The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison is a novel that contrasts an ideal white family, with black families from the mid-1940s, Lorain Ohio. Pecola Breedlove is a young black girl from a very troubled family who is on a mission to find love; in her search she inevitably stumbles on her society’s dangerous concept of physical beauty. Morrison uses the seven literary elements to convey horrible truths about love and the harm of accepting racism.
The central idea is love. Pecola, being the most vulnerable,suffers the most: “A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes” (Morrison 174). Pecola believesthe reason she cannot be loved is attributed to her ugliness, and is desperate to have blue eyes, a common white aesthetic.Pecola’syearning to experience love is so pure: “Love is never better than the lover”(Morrison 206). Her father’s love is uncaged, and dangerous; Pecola’s innocence is taken from her.Diane Henningfeld points out Morrison’s use of the Dick and Jane Primer story to highlight how dysfunctional the families in the story are: “In two of these chapters, she gives biographical information about Pauline and Cholly to illustrate how far their lives are from the “ideal” world of Dick and Jane” (Henningfeld). Cholly and Pauline both internalize contempt for their blackness. Nellie Mckay claims Morrison uses an early reader primer to steer the readers to the idea of the white value system that controls the society:"Her [Morrison's] manipulation of the primer is meant to suggest, finally, the inappropriateness of the white voice's attempt to authorize or authenticate the black text or to dictate the contours of Afro-American art"(McKay 59).Morrison’s use of the primer, possibly unintentional, drives the reader to the idea of a white supremacy pattern. According to Andrea O’Reilly, Morrison’s use ofsymbolism with the marigolds that did not grow is about the maternal instincts that did not exist for Pecola: "In The Bluest Eye the unyielding earth signifies not the expression of motherhood, but its absence"(O'Reilly 56). Mrs. Breedlove’s lack of maternal love for her black daughter attributes to Pecola’s demise.
The conflict is external. Racism is a major social conflict in the story: “Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live” (Morrison 206). The systematic racism in America is selective and uncaring for those who don’t fit the description of white. Victims of abuse tend to become abusers: “He could do no more than make believe” (Morrison 148). Two white men forced Cholly Breedlove, Pecola’s father, to have intercourse with his girlfriend; Morrison connects this with him becoming Pecola’s rapist. The Breedlove family believes they are ugly: “‘You are right.’ And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it” (Morrison 39). The acceptance of this is like poison to each of the characters and leads them into destructive behaviors. Claudia and Frieda Macteer are two young strong sisters that challenge destructive societal norms: “Then Frieda, with set lips and Mama’s eyes, snatched her coat from her head and threw it on the ground”(Morrison 66). Frieda witnesses Pecola being bullied and rushes to aid her.Mbalia interprets Geraldine’s judgment of Pecola as part of her contempt for black people, and acceptance of the white value system: "Her [Geraldine] calling Pecola, a little girl of ten, a 'nasty little black bitch' and commanding her to 'get out of my house' illustrate the extent of Geraldine's isolation from her people and her association with her oppressors"(Mbalia 32).When a person forsakes his or or very identity, it distorts their souls.
The setting is temporal. The story takes place post-depression era: “The emotion of years of unfulfilled longing