The Importance of the Eye in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
In Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, the characters' eyes are everything. The word "eye" appears over and over with rich adjectives that describe color, movement, and nuance of expression to signify a character's mood and psychological state. Morrison emphasizes the paradox of eyes: Eyes are at times a window to enlightenment, however, what eyes see is not always objective truth, but instead a distortion of reality into what a person is able to perceive.
The concept of "the bluest eye" symbolizes unattainable beauty based on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed model that permeates 1940s Lorain, Ohio. Morrison initially presents the concept with a literary device: In the first passage of the novel, Morrison frames and repeats the traditional "Dick and Jane" text, first with normal syntax; a second time with the same text repeated, but without punctuation; finally, the third time, all the text is repeated as one continuous word. Morrison's repeated references to this text show that the words, which trumpet a white and therefore happy family as the ideal, are rote; they are recited by all school children - black and white - without pause or any consciousness of what those words imply. Blind recitation inculcates the myth.
Along with the Dick and Jane frame, the novel's narrative shifts back and forth from Claudia's first person voice to an omniscient third person perspective that reveals the life stories of the novel's main characters.
This narrative shift allows the reader to see the community from two vantage points. Claudia's memories reveal her perception of her world that includes her reasonably stable family surviving in a poor neighborhood. Claudia's memories of that one year act as a foil for the tragedy played out by Pecola, whose parents are incapable of understanding that their misdirected malevolence - inward instead of toward their oppressors - destroys both them and their children. The narrative shift also serves to compare how Pecola and Claudia react to the concept of blue eyes as the ultimate beauty and shows the psychological strength of each girl.
Morrison's story asserts that children, by nature of their diminutive size and inability to contribute economically to the family, are society's weakest members. Children play a prominent role in The Bluest Eye because they are the vulnerable recipients of their parent's psychological manifestations. At some point in early life, every child feels weak and unimportant; ignored, even. But there are gradations of neglect, and these variations are explored in the novel.
Claudia expresses again and again how marginalized she and her sister perceived themselves to be, "Adults do not talk to us - they give us directions" (10). When Claudia thinks back to a childhood illness she suffered, she remembers her mother's irritation at finding her sick in...