The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison Summary and Analysis of Prologue and Autumn The Bluest Eye opens with two short untitled and unnumbered sections. The first section is a version of the classic Dick and Jane stories found in grade school reading primers. There is a pretty house, Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, a cat, a dog, and, at the end, a friend for Jane to play with. The same story appears three times in succession, repeated verbatim each time. The first time the text appears with full punctuation and normal spacing. The second time the same story appears without any punctuation or capitalization, but with a space between each of the words.
The third time the text has no capitalization, no punctuation, and no spaces between the words. The second section is a short passage narrated by Claudia MacTeer. Claudia tells us that “quiet as it’s kept,” in the fall of 1941, when she was a young girl, no marigolds bloomed. She reveals that at the time she and her sister Frieda thought the marigolds did not bloom because Pecola was having her father’s baby. The marigolds planted by Claudia and Frieda never grow, and for years Claudia thought that her sister was right in blaming her, because she was the one who planted the seeds too deep in the earth.
But now, the narrator wonders if perhaps it was the earth itself that was barren. Claudia connects the earth to Pecola, saying that just as the MacTeer daughters put seeds into their plot of black dirt, Pecola’s father dropped his seeds in his plot of black dirt. Now, with the flowers and the baby dead, only Pecola and the barren earth are left. The prelude closes by wondering about the source of Pecola’s tragedy: “There is really nothing more to say‹except why. But since why is difficult to handled, one must take refuge in how. ” Analysis:
The passage from the Dick and Jane reader puts forward a representation of idealized white middle class life. Although the race of the Dick and Jane family is never specified in the text, the pictures in the readers have always depicted rosy-cheeked and smiling white people. The house is pretty, the mother is gracious, the father big, strong, and kind: the story stands in sharp contrast to Pecola’s life. The idealized and white world of the Dick and Jane story could not be farther from the truth for Pecola. Morrison’s repetition of the story, each repetition less readable than the previous one, can be read in different ways.
The second and third version of the story take away the punctuation and then the spacing, turning the story into gibberish‹just as the story, in terms of Pecola’s life, is so far removed from reality that it becomes nonsense. Morrison, in a sense, is speeding up the machinery of the Dick and Jane story to show how it does not work, how it degenerates into meaninglessness under any kind of scrutiny. But in the descent into senselessness, it also parallels Pecola’s descent into madness. Each repetition, through its form, speeds up the pace at which it must be read.
Readers tend to go through the final repetition in a barely comprehended rush. Pecola clings to the standards of the white world, all the way to the end, even as her sanity deteriorates. So these representations of idealized white life, even when they can no longer be read in a normal way, hammer the reader in the same way that they hammer Pecola. Her madness is not an escape from the idealized forms of white life; in her madness, she feels most fully the force of white constructions of beauty, even as the normal flow of human interaction and language cease to have meaning for her.
Bits of this Dick and Jane story are used to name the sections of the novel about Pecola and her family; these are also the same sections not narrated by Claudia MacTeer. This makes the contrast between the idealized world of the Dick and Jane story and Pecola’s life explicit and readily apparent. In the second section of the prelude, we hear Claudia’s narrative voice for the first time. The opening four words of Claudia’s narrative are important, remarked upon by readers and Morrison herself: “quiet as it’s kept” grounds the act of storytelling in a world of gossip, of talk between women, of secrets shared.
The words create a sense of intimacy between the reader and the story, and the expression itself is a common phrase used by the black women of Morrison’s childhood. Morrison is using spoken Black-American English to enrich America’s literary language; here, specifically, the reader is being invited to learn about Pecola’s tragedy, and the opening four words indicate that the story is both little-known and important enough to share. The voice is that of the adult Claudia, and she lets the reader know from the beginning that in the course of the novel Pecola will be impregnated by her own father.
The story of Pecola’s tragedy, as in Greek tragedy, is known by the reader from the beginning. The power of the story will not come from the surprise. Claudia’s opening remarks structure the novel so that the reader knows beforehand some basic plot elements and can concentrate on the questions Claudia wants answered‹since “why” is far too difficult to handle, the novel will attempt to ask “how,” examining Pecola’s life and the impact of social constructions and the role that these forces had in her tragedy.
There is a deep determinism in the description of the land‹by suggesting that the soil itself might have been barren, and connecting that soil to Pecola’s tragedy, Claudia is suggesting that individual agency was not a factor in the failure of the marigolds to grow (and the failure of Pecola to grow up healthily). The land itself made growth impossible, just as social and situational forces made Pecola’s growth impossible. The year 1941 is significant, as it is the year that the United States entered the Second World War.
The Nazi regime is used implicitly as a background for the events of the novel‹more will be said on that in the analysis of the first section of “Autumn. ” “Autumn”: first section Summary: Nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer, one of the narrators of the novel, describes her home life and some of the significant events of the fall of 1939. America is still reeling from the Great Depression, and Claudia’s family is struggling through hard times, although they are better off than many blacks. The MacTeers have their own small house, and the family is poor but loving.
This love, however, does not take the form of indulgence for Claudia or her older sister, ten-year-old Frieda. When Claudia becomes sick, her illness is treated with a mixture of concern and anger. Her mother scolds her harshly and complains about having to clean up her vomit, but at the same time Mrs. MacTeer makes sure that Claudia is in bed, gives Claudia medicine, and checks up on her throughout the night. Two significant visitors come to stay at the MacTeer house that fall: Mr. Henry, a rent-paying boarder, and Pecola Breedlove, a girl who has been temporarily taken into custody by the state.
Mr. Henry is a middle-aged man whose former landlady can no longer accommodate him. He is going to rent a room at the MacTeer house for five dollars every two weeks, a sum that will be a great aid to Claudia’s parents. On his arrival, he delights the girls by comparing them to white Hollywood actresses. The children’s immediate affection is obvious, but the description of Mr. Henry’s arrival ends on an ominous note: “Even after what came later, there was no bitterness in our memory of him. Pecola Breedlove comes to stay with the MacTeers until her family can sort out some of its problems: her father, Cholly Breedlove, has attacked her mother and has tried to burn down the house that the Breedloves were renting. Claudia describes the Breedloves’ situation with sympathy, because she has learned from adults that the supreme terror is that one might lose one’s home in these difficult times‹something folks call “being put outdoors. ” Townspeople have branded Cholly Breedlove as a no-good dog, because he has willingly put his family outdoors.
Pecola is a shy and unassuming girl, a year older than Frieda but perhaps slower and less mature than the MacTeer sisters, grateful for whatever kindness Claudia and Frieda give her. Pecola is particularly fond of drinking out of the MacTeer’s tiny blue-and-white Shirley Temple cup. Claudia takes a moment to explain that she despises Shirley Temple because Shirley danced with Bojangles, one of Claudia’s favorite performers; she also hates the blonde-haired, blue-eyed dolls that all other black girls treasure.
Claudia is fiercely jealous of the little white girls who draw affection and admiration from black adults more readily than any black girl can. The three girls are outside when Pecola realizes she is bleeding between her legs. Having been forced outside by Mrs. MacTeer’s bad mood, they resolve, under Frieda’s leadership, to try and take care of the problem themselves. Pecola is terrified, but Frieda assures both younger girls that she knows what’s happening: “That’s ministratin. ‘” A girl named Rosemary sees Frieda and Claudia trying to take care of Pecola’s problem.
She accuses the girls of “playing nasty” and runs to tattle on them to Mrs. MacTeer. An enraged Mrs. MacTeer comes outside and attacks the girls with a switch. The girls don’t have any time to explain, but after Frieda has received a quick whipping and Mrs. MacTeer turns on Pecola, the piece of cotton the girls had used to stop the blood falls to the ground. Mrs. MacTeer figures out what has happened. Sorrowful that she has misunderstood, she takes Frieda and Pecola into her arms. She leads the girls inside, and takes Pecola to the bathroom to talk with her and help her to get cleaned up.
That night, while the girls lie in bed, Pecola is awestruck because she has been told that the bleeding means she is now able to have a baby. She asks what she has to do to have one, and Frieda tells her that somebody has to love her. After a moment, Pecola asks how she can get someone to love her. But Frieda has fallen asleep, and Claudia doesn’t know the answer. Analysis: Although the beginning of the section is in the present tense, Claudia’s narrative is framed by an adult Claudia; that is to say, an older Claudia is looking back and remembering events from a perspective of greater maturity and reflection.
Morrison is able to use the mature wisdom of the adult Claudia’s narrative voice without sacrificing the child Claudia’s innocence and naivete, switching back and forth in her emphasis of one or the other. Hints of oral tradition are strong: the vital information about Mr. Henry’s arrival is related to the reader entirely through dialogue, in the form of a gossipy conversation between Mrs. MacTeer and another adult black woman. The exchange is almost pure dialogue, with very few “she said” markers to break the flow of the language.
The exchange illustrates Morrison’s preoccupation with black oral traditions and their translation into literary language: important information is revealed in this scene and the rhythm and beauty of the language show how women’s gossip can become a mode of narrative in its own right. The narrator describes the women’s gossip as a kind of beautiful dance, one that little girls cannot fully understand. Implicitly, the girls will come to understand the movements and rituals of this dance as they grow to womanhood. The circumstances surrounding Pecola’s first period are consistent with the vulnerability of her position.
Initially, the event is marked by misunderstanding and violence, as Rosemary screams out in self-righteous disgust and Mrs. MacTeer tries to whip the girls. Pecola is not even with her own mother when it happens; there is a real sense that Pecola cannot participate in traditions, or receive wisdom from previous generations, because her family life is so unhealthy. When her own body begins to change, she can only fear it. Her mother has not taken care to prepare her, in sharp contrast to Mrs. MacTeer, who has prepared Frieda.
We see here a glimpse of family tradition, of a mother teaching a daughter who one day will teach her own daughters; being cut off from these vital connections to family and lineage results in becoming alienated from one’s own body, as Pecola shrieks and cries at the sight of her own menstrual blood. Pecola is obviously unloved, as indicated by her question at the end of the section. Autumn of 1939, as the starting point for the novel’s events, is a significant choice. The European part of World War II began had just begun full force, and Morrison is implicitly using the Nazi regime as a distant background to the novel’s events.
Americans of 1939 treasure blonde hair and blue eyes in both dolls and little girls, but these features are also reflections of the Aryan ideal. Additionally, the cup that bears Shirley Temple’s image is blue and white, both racially marked colors for the eyes and skin of the Aryan ideal. By drawing this connection, Morrison imbues the American standard of beauty with connotations of violence and genocide. Claudia seems to sense the danger this aesthetic poses to her, and she reacts in kind.
Not only does she destroy the Caucasian dolls given to her as presents, but she also fantasizes about attacking living white girls. Her dismemberment of the dolls can be read in two ways: first, Claudia is frustrated by the society that cherishes pink skin and blue eyes and thus can never consider her, a black girl, to be truly beautiful. (Note that Mr. Henry delights the girls by comparing them to starlets who are white. ) Second, her dissection of the dolls is strangely scientific. She tries to see how they are put together, what makes their voices work, and what they look like inside.
This investigation of the dolls parallels the investigative work done by the novel, which, in its own words, attempts to discover how social forces have combined to produce Pecola’s tragedy. Both the act of destroying the dolls and the exploratory work of the novel are forms of inquiry, and the dissection of the dolls suggests that here learning and experience will come about partly through violence. Additionally, the image of the dolls destroyed by a black girl oddly inverts and foreshadows Pecola’s later psychological destruction, which happens partly because of a constructed white standard of beauty that Pecola cannot attain. Autumn”: second section, “HEREISTHEHOUSEITISGREENANDWHITEITHASAREDDOORITIS VERYPRETTYITISVERYPRETTYPRETTYPRETTYP” Summary: The omniscient third-person narrator describes the house where the Breedlove family once lived. The house is ugly and dilapidated, actually designed to be a store, and it passed through many hands after the Breedloves (gypsies, real estate office, Hungarian baker, pizza parlor), before the building was finally abandoned. The space is partitioned into two rooms by a flimsy wall: a small front room and a bedroom, where all of the Breedloves sleep.
There is a kitchen in the back and no bath facilities except for a toilet bowl. The bedroom has a coal stove for heat. The space is cold and alien: there are no fond memories connected to its physical parts. The narrator spends a bit of time talking about the sofa, and the way the fabric is split straight across the back‹years ago the sofa was purchased new, but the sofa split while being delivered, and the Breedloves still had to pay the full price. There is a bit of dialogue taken from the moment of that delivery, as Cholly Breedlove tries‹and fails‹to negotiate with the store manager.
The narrator goes on to say that the feeling from looking at the sofa poisons everything. The rip becomes something that spreads throughout the house, until all things are as battered and broken and uncared for as the sofa. The final words of the section are about the small coal stove, which is unreliable at all times except the morning‹when the fire always, without fail, dies. Analysis: The section heading juxtaposes the idealized white world with the sad living conditions of the Breedloves.
Most prominent in this section is the scarcity of love associated with this home‹unlike the MacTeer’s house, which is humble but not without love, the Breelove’s home is completely devoid of pleasant associations. The absence of love is an important theme of the novel. There is no effort to maintain the house, and the sofa brings memories of humiliation. Cholly negotiated with the store manager with “tightened testicles,” hinting at the kind of emasculation he feels throughout his life when dealing with white men. The coal stove indicates, both figuratively and literally, the absence of warmth in the Breedlove home.
The inconsistency of its heat parallels the inconsistency of the Breedlove parents in their affection for each other and for their children. The morning, which should be the most hopeful time of day and the time when it would be most pleasant to have warmth, is the coldest time of all. Pecola’s home is cold and incapable of nurturing her: it cannot provide warmth, pleasant memories, or a sense of pride in ownership or belonging. The Breedlove’s apartment is most often referred to not as the Breedlove’s home, but as the Breedlove’s storefront, reminding us of the type of building it was meant to be and the comfortable home that it can’t be. Autumn”: third section, “HEREISTHEFAMILYMOTHERFATHERDICKANDJANETHEYLIVEIN THEGREENANDWHITEHOUSETHEYAREVERYH” Summary: The third-person narrator of this section explains that the Breedloves lived in a storefront not only because of their poverty but also because of their ugliness, which comes from their own conviction that they are ugly. Cholly’s ugliness takes the form of action and behavior, but the ugliness is worn like a cloak by the others: Mrs. Breedlove uses her ugliness as part her self-conception of herself as a martyr, Sammy uses his as a weapon, and Pecola tries to hide behind it. On a Saturday morning in October, Mrs.
Breedlove and Cholly have a terrible fight. Cholly is hung over from the night before, and Mrs. Breedlove tries to get Cholly to fetch coal. The narrator explains that these horrible fights have a kind of ritualized regularity‹their patterns are predictable and set the rhythms of the Breedloves’ lives. The fight between Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove is brutal and brief. Cholly is knocked unconscious, and Mrs. Breedlove continues to go about her housekeeping. After the fight, the narrator’s focus returns to Pecola. She begs to be allowed to disappear, and, as she has learned to be able to do, can actually feel herself disappearing.
Her whole body fades away, in parts, except for the eyes. But the eyes, the narrator maintains, are everything, and so the disappearance is the failure. Pecola’s life is wretched: she is ignored by teachers, despised by classmates, neglected by her parents. Pecola has prayed for blue eyes every night for a year, believing that if her eyes were beautiful she would have friends, and her own parents might stop fighting. The narrative switches to present tense, in a long passage in which Pecola goes to buy candy from a grocery store.
She buys Mary Jane candies from a white shopkeeper who has little patience and less affection for her, and the mechanics of the gaze in this passage are very important for understanding the novel. Switching back into past tense, the narrative describes three prostitutes who live in the apartment above the Breedloves’ storefront. China, Marie, and Poland are three black prostitutes who let Pecola visit them and run errands for them. The same Saturday morning of the previously described fight between Mrs. Breedlove and Cholly, Pecola sits with the prostitutes as the three women get ready.
All three are past their prime and hate men with a vengeance. They are crass and unapologetic survivors, despised by the community at large. They, in turn, despise the community right back. Analysis: The theme of love’s scarcity runs throughout this section. Pecola’s family life is brutal, and the morning shows the unhealthy dynamic between the Breedlove parents. Cholly’s drunkenness and irresponsibility have become a part of their marriage, and Mrs. Breedlove has become addicted to playing the part of martyr‹it’s one of the few things she has left to cling to.
Cholly has a similar need to hate her, because she is one of the few things he can touch and hurt. Pecola is terrified by these battles, and can do little to escape while they happen. Pecola’s obsession with blue eyes, the discussion of ugliness, and the passage narrating her trip to buy candy all deal with a relationship between beauty, ugliness, and hatred. The text suggest the power of social constructions in shaping the Breedloves’ ugliness and their belief in that ugliness. The narrator says that it was as if some mysterious master had given them a cloak of ugliness and they had all accepted.
The language of that brief passage suggests slavery, and draws attention to the ways that hatred can be internalized by the hated. The narrator also says that the Breedloves saw proof of their own ugliness in “every billboard, every movie, every glance”‹emphasizing the role of social constructions in creating the idea of ugliness. Pecola’s interaction with the shopkeeper is important. The present tense narration gives the scene a kind of timelessness, suggesting that it is a model for all of Pecola’s interactions with others.
Eye imagery pervades the scene, as the shopkeeper cannot “see” Pecola. To see her would be to see her as a person, to encounter her subjectivity. To him, Pecola is nothing, and she in turn can see in his eyes that she means nothing to him. Moments like these reinforce Pecola’s conviction that she is hideous: earlier, the narrator assures as that she will never learn to see her own beauty, in part because no one else will show it to her. (Remember that she is able, earlier in the section, to make herself feel invisible‹and here, in this store, she practically is. This touches on the theme, throughout the novel, that often one is dependent on others for feelings of self worth, love, and even one’s identity. Pecola buys Mary Jane candies, little sweets with wrappers that have a picture of a blonde and blue-eyed girl. When Pecola eats the candy, the moment is described like the Christian eucharist: the passage says that to eat the candy is to eat Mary Jane (like eating the body of Christ), a transformative act that somehow brings Pecola (in her own mind) one step closer to being Mary Jane. The three whores round out Pecola’s family.
They are not cruel to her, but they don’t fuss over her or provide an adequate substitute for the family life Pecola is missing. Their names bring World War II back to the reader’s consciousness: “Poland” and “China” are both countries which, in 1939, are occupied or being invaded by fascist armies. Both are sites of terrible genocide‹as both the Japanese and the Germans make millions the victims of ethnic cleansing campaigns. Marie’s name also recalls the war; “Marie” is a French name, and France is going to be invaded in the spring of 1940.
In the next section, we learn that Marie is also known as the Maginot Line, the name of the powerful defensive line built by France to stop a German invasion. The Line was a complete failure. By giving the prostitutes names that refer to invaded countries and Axis victories, Morrison maintains World War II (and the Nazi regime and it’s Aryan idea of beauty) as a distant background. The names also suggest the vulnerability of these women. Although these women are survivors, they are also outcasts, and they suggest something about the precarious positioning of women.
Morrison points to this tension often: black women are instrumental in holding families together, in enduring the worst part of prejudice and in running both their own households and the households of white employers, but they are in many ways society’s most vulnerable members. There is a connection between these three outcasts and Pecola, and a reason why they do not despise her. Between their fallen status and Pecola’s belief in her own ugliness, there is some common ground. Related Content for Bluest Eye @@@@@@@@@@@@@ Summary and Analysis of Winter
We are once again within Claudia MacTeer’s narrative, opening with a lyrical passage about the harshness of winter and her father’s determination to keep his family warm and safe. Claudia also confides her dislike of a new girl in school named Maureen Peal, a light-skinned and well-off black girl who has quickly become the new darling of teachers and children alike. On an unseasonably warm day, Maureen happens to choose to walk with Claudia and Frieda part of the way home. The three girls run into a group of boys who are tormenting Pecola Breedlove‹by chanting about her blackness and her father’s supposed habit of sleeping naked.
These are the insults of choice, even though many of the boys’ fathers might also sleep naked and the boys themselves are all black. Led by Frieda, the MacTeer sisters stand up to the boys and get them to leave Pecola alone. The four girls then walk together, and initially Maureen is very friendly to Pecola, talking about movies with her and treating her to ice cream. The conversation turns to puberty and then Maureen asks if Pecola has ever seen a naked man. Pecola, for some reason, seems to think that she is being asked if she has seen her father naked, which she vehemently denies.
The questions are clearly making Pecola uncomfortable, and Claudia and Frieda try to get Maureen to stop. The conversation quickly degenerates into a fight, and Maureen starts to tease all three girls, but Pecola especially, picking up on the boys’ lead and saying that Pecola must have seen her own father naked. Claudia tries to hit Maureen but Maureen flees; safe on the other side of the street Maureen screams that she is indeed cute and the other girls are black and ugly. Claudia is clearly troubled by this possibility, but she also says that Maureen is not the real enemy.
The real enemy is the “Thing” that makes Maureen beautiful and the other girls ugly. Frieda and Claudia go home, where their boarder, Mr. Henry, greets them and gives them money to go buy ice cream. The girls decide to go get candy‹because of Frieda’s fear that Maureen might be at the ice cream shop‹and so they arrive home earlier than Mr. Henry expected. Playing outside, the girls look in through one of the windows and see Mr. Henry nibbling on the fingers of China and the Maginot Line (Marie). Frieda and Claudia recognize them, but wait until the prostitutes are gone to go back into the house.
They ask Mr. Henry who the women were, and he tells the girls that the women are members of his Bible study class. He also asks the girls not to tell their mother. When the girls are alone and Claudia asks what they should do, Frieda decides that they don’t need to tell their mother, because no plates have been used, and Mrs. MacTeer once said that she wouldn’t let the Maginot Line eat off of one of her plates. Analysis: This section is structured by two main events: the girls’ walk home, and the incident with the prostitutes and Mr.
Henry. There is a passage early in the section where Claudia describes herself and Frieda metaphorically, using flower imagery to describe how she and her sister respond to their environment. This metaphor calls attention to the importance of nurture and environment for these young girls, especially in these formative years of their childhood. The theme of the oppressed internalizing ideas about their own ugliness is a strong element of the first part of the section. The worst insult the black boys can think of is to call Pecola black.
Claudia, allowing herself to use her more grown-up voice, says that the insult has power because the boys and Pecola have a contempt for their own race and have learned self-hatred. The fight with Maureen reveals something important‹Pecola’s desperate reaction to Maureen’s question seems to indicate that perhaps she has not only seen her father naked, but has had experience with her father’s nakedness in ways that are not normal. The incident with Mr. Henry illustrates the girls’ deep loyalty and respect for their mother‹it is Mrs.
MacTeer’s opinion of China and Marie that Frieda and Claudia hold to. Frieda literally interprets her mother’s statements about Marie. This misunderstanding of her mother’s words, as well as the literal observance of their mother’s rules, reminds the reader of the extreme youth of Claudia and Frieda. The MacTeer sisters are themselves young and naive, a fact which emphasizes Pecola’s vulnerability even more. Pecola is the same age as the other girls, but she is less clever and does not have the healthy family life of the MacTeers. Winter,” second section: SEETHECATITGOESMEOWMEOWCOMEANDPLAYCOMEPLAYWITHJANE THEKITTENWILLNOTPLAYPLAYPLAYPLA Summary: The omniscient third-person narrator returns. The section opens with a long descriptive passage about a certain kind of black girl, hailing from Southern towns like Mobile and Aiken, who grows to be a certain kind of woman, marries a certain kind of man, keeps a certain kind of house. The routine of homemaking is described lyrically. This type of woman also struggles to remove what is black about herself, a trait Morrison calls “funkiness. The description shifts quickly from the general to the specific, focusing on a woman named Geraldine. She lives in Lorain with her husband Louis and has a cat and a son named Junior. The cat is the object of her greatest affection, a clean and quiet animal that leaves no messes. Their family lives in a nice house next to the playground of Washington Irving school, which is also the school attended by Pecola and the MacTeers. Geraldine has explained to her son that there is a difference between colored people and niggers, and that their family belongs to the first category.
Colored people have standards of behavior more in line with white bourgeois sensabilities, or, as Geraldine would put it, colored people are clean and quiet and niggers are dirty and loud. She has always encouraged her son to play with white children. Sitting alone on the school playground, Louis Junior sees Pecola taking a shortcut through the yard. He gives her a hard time and then convinces her to come into his house, where he promises to show her kittens. Lured by the promise of a new kitten, Pecola follows him.
Pecola is mystified by the size and beauty of the house, the clean furniture, the bits of decoration and evidence of care. Junior shouts out to get her attention and throws his mother’s large black cat into Pecola’s face. The cat scratches her and Pecola begins to cry and tries to leave, but Junior pushes her down and runs to the other side of the door, keeping her in the room. The cat rubs up against Pecola’s leg, and Pecola, in turn, is fascinated by the cat, which has a black face but blue eyes. She begins to pet the animal. Junior comes back in because he can no longer hear Pecola crying.
He grabs the cat and swings it around. Pecola tries desperately to get Junior to let the animal go, but in the struggle Junior lets go of the cat and the animal is flung against the window. The cat falls onto the radiator, dead. Geraldine comes home, and Junior blames the cat’s death on Pecola. Geraldine looks into Pecola’s eyes and feels revulsion and unease. She calls Pecola a little black bitch and tells her to get out of the house. Analysis: The beginning of the section describes a certain class of black women and also alludes to the phenomenon of black migration from Southern town to places like Lorain.
The passage is lyrical and fully sensory imagery, describing the routines of housekeeping and church-going respectability with a certain degree of beauty, but the marriages of these women are also described in terms of social arrangements rather than love. Men marry to have a woman take care of their house, and women marry so that they may come to have a place of their own. Geraldine and her family have fully internalized the white standard of beauty, and live their lives aspiring for bourgeois respectability. These internalizations are not without their cost.
Geraldine’s sex life with her husband is purely functional, and their marriage is described in the cool terms of a social arrangement. Geraldine does not show affection to her son but to her cat. The cat’s face foreshadows Pecola’s future tragedy‹the black face with the blue eyes, coupled with the creature’s destruction. Once again, Pecola is the victim of other blacks’ cruelty, indicating that hatred of blackness often comes from other blacks. The moment when Geraldine looks into Pecola’s eyes is an interesting passage to compare to the passage in which Pecola buys candy from Mr.
Yacobowski. Unlike the shopkeeper, Geraldine does see something in Pecola’s eyes, although what she sees fills her with revulsion and fear. Geraldine sees in Pecola a type of black: “She had seen this little girl all of her life. Hanging out of windows over saloons in Mobile . . . sitting in bus stations holding paper bags and crying to mothers who kept saying ? Shet up! ‘” But Geraldine has not seen Pecola‹”this little girl” refers to a type of poor black, a type that the text goes on to describe in detail. This type of dirty, poorly dressed black is exactly what Geraldine despises most.
Note that while she does not see nothing, as Mr. Yacobowski did, Geraldine still does not see Pecola, the individual. Geraldine instead sees an abstracted representative of a whole social class, a social class she hates, and consequently she is merciless and cruel to Pecola. @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ Summary and Analysis of Spring First-person narrative by Claudia MacTeer. On a Saturday in spring, Claudia goes inside and finds Frieda crying. She learns that Mr. MacTeer has beaten up Mr. Henry and kicked him out of the house. Frieda narrates the whole story to Claudia: Mr.
Henry made sexual advances at Frieda, who ran to tell her parents. Mr. MacTeer chased Mr. Henry off, beating him first and then firing a gun at him. Miss Dunion, a neighbor, came over afterward and suggested that the MacTeers take Frieda to the doctor to see if she has been “ruined”‹a suggestion that sends Mrs. MacTeer into a rage against Miss. Dunion. However, Frieda is crying now because Miss Dunion’s words have taken hold; she’s worried now that she’s “ruined. ” Frieda equates being “ruined” to being like the Maginot Line, because she heard her mother say that the Maginot Line was a “ruined” woman.
Both of the girls think that being ruined means becoming fat like Marie, and believe that Poland and China aren’t fat only because they drink whiskey. Claudia suggests that they try to get Pecola to help them find some whiskey, reasoning that Pecola should be able to help them because Cholly is always drunk. The sisters go to the Breedlove home, but no one is there. On the balcony above the door, Marie (the Maginot Line) is having a drink of root-beer. She treats the girls with some kindness, telling them that Pecola is with Mrs. Breedlove at the house where Mrs. Breedlove is a servant.
She then tells the girls that they can wait with her until Pecola is back, offering them pop to drink while they wait. Frieda says that they can’t because Marie is a ruined woman. Marie becomes silent, clearly somehow hurt by Frieda’s words. She then throws her root-beer bottle down at the girls’ feet and laughs loudly, terrifying the girls, who run until they can’t run any farther. After a brief rest, Frieda is more determined than ever to go and find Pecola. The girls walk all the way to the rich part of town where Mrs. Breedlove works. They find the house and see Pecola sitting on the stoop outside.
The girls have a brief exchange during which Pecola defends the Maginot Line (Miss Marie, as she calls her), but the conversation is cut short when Mrs. Breedlove comes out to see who Pecola’s visitors are. She allows the girls inside. Pecola is about to use a wagon to bring the wash back to the Breedlove storefront, and Mrs. Breedlove says that the MacTeer sisters can walk back with her. While Mrs. Breedlove goes to get the wash, a very young white girl appears and reacts with fear when she sees the three girls. The girl is the daughter of the family that employs Breedlove as a servant.
She asks where “Polly” is, something that infuriates Claudia because even Pecola calls her own mother “Mrs. Breedlove. ” Frieda notices a deep-dish berry cobbler, and Pecola goes to see if the cobbler is still hot. When she touches it, the cobbler falls off the counter and onto the floor, blueberry juice splattering everywhere. The hot pie filling burns Pecola’s legs painfully, but when Mrs. Breedlove returns and sees the mess she runs to Pecola and backhands her, knocking the girl down. Pecola and the MacTeers leave the house in shame, laundry bag in tow, and as they leave they can hear Mrs.
Breedlove fussing over the little white girl, who is crying. When the little white girl asks Mrs. Breedlove who the black girls were, Mrs. Breedlove assures her that she doesn’t need to know: “Hush. Don’t worry none. ” Analysis: This section presents a powerful contrast between the MacTeers and the Breedloves. Frieda’s parents believe her without question, and their reaction is to protect their daughter. The insinuation that Frieda might be “ruined” does not make Mrs. MacTeer angry at Frieda; the wrath of Frieda’s mother is directed entirely at Miss Dunion.
This moment is something to bear in mind later on, when we learn what happens to Pecola under similar circumstances. Morrison also manages to humanize Marie (the Maginot Line) without sugar-coating her. Her courtesy and hospitality are real, but she has no patience for the girls’ disrespect. The quest for whiskey and the girls’ disdain for the Maginot Line show, once again, the esteem the girls have for their mother’s opinion and her wisdom. Their poor treatment of the whore seems a comment on their youth more than malice, although it cannot go unnoted that in a novel about the pain of being an outcast, Frieda treats Marie very poorly.
The theme of love’s scarcity can be seen in the treatment of Marie and the other prostitutes, whose names recall their vulnerable status. For the girls, their mother’s word is law: they dislike Marie based on their mother’s dislike of Marie. They also misinterpret Mrs. MacTeer’s words and attempt to avert Frieda’s “ruin,” misunderstanding the words of adults. Their misinterpretation highlights their innocence. By the end of the novel, through Pecola’s experience, the MacTeer sisters will have a much better understanding of ruin. At the house where Polly Breedlove works, we see where Mrs. Breedlove gives most of her attention and love.
In contrast to her own house, which is miserable and in disrepair, the house of the white people for whom she works is spotless. The pie that should become a pleasant memory for Pecola will only be a pleasant memory for the little white girl‹”Polly” exerts all her effort in trying to make the house of the white folks feel like a home. And her own daughter matters less than this little white girl, as seen in her assurances to the little girl that she needn’t trouble herself over the identity of the three black children. “Spring,” second section: SEEMOTHERMOTHERISVERYNICEMOTHERWILLYOUPLAYWITHJANE MOTHERLAUGHSLAUGHMOTHERLAUGHLA
Summary: The third-person narrator returns to fill in details about Pauline Breedlove’s life, in a section that also has passages narrated first-person by Pauline. Pauline has had a lame foot since age two‹the narrator opens by saying that to find out how her dreams died, one should look either to her lame foot (as Pauline does) or to her lost front tooth. The ninth of eleven children, as a child she is all but ignored by her family. Her family, looking for a better life, migrates from Alabama to Kentucky while she is a girl. At fifteen, she meets Cholly; they marry and move far up to the North.
Pauline has few friends; other women look down at her because she is poorly dressed and speaks like a Southern black. Cholly refuses to give her money for better clothes, so she takes work housekeeping. Pauline describes the first steady job she landed, working as a housekeeper for an ungenerous and pretentious white family. She loses the job because Cholly shows up at her workplace drunk. The family does not pay Pauline the last bit of money they owe her. The white woman for whom Pauline worked tries to deal with Pauline, telling her that she will give Pauline the money only if Pauline leaves Cholly.
Pauline points out the hypocrisy of the woman, who says she’s thinking of Pauline’s future but won’t give her the small sum she needs to pay the gas man. She becomes pregnant. Her life is lonely; she takes to going to the movies, where she learns about romantic love and physical beauty‹two things Morrison calls “the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. ” She loses her tooth, Pauline tells us, while biting into a piece of candy at the movies. The moment is painfully evoked: “There I was five months pregnant, trying to look like Jean Harlow, and a front tooth gone. . . Look like I just didn’t care no more after that. . . . [I] settled down to just being ugly. ” After that, her marriage with Cholly deteriorates rapidly. The fights become more and more violent. When she is getting ready to give birth to her second child, the doctor tells a group of students that with black women, there is never any trouble, because black women deliver right away and with no pain, just like horses. Pauline makes a little extra noise while delivering, to let the doctors know that she’s no horse‹and she also points out to us that if you look into a mare’s eyes, you realize that even a horse feels pain.
She becomes sole breadwinner while Sammy and Pecola are still young. She begins to become more religious, solidifying her identity as a martyr. She finds a permanent job working for a wealthy and warm-hearted white family called the Fishers. Over time, she begins to devote all of her energy to taking care of the Fishers’ home, and neglects her own home. Her love she saves for the Fishers’ daughter, while she becomes quick-tempered and abusive with her own children. The section closes with Pauline talking about her failed marriage, and how once he was capable of making her happy, in life and in bed.
Those feelings are gone now, and she thinks less and less about them. Analysis: This section is arguably the most successful part of the novel. Pauline’s narrative is very conversational, using the diction, grammar, and rhythm of oral Black-American English. This section shows the powerful deterministic forces that have shaped Pauline. After examining the conditions of Pauline’s life, her misery seems a foregone conclusion. Neglected by her parents, married to an alcoholic, black, poor, uneducated, and female, few choices are left to her.
The moment where she loses her tooth in the movie theatre is painful: juxtaposing Pauline as an awkward, gap-toothed, pregnant black woman to the idealized (and illusory) image of Jean Harlow on the screen shows the power of these images to destroy a black woman’s belief in her own beauty. The third person narrator points out that for the cavity to have grown, the conditions for it to fester must have been in place‹a clear metaphor for the social forces that have trapped Pauline in a hard and joyless life.
The moment with the doctors is crucial, and is yet another scene in which we can study the gaze and how it functions. The doctors dehumanize Pauline, and part of that dehumanization takes the form of refusing to look into her eyes‹because if they did, they would see her looking back at them, and encounter Pauline’s undeniable humanness and her status as a subject (as opposed to purely an object). Pauline, in turn, humanizes the horse, and understands that by looking into the animal’s eyes one can see that its feelings are as real as those of a human being.
She takes care of the Fishers better than her own family, and there is a strange parallel between her care of the Fishers’ daughter and the care of blonde dolls described by Claudia earlier in the novel. The activity described include the combing of the little white girl’s hair, dressing her, drawing a bath‹the kind of simple activities Claudia was expected to participate in with her own little blonde doll. Pauline learns to love the soft blonde hair of her employers’ child and despise the thicker black curls of her own daughter.
It’s possible to see an unsettling connection between the blonde dolls and the blonde daughters of families that employ black servants: in playing with little blonde dolls, black girls must either pretend the child is theirs‹and so negate their own race and deny their own beauty‹or they must pretend that they, like Pauline, are servants caring for the children of white employers. “Spring,” third section: SEEFATHERHEISBIGANDSTRONGFATHERWILLYOUPLAYWITHJANE FATHERISSMILINGSMILEFATHERSMILESMILE Summary: A third-person omniscient narrator describes Cholly’s life.
Born and raised in Georgia, Cholly is abandoned by his mother when four days old, and taken in by his Great Aunt Jimmy. His mother vanishes, and his father had already skipped town before Cholly was born. There are hints that his mother was insane. As a young boy, Cholly has a great friend in old Blue Jack, an older black man who works at the feed store. One of Cholly’s happiest memories is of Blue Jack smashing a watermelon and sharing the heart with him. The passage is written with poetic tone, turning Blue Jack into something like a figure of myth, male and strong and holding up the watermelon so that it blocks out the sun.
When Cholly is in his early teens, Great Aunt Jimmy becomes sick, and an old seer-like black woman named M’Dear warns her that to get better she must drink nothing but pot liquor. The old women of the community, matriarchs described with great reverence by the narrator, take care of Aunt Jimmy and she seems to get better. But after a few days of following M’Dear’s prescription, Aunt Jimmy eats a peach cobbler and dies. During the funeral, Cholly goes down to the river with a girl named Darlene. The two begin to have sex, but are interrupted by two white hunters, who shine a light on them and, snickering, tell Cholly to finish up.
Humiliated but also powerless, Cholly keeps at it until the hunters grow bored and leave. Curiously, Cholly’s hatred is directed at Darlene. Cholly is supposed to be taken in by an uncle, but the humiliation by the river is the catalyst for him running away from home to find his father. He goes to Macon, where his father supposedly resides. He knows his father’s name‹Samson Fuller‹and he finds him gambling in an alley, but his father has long since forgotten that he had a son. He humiliates Cholly and turns his back on him, returning to his game of dice.
Cholly, then, is free, without parents or people. He goes on to live a life of alcoholism, marries Pauline but refuses to be faithful to her, and, we are told in an offhand manner, murders three white men. The narrative then moves to the current story-line. One Saturday afternoon in spring, Cholly, while totally drunk, rapes his daughter. Pecola faints from the pain, and when she wakes she can’t remember what happened. Analysis: Cholly has had no one to teach him how to be a father‹Aunt Jimmy is so much older that she hardly seems an adequate role model.
Cholly searches for father figures‹first, in Blue Jack, and then in his biological father. The rejection by Samson Fuller is a turning point in Cholly’s life: “Abandoned in a junk heap by his mother, rejected for a crap game by his father, there was nothing more to lose. ” Cholly knows nothing of love and little of faithfulness or family. The events by the riverbed are important: note that Cholly’s hatred is not directed at the white hunters, but at Darlene. The white hunters are out of his reach; for all intents and purposes they are invincible (although later, as a grown man, Cholly learns to hate and kill white men).
He despises Darlene because his inability to protect her destroys his sense of his own masculinity. He goes from being the young lover to the naked black boy, forced to go on with sex while two bigger and stronger men watch. His rape of Pecola is motivated by hatred‹the text says explicitly that he despises his daughter for loving him because he is painfully aware of his failures. He feels a mix of tenderness and hatred as he rapes Pecola, the tenderness confused and misapplied. Ultimately, any tender feelings Cholly has for Pecola are transformed into a desire to consume her.
Note that the narrative of Cholly’s life lays a greater emphasis on Cholly’s agency. Although we are told that Cholly has no sense of fatherhood because he never knew his own parents (a statement which emphasizes social forces rather than Cholly’s choices), we are also told repeatedly that Cholly is dangerously free. As with his son Sammy, who is always running away from home, Cholly’s gender gives him a degree of agency that Pecola and Pauline simply do not have. “Spring,” fourth section: SEETHEDOGBOWWOWGOESTHEDOGDOYOUWANTTOPLAYDOYOUWANT TOPLAYDOYOUWANTTOPLAYWITHJANESEETHEDOGRUNR
Summary: Soaphead Church, whose real name is Elihue Whitcomb, is a man of mixed race from the Caribbean. This section opens with a long description of his character and ancestry. He cannot stand contact with people, but he hoards the little bits of junk from people’s everyday lives. He is a pedophile who loves to touch little girls. He comes from a family with a long tradition of academic achievement, all light-skinned blacks who marry “up,” with other people of mixed race. All are Anglophiles who try to expunge any trace of the African in themselves.
Elihue’s own education brings him into contact with the Western canon, but in these great works he understands only what he wishes to see. The one adult love of his life, a woman named Velma, marries him but then leaves him soon afterward. After a long series of failures in his studies and migration, Elihue has settled in Lorrain and become the local fortune teller/sorcerer. He has also acquired the nickname Soaphead Church. He rents from an old woman with a nasty, aging dog named Bob. Elihue hates the animal and longs to poison it, but he convinces himself that he wishes to poison it for the animal’s own sake.
He doesn’t poison the dog because he’s terrified of personal contact with the animal. Pecola, already showing signs of pregnancy, comes to him and asks for blue eyes. Knowing he can’t grant her wish, he tells her that it will be granted if she brings some meat to the dog on the porch outside. If the animal eats the meat and behaves strangely, her wish will be granted. Pecola, not knowing that the meat is poisoned, brings it to the dog. The dog devours the meat and dies almost immediately, and Pecola flees in terror. Soaphead Church proceeds to write a letter to God, in which he blames God for making the world badly.
He blames God for the suffering and waste in the world, particularly in his own life, and then he congratulates himself for having granted Pecola’s wish‹his magic, he believes, will work, although only Pecola will be able to see the blue eyes that she has been given. Analysis: The family of Elihue Whitcomb displays a kind of mixed-race person who lives in colonial society‹more fortunate than pureblooded natives, they are still ultimately powerless, allowed to occupy only the most meaningless government positions, allowed to be educated but never to rule.
These mixed-race colonial subjects worship their own oppressors, struggling to emulate them. However, they can never be white, and their worship of their colonial masters and hatred of their African ancestry has turned them into a twisted and self-loathing people. This section, like the sections on Pauline and Cholly, shows a preoccupation with geneology and ancestry. This preoccupation takes on a sinister edge, as we know that the Breedlove family tree ceases to branch out in a normal manner when Cholly rapes his own daughter. Soaphead Church is self-deluding, unhappy, and megalomaniacal.
He plays God, and refuses to deal with the subjectivity of other living things in a meaningful way‹he convinces himself that he is acting in the best interests of Bob the dog and Pecola, but the narrator makes clear that Soaphead Church has no real concern for either. His desire to poison the animal stems solely from his own hatred of the beast, and his racial self-loathing prevents him from offering any sound counsel to Pecola. As far as we know, Soaphead Church is the only mortal being to whom Pecola has revealed her wish, and his emotional reaction is admiration.
He feels that is right for a black girl like Pecola to long to “see the world with blue eyes,” but a thoughtful reader will note that eye color does not have an effect on vision. The color of eyes is not for looking, but for being looked at. This points toward a source of Pecola’s suffering: she cannot see herself, because she is invisible to so many. Because no human looks at her, she cannot conceive of her own worth and eventually loses the ability to maintain her own basic sense of identity‹Soaphead Church’s use of Pecola for his own ends is the final step in the unraveling of her sanity. Related Content for Bluest Eye @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ Summary and Analysis of Summer We return to Claudia’s narrative. That summer, she and Frieda try to make money by selling packets of seed door-to-door in hopes that they’ll be able to get a bicycle. Invited into house after house, listening in on the conversations of adults, they piece together what has happened to Pecola. Pecola, everyone is saying, is pregnant by her father. Cholly has left town. No one expresses real concern or sorrow for Pecola, and no one wants the baby to survive. Claudia and Frieda feel terrible sorrow for Pecola, all the more so because no one else does.
Claudia also wonders about the poor, unwanted baby: “More strongly than my fondness for Pecola, I felt a need for someone to want the black baby to live‹just to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals. ” Claudia and Frieda decide to try for a miracle. They give up on the bicycle and bury the money as a sacrifice. They plant the seeds in their backyard, singing a song, praying, and saying magic words, believing that when they marigolds flowers come up, they’ll know that everything is fine.
But the reader knows from the prelude that the flowers never bloom. Analysis: The girls glean Pecola’s story from the dialogue of adults, returning us once again to the world of gossip. The language of these conversations is revealing: Claudia and Frieda accurately observe that there is no real sorrow for Pecola. We also hear about Pauline’s reaction to Pecola’s pregnancy: Mrs. Breedlove nearly beats her daughter to death. This reaction stands in sharp contrast to the protective reaction of the MacTeer’s when a man makes an advance on their daughter. Mrs.
Breedlove blames the victim, and the MacTeers rally around her. Once again, we are confronted by love’s scarcity. The places where Pecola and Frieda sell their flowers are homes where people live in extreme poverty, and that offers some explanation for their lack of sorrow: in a time and place when people are barely scraping by, and in a world threatened by the Axis powers, people have little worry left to expend on a little girl. The soil (which we know will not be fertile enough for the marigolds to grow) represents the hostile conditions that have conspired against Pecola.
Although Frieda and Claudia attempt to make a difference, there is nothing they can do to make their flowers grow. This metaphor indicates that Pecola never had a chance‹she is not an active character at all. She does nothing, but instead has things happen to her. And like a flower, she is dependent on her environment for sustenance. Her baby, like the seeds in the backyard, dies before it has a chance to live‹as Claudia tells it, it was up against all of the forces that call whiteness beautiful and blackness ugly.
The preoccupation with ancestry from earlier sections takes on a sinister edge and the idea of inheritance is brought in and subverted: Pecola has inherited a legacy of shame and self-loathing, and she has also possibly inherited her insanity from Cholly’s mother. Her father has impregnated her, twisting the normal growth of the family tree back on itself. Pecola is the end of a line‹after losing her baby and then her mind. In her generation, one possible line for the family tree comes to an end, and Sammy runs away from home and into an uncertain future. Summer,” second section: LOOKLOOKHERECOMESAFRIENDTHEFRIENDWILLPLAYWITH JANETHEYWILLPLAYAGOODGAMEPLAYJANEPLAY Summary: We see a conversation between Pecola and the “friend” mentioned in the section heading. This friend is a second personality, manufactured by Pecola in her madness. Pecola and her double admire Pecola’s new blue eyes. Pecola frets about whether her eyes are the bluest of all, and her friend assures her that they are. They talk about Cholly, who, we learn, violated her twice before he ran off. We also learn that after the first time, Pecola told Mrs. Breedlove about the rape and was not believed.
The second time it happened, Pecola didn’t bother to try and tell anyone. Pecola also wonders why no one can see Pecola’s new friend, and why no one has commented on Pecola’s new eyes. The two of them decide that the reason for the latter phenomenon is jealousy. We return to the first-person narrative of Claudia for the close of the novel. She reveals that Pecola became something painful to watch, completely insane and terrifying. The baby came too early and died. In all of the years since, Claudia and Frieda have avoided Pecola because she fills them with fear and guilt.
Claudia says that one of the great sins of the townspeople is that they used Pecola like a handkerchief, cleaning themselves on her, making themselves feel beautiful by standing next to her ugliness. Even the people who loved her did so in a way that gave nothing: “The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye. ” She returns to the image of the flowers that never grew, wondering about the barrenness of the land and insisting that not being able to grow in the soil does not mean that the victim had no right to live.
The final words are pained and defeated, emphasizing that by now it’s far too late to help Pecola. Analysis: Pecola, who has gone unnoticed by the eyes of others and so has been unable to see herself, i. e. to recognize herself and realize her own worth, now has manufactured a way to see herself. Her imaginary friend is the companion she has never had, as well as the devoted admirer of her blue eyes. Pecola, who could not figuratively see herself before, has remedied the problem. Now, she literally sees herself in the most twisted and tragic way possible. Claudia’s last words are dark and unhopeful.
She insists that the people of her town, including her, failed and used Pecola. She also speaks skeptically about love, wary of its abuse, warning that there is a kind of love that is selfish and without real care for the beloved. She finishes with the image of the barren soil and the impossibility of growth. It is too late to bring back the marigolds, just as it is too late to help Pecola. By finishing with the image of the barren soil, she implies that the social forces which shaped Pecola’s tragedy are still here, as real and omnipresent as the ground we walk on.