full title The Bluest Eye
author Toni Morrison
type of work Novel
genre Coming-of-age, tragedy, elegy
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.