The Bluest Eye and me

/ 31 August 2010

Here are a few segments from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison that I can either relate to or are foreign to me. I found quite a few segments to build off of, so this may get a bit long.

On page 39 there is a segment that says: “You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction.” What this segment means to me is that their ugliness is not physical, but rather it is their pasts that make them ugly. When I think about real-world and individual meaning in this the first thing that comes to mind is tied to religion. I’m Roman Catholic, and live in the United States, so both of those seem to try and force me to think that Muslims (and others of smaller faiths) are lesser and uglier than myself. In ways this is one of the strands underlying the Gulf War today. Personally I think the exact opposite, that no one is lesser or uglier than anyone else, so you could say that this statement is foreign to me.

On pages 44-45 there is a segment where Pecola’s mother is fighting with Cholly (Pecola’s father). At the end of this scene Pecola prays to God that she may disappear. The segment goes on to describe Pecola slowly fading away until her eye’s refuse to fade. The thing that I can relate to regarding this segment is that feeling of wanting to just disappear off the face of the Earth. I don’t feel this all the time, but in the past year alone there were a couple of times. These were some of those times: The very morning of the SJU Move-in day for freshman before I left home to come here (as with convocation a few days later); Right at the end of high school, just bare hours ahead of graduation; when my dad and I stood still after being present for my great-grandmother’s death in Vienna this past April; my 18th birthday; and, oddly, this past Christmas. I can’t say why I felt like disappearing these times, but I just did.

On page 49 there is a segment towards the top that talks about how white men look at black girls. “Distaste lurking in the eyes of all white people.” The thing that this seems to reference is, quite clearly, the whole civil rights battles past and present in the United States and elsewhere. This single line seems to define the very purpose of the civil rights discriminations. Sadly I can relate to this with both my person experiences (as a white observer) in the past, and by simply being an American citizen. These discriminations are a key form of unfairness in our society.

On page 50 there is a segment that says: “Three whores live in the apartment above the Breedloves’ storefront. China, Poland, and Miss Marie.” The names are what caught my interest here. China and Poland are country names, so it makes it seem as if the author is labeling those countries as whores. I know that Toni isn’t, but it certainly still had that feeling for me. But sadly, in history, the United States has been in some situations where that kind of language towards other countries wouldn’t be surprising.

On pages 62-63 there is a segment where a new student comes to the school and the girls feel like calling her names and making fun of her. But after she’s given a locker by one of the other girls they find that they can get along together. This incident seems to reflect the general stereotype that friendships may follow. This is where at first you hate somebody, but later on you become friends. I can relate to this because I know that in my own past I’ve both observed and been a part of this type of friendship growth.

On page 74 there is a segment that says: “We were lesser. Nicer, brighter, but still lesser.” This represents someone of socially lesser status recognizing that they are brighter, but still socially on a lower platform. Given my gender and race this is directly foreign to me. However, I see this kind of discernment of status as a sign of growth for the affected and treat it as a positive sign towards equality. After all, for any change to be made, the affected need to recognize that there is a change to be made.

On page 84 there is a segment that talks about how a man does not know that women give men their bodies sparingly and partially. In a basic sense, the unknowing that you may not be given all at first is a concept that I venture to relate to. In many instances throughout my life there have been situations where this concept can be applied. A core, yet generalized, example would be when I’ve been learning something and yet the context of said thing was not taught until the end. In more traditional schools this might be quite common. Luckily, from 6th grade forward I was in schools that didn’t teach like this (first Crosswinds to 10th grade, then Avalon to graduation).

Finally, on page 86 there is a segment that says: “The cat will always know that he his first in her affections.” The “he” refers to her husband, not the cat. I can relate to this only on the aspect that it shows prioritized love. Within any family there are moments when you see this, and especially as you’re about to head off to college. I personally saw something a little like this exhibited with my family when my brother (hopefully jokingly) asked to take over my room as I wouldn’t be there much anymore anyways and my mom (entirely independent of me) steadfastly refuses him the option.