The Bluest Eye
Summer: Chapter 11
All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us.
Two voices are in dialogue: Pecola and an imaginary friend, whose voice is in italics. The friend criticizes Pecola for looking in the mirror constantly, but Pecola cannot stop admiring her new blue eyes. The imaginary friend wants to go out and play, and Pecola accuses her of being jealous. Pecola agrees to go outside, however, and brags that she can look at the sun without blinking. Pecola tells her friend that now that she has blue eyes, no one looks at her, not even her mother. She thinks they are jealous. Pecola wonders why the imaginary friend has not come before, and the friend tells her that she did not need her before. Pecola explains that she no longer goes to school because people are prejudiced against her blue eyes. She asks her friend if her eyes are the very bluest, and her friend reassures her. She asks her imaginary friend where she lives, and the friend rebuffs her. Pecola worries that her mother does not see her new friend.
The imaginary friend begins talking about Cholly. She speculates that Mrs. Breedlove must miss him. She observes that they had sex a lot, but Pecola counters that he made her do it. The friend says that Cholly made Pecola do it as well, and Pecola denies this. The friend reminds Pecola that Cholly raped her again while she was reading on the couch. Pecola explains that she did not tell her mother because her mother did not believe her the first time. Now both Cholly and Sammy are gone for good. The friend implies that Pecola enjoyed Cholly’s sexual advances the second time, and Pecola gets angry. They decide to return to the topic of her eyes. Pecola worries that someone somewhere may have bluer eyes than she. She wants her friend to examine everyone’s eyes to see if they are bluer than hers. She wonders if her eyes are “blue enough” but cannot say blue enough for what. The friend tells her she is being silly and temporarily departs.
Claudia begins to narrate and describes Pecola’s madness. Pecola wanders the street jerking her arms as if trying to fly. Claudia and Frieda feel like failures because their flowers never grow and Pecola’s baby is prematurely stillborn. Cholly dies in a workhouse, and Pecola and Mrs. Breedlove move to a house on the edge of town. Claudia feels that the town has dumped all its garbage upon Pecola, and all her beauty. Pecola’s ugliness allowed all the others to believe they were beautiful, healthy, and sanctified. Claudia feels herself to be no better than the others and implicates herself in using Pecola as a scapegoat. She believes that the Maginot Line and Cholly loved Pecola but that love is only as good as the lover, and therefore Cholly’s love killed her. It is too easy simply to blame the climate of the town as inhospitable to certain kinds of people or flowers. In any case, in the final words of Claudia, “it’s much, much, much too late.”
Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.
When Pecola is finally granted her wish for blue eyes, she receives it in a perverse and darkly ironic form. She is able to obtain blue eyes only by losing her mind. Rather than granting Pecola insight into the world around her and providing a redeeming connection with other people, these eyes are a form of blindness. Pecola can no longer accurately perceive the outside world, and she has become even more invisible to others. Pecola has managed to write a new narrative about her life, an act that is sometimes healing for other characters in the novel, but this narrative reinforces her isolation from the world rather than reconnects her to it. Her new friendship is only imagined and does not protect her from old suffering or insecurity. She is worried by the fact that others will not look at her, and she has not escaped her jealousy of what others possess—she worries that someone has bluer eyes than she. Her belief in her blue eyes is not enough, and she requires constant reassurance. As is made abundantly clear when the imaginary friend brings up the painful subject of Cholly, Pecola has not escaped her demons. She has merely recast them in a new form.
The closing section of the novel is written in the first person plural, and Claudia does not permit herself any escape from her vivid and total criticism of the community. This is somewhat surprising, given Claudia and Frieda’s efforts to save Pecola’s baby by sacrificing money and marigold seeds. Nevertheless, looking back, Claudia understands that Pecola has been a scapegoat—someone the community could use to exorcise its own self-hatred by expressing that hatred toward her. She explains that Pecola’s ugliness gave the community, herself included, a false sense of beauty: “We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness.” Moreover, Pecola’s suffering made the community feel comparatively happy, and her failure to speak for herself allowed them to feel articulate. This last criticism leads us to question Claudia’s reliability as a narrator. It is possible that her version of Pecola’s story is secretly self-serving and that the true meaning of Pecola’s life remains unexplained.
Just as the novel begins with two prologues, perhaps the best way to think of the ending of The Bluest Eye is to understand it as two endings. The first ending, the close of the previous chapter, is a hopeful one: Claudia and Frieda selflessly sacrifice their own desires to help Pecola, planting seeds to suggest that nature always promises rebirth, saying magic words and singing to suggest that lyrical language can redeem a fractured life. The second ending is a despairing one: Claudia too is capable of selfishly using Pecola to reinforce her own sense of worth, the earth is cruel, and, in any case, nature cannot redeem human failings. The book closes on this second, bleak vision. But the lyric beauty of Morrison’s language, which picks up momentum in this final section, suggests that there may be a kind of redemption in remembering, in telling stories, and in singing, after all.
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