she wishes she could change who she was. Pecola's father, Cholly Breedlove, is obviously an awful person for the things he did to his daughter. He is completely self-absorbed and inflicts a lot of heartache on people he's close to constantly. Cholly is vulnerable because of his childhood. We ultimately learn that he has been through a lot of suffering himself. "It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights-if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different." This quote is said by Claudia MacTeer, in chapter three of the "Autumn" section in the novel. I chose these lines because they express what the novel is mainly about. Claudia explains Pecola's struggle with self confidence. This quote shows Pecola's obsession with blue eyes, and how much she hates being herself. When Claudia says "those eyes that held the pictures and knew the sights", it really emphasizes that Pecola wishes her eyes, the parts of her that allow her to see the world around her, were different. I do not agree that people should feel less about themselves just because of the color of their skin or the color of their eyes. I like the way Tori Morrison wrote the book because she put the characters through strenuous situations, but made them all learn from them. Some people in the world can relate to the struggles, but thankfully I personally cannot. People have to deal with the hardships on a daily basis, making Morrison's novel come to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MMiller While reading Toni Morrison's novel, THE BLUEST EYE, I was puzzled by the simple statement: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty has become something that seems everyone strives for. Beauty should not be characterized by what people are told it is, beauty is different for everyone, what is beautiful for you may be ugly to someone else. On an autumn morning in 1939, school has just started. While walking to school Claudia and Frieda MacTeer are harassed by their white neighbor. The little white girl is in her dad's car and shows the sisters the delicious food she is eating. Taunting is something the girls are used to so they keep walking. The MacTeers are getting a new boarder, Henry Washington. They will also be joined by Pecola Breedlove. She is temporarily in county custody because her father burned down the family's house. She is pitied because her father put his family on the streets. Claudia is confused on why everyone is in love with blue-eyed blonde baby dolls. She hates the one she received for Christmas. As the title indicates, this is a major issue in this novel. Claudia even goes as far as to take the baby doll apart to find where the beauty is located. Throughout the book, Morrison's characters pull themselves apart to try to find the beauty in their dark skin. The chapters in the story are broken up by seasons. Because the book is only about a year long, Morrison's work is really audience friendly. There is always something that one can relate to. There are friend issues, family issues, and image issues. Because there are characters of all ages and colors, the variety compliments each one of them. There are many twists in the novel. For example, in chapter 5 the girls meet Junior. He comes from a middle-class black family. The girls were in shock because it wasn't everyday they saw a well-off black family. We come to find out that Junior's mom only cares for the cat and he strikes out. He bullies kids on the playground and tricks Pecola into his home and killed the cat to make it look like Pecola did it. Ultimately, THE BLUEST EYE is a story of great power and courage. The beginning of the novel is really able to draw the reader's attengion. Some parts in the middle, some might say, are a little more on the "dry" side. I believe the readers who read the whole book will be very glad they did. Morrison makes her audience feel as though they are all powerful human beings. Morrison's words and characters give hope to anyone who winds up reading the novel-despite the troubles that her character's find throughout the whole book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pecola Breedlove prays for blue eyes. As the main character and hapless victim in The Bluest Eye, Pecola is the heart, soul, and tragedy of the novel. Set during the early 1940's, The Bluest Eye is rich in language and has deep roots in symbolism. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, creates a powerful portrayal of a young African American girl who's desires often end in tragedy. Living in a society that sets the white culture on a pedestal only to leave the rest of society feeling forgotten, Pecola feels that she is very unattractive, and wishes to look like the towheaded, blue-eyed, porcelain skin babydolls she receives for Christmas. Obviously however, no matter how hard she prays, she doesn't get the blue eyes she so hopefully wishes for. Although Pecola's story is intricately weaved among other characters, each character gives their own meaning to Morrison's main message, which is that internalized racism destroys the spirit of the most vulnerable of victims, because when one internalizes external racism rather than rising above it, they lose their sense of self. The message also revolves around the pressure that society places on girls to be beautiful. Many of the events of this novel are often almost too hard to face head on the countless misfortunes Pecola must endure seem too harsh at times. Although not a light read, The Bluest Eye is a deeply significant and touching story of a young girl who takes too long to realize her true beauty, which ultimately results in her downfall.
Anonymous 14 days ago
This+book+moved+me+to+tears.+I+recommend+it+to+any+reader+out+there.+It+makes+you+reflect+heavily+on+your+own+upbringing+and+mannerisms.+Thought+provoking+and+wholly+well+written.
LeeHallison on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this many years ago and it is one of the books I have never forgotten. The story is intense, the main character someone you will hold in your heart forever. It is hard to imagine, but there are people in this world with lives like hers.
novelcommentary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After I read a book by Toni Morrison I feel like I should not read anything else until I have read everthing she has done. There is more to admire in each sentence of hers than in entire novels I have read. This was her first novel and I would love to quickly jump to A Mercy - her last novel -- to get an interestng perspective. The story is wonderfully written and certainly this author deserves all the accolades that have been bestowed. It is an important book and must of been even more so as it hit the shelves back in the 70's and soon became one of the most controversial of stories. My edition contained an afterward which aslo adds some interesting perspective to the story as Morrison humbly desctribes what she feels she was unable to do. What she was able to do was depict the lives of 3 teenage girls in Lorain Ohio just before the start of WWII. Basically the story illustrates the racial self loathing that was prevenent for the lives of these girls, (Claudia, Freida, and Pecola) -where Shirley Temple is idolized, white dolls are given as precious presents, and beauty is determined by the lightness of your skin and the blueness of your eyes. Claudia partially narrates the story of Pecola, a girl who suffers one of the worst lives depicted in literature. She is considered ugly, sexually abused by her father, beaten by her mother ,and tricked by a pedophile into believing that she could have blue eyes. It is only through her madness, her escape from life, that she is able to have her wish. Morrison, in 3rd person narration, also detailed the facts behind Pecola¿s tragic existence by providing the histories of a father who was abandoned at birth and a mother who jumped at the first man who showed an interest. A quote form the NY Times nicely summarizes: "I have said "poetry." But "The Bluest Eye" is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music. It is one thing to state that we have institutionalized waste, that children suffocate under mountains of merchandised lies. It is another thing to demonstrate that waste, to re-create those children, to live and die by it. Miss Morrison's angry sadness overwhelms. "
HankIII on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Actually, this wasn't a bad book; well-written; however, when reading it, there was always the sense of impending doom as if it wasn't any surprise about the outcome of Pecota. I finally had to end it; just wasn't in the mood for this one.
knithappened on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is award-winning writer Toni Morrison's first novel and my edition had an interesting afterward by her dated 30 years after she first wrote the book. It was a thought-provoking reflection on how she viewed what she tried to accomplish then and relative to now. The story is told, for the most part, from the point of view of a pre-teen girl and cleverly divided into seasons. I originally read the book when it was one of Oprah's selections about 8 or 9 years ago so I always find it interesting to re-read a book at a different stage in life. However, both times I felt anger that the adults allowed Pecola Breedlove to endure what she did in her life. She was made to feel 'ugly' inside and out and the only way that she thought that she could get her life back in order was the simple wish for the unnatural blue eyes.
mysteena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aside from being on the 1001 list, this book also peaked my interest when I noticed it on the ALA's most challenged books list. After reading the book, I completely understand why it's been challenged. It has some very graphic and disturbing themes dealing with young girls. However, the idea the book explores is fascinating and would not be complete with out the disturbing elements. The story probes into the world of a young black girl who wishes she had blue eyes. She has come to believe that she's inherently ugly because of her race. However, the story doesn't dwell specifically on her. Each chapter tells about a different person in this girls life, the damage they've inflicted upon her and why they are the way they are. It's a unique narrative and interesting to read. Still, I don't know if I'm willing to recommend it to any of my friends because it is such a heavy and disturbing read. I takes a certain willingness to face an ugly reality that some of us may just prefer to ignore.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I teach this every year in my U. S. Literature class. It's an amazing and accessible introduction to contemporary surrealism. It is also intensely disturbing. Be warned, this book contains a graphic rape scene involving a very young girl.
RachelPenso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very sad story about a little black girl named Pecola who desperately longs for blue eyes so she can be beautiful.
thorold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even without Morrison's deprecatory afterword, I think this is a book you can't read without getting the idea that it is a first novel written in the 1960s. The author is so obviously feeling towards a way of expressing what she feels about race, gender, and the preconceptions people have about them. Different ways of telling the story are being tried out against each other, there are different, almost conflicting, styles and systems of images in play. It's a workshop, but with hindsight, knowing the vast influence Morrison has had since, you feel privileged to be looking over her shoulder as she builds something. A slightly awkward feature is the way she links every bad action by one of the black characters to some specific injustice committed by a white person, as though the black characters have no free agency or responsibility themselves, but are doomed to go on raping their daughters, massacring their pets, and beating their wives whether they like it or not, until the whites choose to let them stop. I'm sure that wasn't what Morrison intended to convey.You have to remember that there was hardly anyone doing this sort of thing forty years ago, and that she really is hammering out a new kind of literature. You can keep an open mind on whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, of course: giving black women a literary voice is clearly good and necessary, but there is also a case for blaming Morrison and her colleagues for the parasitic growth of the American sob-memoir industry.For those who follow such things, the book scores a very respectable 1.5 on the Kate Atkinson Dead Dog Scale (cats count half, as you may remember)