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The Bluest Eye (Vintage International) Paperback – May 8, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, April 2000: Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel. In an afterword written more than two decades later, the author expressed her dissatisfaction with the book's language and structure: "It required a sophistication unavailable to me." Perhaps we can chalk up this verdict to modesty, or to the Nobel laureate's impossibly high standards of quality control. In any case, her debut is nothing if not sophisticated, in terms of both narrative ingenuity and rhetorical sweep. It also shows the young author drawing a bead on the subjects that would dominate much of her career: racial hatred, historical memory, and the dazzling or degrading power of language itself.

Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.... And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.
There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.

This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison's novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: "Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison's imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel's modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Recorded Books expands the Morrison audiobook collection by revisiting the Nobel prize winner's early works. Her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, explores the impact of racism and poverty on adolescent Pecola Breedlove. Surrounded by images of white iconsDShirley Temple, Mary Jane, and the classic family from Dick & Jane readersDPecola is tormented by both her family and peers. Alcoholism, rape, and humiliation drive her into the relative safety of madness where she finally finds the only bit of self-worth, believing her eyes are truly the bluest. In 1981's Tar Baby, Morrison deals with a different set of cruelties. The six major characters are her most diverse, and the conflicts are both realistic and symbolic, embodying the opposition of wealth and poverty, youth and age, male and female, black and white, in a microcosm of society found on a Caribbean island. Lynne Thigpen again expertly captures the richness of the author's characters, descriptions, and language. These two new releases are important to any collection of current American social fiction.DJoyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

More from Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison is considered one of America's finest novelists for her profound and provocative works of fiction. Visit Amazon's Toni Morrison Page.

Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278449
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (898 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of several novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Bluest Eye, the story of a young girl's tortured life, is not a story you can "like". It reads like your worst nightmares, very disturbing and very graphic. It takes a strong stomach to get through this novel. But, this is just what makes the book a masterpiece, that Ms Morrison can draw such powerful feelings from readers. Toni Morrison has grown as a writer. But this book, her first, takes you to a world most didn't know existed and evokes almost unbearably strong emotions. A must read for lovers of great literature. This is not a book you read for pleasure. It's a book you read for the power of the written word.
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Format: Paperback
I will admit to some apprehension prior to picking up this book. I had heard that Toni Morrison, although a brilliant author, is a little hard to understand. And there's nothing I hate more than wading through a book full of abstract poetic descriptions and thick symbolism that goes right over my head. Despite all this, I pulled up my bootstraps and dived right in. What was to follow was quite a surprise.
The Bluest Eye tell the story of the Breedloves, a poor black family living in Lorain, Ohio in the early 1940s. Each chapter tells something different -- the journey of the dad, Cholly, from curious young boy to a drunk and unloving father; the history of the mother, Pauline, and her dreams of movie stars and romance; and the childhood of the children, Sammy and Pecola, and how they deal with life as they've been given. Full of hardships and unfairness, the Breedloves have been through tough times most of their lives. And young Pecola's wishes of blue eyes and blonde hair in order to be loved and respected by others is a testament to the unjust world they lived in.
My fear is that this review won't do the book justice. There is so much written here that left me with feelings of sadness and horror, but also of hope -- hope that our world now has moved on from the racism of the past and will eventually surpass it. The Bluest Eye is highly moving and sensitive, and written in an addictive easy and lyrical style. I may have missed an important part of the book, any underlying symbolism or meaning that Toni Morrison was trying to convey -- I don't know. All I do know is The Bluest Eye is a darn good story, and I'm extremely glad I read it.
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By A Customer on April 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like all of Morrison's work, Bluest Eye is beautifully crafted. It follows a more clearly linear path than most of her more recent writings. But (as is appropriate for its subject matter) it doesn't have the sense of redemption or spiritual uplift that graces much of her other books, especially Song of Solomon. Read it, learn from it and appreciate it, but don't count on it to cheer you up.
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By A Customer on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like many of you, I to read Toni Morrison's Song of Solomn first. After reading this one I wanted to find out more about her. So my boss gave me The Bluest Eye. I'm not an avid reader, but I read it in a couple of days.
It's a very sad and hauting story of the destruction of a little black girls spirit and soul. She longed to have blue eyes or anything that would bring about love and attention that she so desperately wanted. Yet society and even her mother could not love her unless she had these "Blue Eyes".
The theme of this book touches on so many social issues. From self loathing and hatred of being born black in a white world to the effects of child abuse from both parents. Many people may not aggree with me that the mother also abused her child, but she did. She allowed herself to become so wrapped up with taking care of a little blue eyed child that she has nothing left for her own family when she comes home. Her words are always harsh and scolding to Pecola. Never soothing and loving. She has left her poor Pecola to fend against the world for herself. And when Pecola needs her mother's help the most it's not there.
I think every mother should read this book. Step away from the characters and see the destruction of a child from lack of love and acceptance. You will remember Pecola's journey forever!
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By Anon on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was assigned this book nine years ago during a women's literature class. The story moved me in ways that I can't explain. I grew up in a solidly middle class (primarily white) community, and Toni Morrison introduced me to a little girl who was simply foreign. I was haunted by The Bluest Eye. Bits and pieces of the story would come to mind at odd times over the next year or so, until finally I decided to visit the small town in Ohio where The Bluest Eye is based. So, about 7 years ago, I made that trip. Now each time that I re-read the book (probably twenty times over the past nine years) I have a very solid picture in my mind of where this story unfolds. I remember when Oprah first chose a Toni Morrison book for her club -- I believe it was Song of Solomon. I said at that time (and actually noted it in my Amazon.com review) that she should introduce America to the Bluest Eye. Thank you, Oprah.
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Format: Hardcover
I read "The Bluest Eye" after I finished "Song of Solomon." As soon as I finished the last page of "The Bluest Eye", I flipped to the beginning and reread it. I was inspired by the strength of Pecole Breedlove and could identify with the need to "fit in" that society places on everyone - regardless of race. I commend Oprah's selection of another of Toni Morrison's classics.
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