Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bluest Eye

I finished Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye, about a week ago and I haven't gotten around to sharing my thoughts.

My experience with this novel was a little bit restless. It's about a black girl named Pecola Breedlove who longs for blue eyes so she can be treated better by her family and her small, black Southern community. Although it's a very poignant book about racism (especially racism against one's own ethnicity), sexuality, violence, and family, I was expecting it all to be about Pecola's struggles with her identity. This is what the back of the book advertises but the majority of the novel jumps back and forth between different characters around the town and different characters from the Breedlove's pasts. It's sandwiched by Pecola's experiences (kind of like how Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is largely about Oscar's family back in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and is sandwiched by Oscar's life in the US) and when I reached the end, I realized why Morrison did this.

It's not as organized and as tightly wound as Beloved, Morrison's second novel which also jumps all over the place. There are some truly harrowing moments in The Bluest Eye and one episode in particular that truly caught me off guard. The subject of this portion is a despicable fellow whom nobody is supposed to like but Morrison describes him like any other person with neither a sympathetic nor a censorious tone. And when she explains the reasons for his deviance, I felt like Morrison had done something that a lot of great authors do and that is to make you see and understand something from a completely different perspective. I was surprised and shocked by my ability to exit my solipses and my subjectivity and not many writers are able to do that for me, to really make me think and go, "Wow, I've never thought of it like that before."

I think it's pretty amazing when you can disassociate yourself from yourself. It's like looking into a mirror and realizing that you're not the body but the reflection.


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