The Bluest Eye
By Barbara Schultz,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Deeply poetic novel explores racial and sexual feelings.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Bluest Eye reveals some details about the complexities of race relations in the American South and Midwest around 1941: the types of jobs available to African Americans, children's school and life experiences, class divisions, and the way popular culture (movies in particular) reflected or reinforced the then-current idea of white beauty. Some facts about menstruation are also presented, but most young people who read The Bluest Eye should be old enough to have their own understanding about beginning sexuality by the time they read this novel.
Toni Morrison's first novel deeply investigates ideas of sexuality, loss, and physical beauty. By shining a light on the hurt and self loathing of the young African American character Pecola Breedlove, the author asks readers to examine their own ideas about superficial appearances, and to see how much all children deserve love and protection.
Positive Role Models
Frieda and Claudia's parents are harsh with their daughters about all sorts of things, but when a man harms one of the girls, the parents come to her aid and drive the perpetrator away with a vengeance. They also take Pecola in for a brief period when her family is in crisis.
Violence & Scariness
The most disturbing violence in the novel is the rape of an 11-year-old girl. Graphic descriptions of it include the thoughts of the child molester, who sees the act as loving. Claudia and Frieda's mother hits them when she is angry. Their father chases a man with a shotgun. In the Breedlove household, Polly and Cholly physically fight often, and Cholly is said to have set fire to their home. A boy abuses and mortally injures a pet. Claudia is an angry kid who resents the idea that white or mixed-race kids are considered prettier or better than black kids; she describes attacking a couple of other kids and feelings of violent anger toward light-skinned kids.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are numerous descriptions of sexual feelings and events in The Bluest Eye. Mr. Henry interacts with two prostitutes. A boy's mother is described as having an aversion to sex; her sexual interactions with her husband are reserved and obligatory. Three prostitutes, who live in the flat above the Breedloves, engage in bawdy talk in front of Pecola. In the Breedlove household, Polly's sexual experiences with her husband are described somewhat poetically, where colors represent strong feelings of desire and enjoyment. However, we learn that Cholly's feelings about sex have been affected by a disturbing first sexual experience. A man turns out to be a pedophile.
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There's a fair amount of profane, rude and cruel language: "f--k," "bitch," "p---y," "t-t," the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cholly is a known drunk and becomes violent when he drinks.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Bluest Eye is the first novel by the late Nobel-prize winning author Toni Morrison, originally published in 1970. Set in 1941 Ohio, the book is a complex investigation of ideas of physical beauty among blacks and whites, and the ways racial attitudes, and other life experiences, damage the lives of these characters. Pecola Breedlove's self-hatred, and her wish for blue eyes, is an outgrowth of the way she's treated by her family and the world in which she lives. Sexual behavior is also very complicated in this novel. Sex acts and feelings between adults are described, and more than one grown man behaves inappropriately with young girls. There is also incest and domestic violence, including the rape of an 11-year-old girl. Teen readers may need some adult guidance to understand the world of the novel, in which many characters seem driven by emotional and sexual feelings they can't control. Because of the book's edgy content, there have been efforts to ban it from schools and libraries.
Where to Read
Based on 11 parent reviews
An important book in the pantheon of great American literature
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Common sense book for any US literature class
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What's the Story?
In THE BLUEST EYE, two preteen sisters, Frieda and Claudia MacTeer, live with their parents in Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. MacTeer take on a lodger, whom the girls call Mr. Henry, and for a brief period they take in a quiet, unhappy 11-year-old classmate of Frieda and Claudia's named Pecola Breedlove. The girls befriend Pecola, who comes from a very troubled household; her father, Cholly, is often drunk, and he and her mother, Polly, fight physically and verbally. Pecola considers herself ugly and unworthy of love, and believes that if only she could have blue eyes, she would be pretty and happy. Readers learn the life events that have shaped Polly and Cholly, led them to marry, and led them ultimately to their unfortunate state.
Is It Any Good?
This is a poetic and complex investigation of racial, personal, and sexual feelings. The doomed characters in The Bluest Eye are both beautifully realized as individual characters and richly representative of the concepts Toni Morrison explores with her story. As the point of view shifts from character to character, the reader comes to understand what drives them, and will be deeply engaged in their experiences and moved by their fates.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Pecola's wish for blue eyes. Why does she think having blue eyes will change her life?
Why are Cholly's feelings about sexuality bound up with anger?
Why does Claudia feel rage toward Shirley Temple, toward Rosemary and Maureen?
- Author: Toni Morrison
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date: January 1, 1970
- Number of pages: 224
- Last updated: June 11, 2015
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Where to Read
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