Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Bluest Eye Syndrome

N.B. This post is mainly a regurgitation of the comment I made on Lotus Reads' blog. Enjoy!

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is a profoundly harrowing novel. I experienced a myriad of emotions while reading it, and none of these emotions were positive. The novel is well written, with the sentences spoken with concerned detachment—almost as if to prevent the narrator from wallowing in a pool of her own tears.

I like that the novel is broken up, so that the reader is forced to make a whole picture on his or her own, and I think that this is what makes the book so deeply affecting—that is, the reader takes part in the story’s life and meaning.

Racism is, of course, one of the major topics in this book. In the book, a lot of the misery of the racism the blacks feel is absorbed into the fabric of “black life.” Consequently, blacks attack their fellow blacks for their blackness—almost as if, by so doing, they rid themselves of their blackness. It is like when the boys mock Pecola, saying, “black e mo black e mo Ya daddy sleeps nekked,” even though they are also black and their dads probably sleep naked as well.

One of the take home messages from this book is summarized by the narrator’s words about Pecola and the community, which goes: “all of us—all who knew her—felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. … Even her waking dreams we used—to silence our own nightmares. …We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty, and yawned in the fantasy of our strength.” Every person that Pecola meets has an opportunity to help her, to show her how to reevaluate her concept of beauty. Instead, almost all of the people dump their filth, their ugliness, and their insecurities on her, and they make these things grow in her. In the end, the whole community is infinitely worse off, because she is still a part of them, still growing within them.

Many of us probably have a Pecola walking around. We need to examine what roles we play in such a person’s life, and we need to attempt to help. Are we part of the solution? If the answer is no, then we are part of the problem. While it is true that people have to handle their own lives, it is also true that a person’s life is a compilation of his or her experiences with others.

For Pecola, the sad thing is that when she does get her blue eyes (or thinks she does), the magical power that she imagines they would have over people is missing. In her dialogue with herself, the self with brown eyes, she expresses her fear that her eyes are not “blue enough.” Sometimes, we chase after certain things, thinking that having them would make us feel happy, satisfied, or loved. Then we get these things and then find out they are still inadequate. The problem is not the things we should have or the things we do not have. The problem is needing to have those things in order to prove our worth. We get certain implicit (and sometimes explicit) messages about what will make us valuable. Ultimately, we need to seek the presence of those who will allow us to be ourselves, even amidst the great pressure to be something else. We need to be part of other people’s lives and vice versa. If this does not happen, the result is populations of people with severe psychological problems that can lead to artificially short lives.

2 Comments:

At 3/11/06 1:25 AM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

I'm more then happy with the way I've turned out, Rose.
First, one has to be sure of oneself.
Then the right people come.
Still, this proved an interesting read.
Thank you for sharing.

 
At 3/11/06 7:29 AM, Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Rosemary

I was thrilled to discover this post! "The Bluest Eye" remains one of my favorite books, a book I would like to share with my daughters and one that I would hope they will share with theirs, for there are so many lessons to be learned from tragic Pecola's life. Also, the language is so beautiful, I literally had to stop every couple of pages to just savor Toni Morrison's writing.

Would you mind if I placed a link to this post on my review for 'Bluest Eye'?

 

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