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, 1962–1965

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)   1940–1941

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.