Free Study Guide: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - Free BookNotes|
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THE BLUEST EYE: BOOK SUMMARY / NOTES
At the end of an alley in Macon, he sees "men clustered like grapes." He hears one main voice calling out to the others. The other men were gathered around some dice. They each had a particular way of holding his money. Cholly had never seen so much money in his life. Cholly was fourteen years old and six feet tall. When the round of dice is played and the men relax and exchange money, Cholly asks a man if Samson Fuller is around. He is pointed out as a man in a brown jacket who is in an argument with another man. Cholly is shocked that his journey is already over and he has found the man he has only imagined all this time. His father is shorter than he is and has a bald spot on the top of his head. His father suddenly reels around and asks Cholly what he wants. Cholly is too surprised to speak. Samson thinks a woman named Melba sent him, apparently for money owed. Cholly tries to deny it, but Samson is too preoccupied with the dice game to listen. He is able to tell the man his name is Cholly, but Fuller turns around without recognizing it. After the dice throw, Fuller turns on him and says, "Tell that bitch she’ll get her money. Now, get the fuck outta my face!"
It takes Cholly a while to move and when he does he walks back up the alley into the sun of the street. Everything seems very loud. He sits down and concentrates hard on not crying. While straining not to cry, his bowels let loose and he defecates all over himself. He worries frantically that his father will see him so, and he jumps up and runs down the street. As he does so, all sound dies away. When he gets to the Ocmulgee River, he crouches under a pier in a fetal position. Evening comes and encloses Cholly. He comes to with images of his father in his mind. Then he smells himself. He cleans his clothes in the river and sits while they dry. As he sits and waits, he thinks of Aunt Jimmy. "With a longing that almost split him open, he thought of her handing him a bit of smoked hock out of her dish." She did so with great affection. He begins to cry.
Three women call out to Cholly as he walks by. They give him lemonade and with it they hand him back his manhood, "which he takes aimlessly." If anyone wanted to describe Cholly’s life, s/he would have to be a musician. Only music would know how to connect the heart of a red watermelon of Blue to the asefetida bag of Aunt Jimmy to the muscadine grapes of Darlene to the flashlight shining on his bottom to the fists of money and then to the lemonade. Cholly was free to feel anything he wanted to feel. He was free to take or leave a job. He had been in jail. He had killed three white men. He had no need to be macho with women because they knew where his manhood lay.
In this godlike state of freedom, he met and fell in love with Pauline Williams. The unvarying repetition of married life froze his imagination. Now, nothing interested him. He was most dumbfounded by his children. He had no concept of how to be a parent to them. He only reacted to his children based on whatever he felt at the moment.
On a Saturday afternoon in spring, he arrived home drunk and saw Pecola in the kitchen washing dishes. He became uncomfortable and then felt pleasurable. He reacted to her "young, helpless, hopeless presence." Her back was hunched. Her head was tilted to the side as if expecting to be hit. He wondered why she looked so whipped. It was as if he felt an accusation in her clear state of misery. "He wanted to break her neck--but tenderly." He couldn’t imagine what he could say to his eleven year old daughter to make her happy. He knew if he called to her she would look at him with love which he did not deserve and could not understand. He hated her and felt as though he would vomit looking at her. Just before he did, she shifted her weight and scratched the back of her calf with her toe. It was what Pauline was doing the first time he saw her. The wondering softness of the gesture filled him with a desire to protect.
Cholly sank to his knees and crawled toward his daughter. He caught Pecola’s
foot and she lost her balance. Cholly nibbled at the back of her leg.
He dug his fingers into her waist. He wanted to be tender, but her rigidity
and fear were more than he could bear. "The gigantic thrust he made
into her then provoked the only sound she made--a hollow suck of air in
the back of her throat." When he was finished, he felt her soapy
hands on his wrists. He snatched his penis out of her dry vagina and she
seemed to have fainted. He stood over her and saw her gray panties around
her ankles. He felt a mixture of hate and tenderness. He covered her and
left her there. When she awoke, she was on the floor under a quilt and
her mother was looming over her.
In chapter ten, Morrison describes the rape of Pecola by her father. Her manner of describing this shocking event fits with the rest of the novel, especially in her technique of demonstrating where a character comes from, what conditions a character to act in the way she or he does. Morrison provides this description of Cholly’s conditioning very smoothly until just before the description of the rape. She describes Cholly’s own traumatic experience with sex during his first sexual encounter. She describes Cholly’s abandonment by both his mother and his father. She describes Cholly’s love for Aunt Jimmy, but shows that because of Aunt Jimmy’s advanced years, she was not able to teach Cholly how to parent. Right after Morrison describes Cholly crying for Aunt Jimmy, she condenses time by years and squeezes all the rest of Cholly’s years into a couple of paragraphs. Her theme is Cholly’s freedom to feel anything and do anything, his rootlessness.
Morrison re-situates her reader in the present time of Cholly’s life as a father to two children and describes his rape of Pecola in only a little over two pages. The abrupt shift in subject from oppressed and abandoned boy to drunken, rapist father jars the reader into an awareness of the dangerous consequences of the conditioning that produces a man like Cholly Breedlove.
The difficulty of describing the rape of a child from the point of view of
the rapist must have been intense for Morrison. Her commitment to humanizing
rather than demonizing her characters is clearly quite strong.
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. 09 May 2017