A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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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.
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