Portrait of a Victim: Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
Bryan D. Bourn
The Bluest Eye (1970) is the novel that launched Toni Morrison into the spotlight as a talented African-American writer and social critic. Morrison herself says "It would be a mistake to assume that writers are disconnected from social issues" (Leflore). Because Morrison is more willing than most authors to discuss meaning in her books, a genetic approach is very relevant. To be truly effective, though, the genetic approach must be combined with a formal approach. The formal approach allows the unpacking of the rich language, imagery, and metaphors of Morrison's writing, and the genetic places it in the larger context of her social consciousness. In The Bluest Eye, Morrison's uses her critical eye to reveal to the reader the evil that is caused by a society that is indoctrinated by the inherent goodness and beauty of whiteness and the ugliness of blackness. In an interview with Milwaukee Journal staff writer Fannie Leflore, Morrison said that she "confronted and critiqued the devastation of racial images" in The Bluest Eye. The narrative structure of The Bluest Eye is important in revealing just how pervasive and destructive the "racialization" (Morrison's term for the racism that is a part of every person's socialization) is (Leflore). Morrison is particularly concerned about the narration in her novels. She says, "People crave narration . . . That's the way they learn things" (Bakerman 58). Narration in The Bluest Eye comes from several sources. Much of the narration comes from Claudia MacTeer as a nine year old child, but Morrison also gives the reader the benefit of Claudia reflecting on the story as an adult, some first person narration from Pecola's mother, and narration by Morrison herself as an omniscient narrator. Morrison says, "First I wrote it [the section in The Bluest Eye about Pecola's mother] out as an I' story, but it didn't work . . . Then I wrote it out as a she'...
Cited: Bakerman, Jane. "The Seams Can 't Show: An Interview with Toni Morrison." Black American Literature Forum. 12 (1978): 56-60.
Dittmar, Linda. " 'Will the Circle be Unbroken? ' The Politics of Form in The Bluest Eye." Novel. 23.2 (Winter 1990): 137-55.
Leflore, Fannie, "Author Morrison uses fiction to challenge prevailing images," Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal, October 20, 1990 (located in NewsBank [Microform], Names In News, 1990, 290:E1, fiche). *
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Washington Square Press-Pocket Books, 1970.
Stepto, Robert B. " 'Intimate Things In Place ': A Conversation with Toni Morrison." Massachusetts Review. 18 (1977):
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