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The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · The Bluest Eye

author  · Toni Morrison

type of work · Novel

genre  · Coming-of-age, tragedy, elegy

language  · English

time and place written  · New York, 19621965

date of first publication  · 1970

publisher  · Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. The novel went out of print in 1974 but was later rereleased.

narrator  · There are two narrators: Claudia MacTeer, who narrates in a mixture of a child’s and an adult’s perspective; and an omniscient narrator.

point of view  · Claudia’s and Pecola’s points of view are dominant, but we also see things from Cholly’s, Pauline’s, and other characters’ points of view. Point of view is deliberately fragmented to give a sense of the characters’ experiences of dislocation and to help us sympathize with multiple characters.

tone  · Lyrical, elegiac, embittered, matter-of-fact, colloquial

tense  · Past, as seen by the adult Claudia

setting (time)  · 19401941

setting (place)  · Lorain, Ohio

protagonist  · Pecola Breedlove

major conflict  · Pecola needs to receive love from somebody, but her parents and the other members of her community are unable to love her because they have been damaged and thwarted in their own lives.

rising action  · Cholly tries to burn down the family house; Pecola is snubbed by a grocer, tormented by boys, and blamed for killing a cat.

climax  · Pecola’s father rapes her.

falling action  · Pecola is beaten by her mother, requests blue eyes from Soaphead Church, begins to go mad, and loses her baby.

themes  · Whiteness as the standard of beauty; seeing versus being seen; the power of stories; sexual initiation and abuse; satisfying appetites versus repressing them

motifs  · The Dick-and-Jane narrative; the seasons and nature; whiteness and color; eyes and vision; dirtiness and cleanliness

symbols  · The house; bluest eyes; the marigolds

foreshadowing  · The prologue foreshadows the major events of the plot.