By Cara H
By reading literature, we get to live life through someone else’s eyes for a few pages, we learn about their joy or their struggles; we are invited into their home. That is exactly what Toni Morrison will do for you if you chose to read her debut novel, “The Bluest Eye”, compelling in every aspect, whether that be her beautifully poetic use of language, the brilliant narrative structure she executes skilfully, or the emotional journey she will take you on.
Pecola, the protagonist, is oppressed in every aspect of her identity as a poor, black girl living in the 1940s. The internalized self-hatred that she endured, caused by both systemic discrimination and her abusive family, was reflected in her obsessive wish for the blue eyes of a white girl. Her home, her family, and her social environment hate her in the most brutal manner: condemning her for things she will never be able to change about herself. While Morrison did not mean for Pecola’s fate to represent the average experience of African-American girls, her case helps visualize the most detrimental result of racism: when it becomes an irremovable part of one’s identity.
“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”
The gravity of Pecola’s lack of autonomy is mirrored in a narrative structure that never allows her to speak for herself. Instead, Claudia, a girl Pecola knows from school, narrates the majority of the novel, only giving the reader the limited perspective of a 9-year-old. We are given the opportunity to dive deeper into the minds of other main characters as an omniscient narrator explains their background. As these people become three dimensional, our relationship with them becomes complex, and I personally found myself sympathizing even with the villains of the story. This proximity to real life is what ultimately keeps the reader on turning the pages.
This is a novel that is meant to move you; it should inspire you to fight for the rights of the oppressed. Literature can trigger further social change, so I encourage everyone, especially those whose ancestors have historically been oppressors, to read novels by and about marginalized groups in their area.