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Free Study Guide: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - Free BookNotes

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THE BLUEST EYE: STUDY NOTES / BOOK REVIEW

SUMMER

CHAPTER 12

Summary

Claudia is reminded of summer when she breaks "into the tightness of a strawberry." For Claudia, summer is the season of storms. She remembers storms, but her memory is uncertain because she remembers a storm her mother told her about which took place in 1929 when there was a tornado that blew away half of south Lorain. Claudia mixes up her own memory with her motherís. When she bites into a strawberry, she sees her mother standing in a pink crepe dress with one hand on her hip as a storm sweeps her up. In her image of it, her mother remains unmoved, nonplused, while the storm rages around her.

Claudia remembers the summer when she and Frieda received their seeds. They had waited since April for them to arrive. If they sold all the packets for five cents each, they would receive a new bicycle. They spend every day walking around the town trying to sell their seeds. They would be invited in and given cool drinks and they would half listen to what the people were saying. Little by little, they began to hear the story of Pecola Breedlove. They heard that Pecola was pregnant by Cholly. Cholly has left town. The gossiping people even partially blame Pecola for the rape. Mrs. Breedlove beat her senseless and the people say itís amazing Pecola even survived. The people talk about how the baby will be ugly.

Claudia remembers a curious kind of "defensive shame" succeeded their astonishment. They felt more sorrowful because no one else seemed to feel sorry. They thought about the baby that everyone hoped would be born dead. Claudia felt a very strong need for someone to want the baby to be born alive. She wanted "to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls." Claudia and Frieda felt the confidence of children that they could alter the course of events and change a life by invoking a miracle. They decide to make a bargain with God to let the baby live if they are good for a whole month. They decide they need to give up something. They land on the idea of giving up the bicycle, burying the money, and planting the seeds.

Notes


Here, Claudia, the first person narrator of the novel, returns. The mood of this chapter is much closer to memory than present time. It is an adult woman remembering a summer when she heard the horrible story of a girl raped by her father and a whole community that did not care about the girl and wished for the babyís death. With the faith and logic of children, Claudia and Frieda decide to sacrifice their summerís project and pray for the babyís death.


CHAPTER 13

Summary

Chapter 13 opens with the section of the Dick and Jane primer concerning a friend who will come and play with Jane.

The chapter opens with a dialogue between two children. One wants to know why the other has to look continuously in the mirror at her blue eyes. The one with blue eyes accuses the other of being jealous. The other child agrees that she is jealous, after all. The two children go outside and the one with blue eyes brags that she can look directly at the sun without harm. The one with the blue eyes says Mrs. Breedlove always looks "drop-eyed" at her ever since she got her blue eyes. She assumes everyone is jealous since everyone looks away when she looks at them. The blue eyed girl apologizes for saying the other was jealous. She says she is happy to have such a good friend and wonders why she didnít have one before. The friend says the blue eyed girl just didnít need her before. She was so unhappy that she didnít notice her.

The blue eyed girl asks the other about Maureen Peel. They decide it is not fun to be popular anyway. Neither girl goes to school. The blue eyed girl remembers the school officials calling Mrs. Breedlove to the school to take her away the day after she got her blue eyes. The blue eyed girl realizes no one talks to her friend, even Mrs. Breedlove. Mrs. Breedlove doesnít even seem to see her. The friend wonders if Mrs. Breedlove is sad because Cholly is gone. The blue eyed girl says it canít be. She says Cholly forced Mrs. Breedlove to have sex all the time. The friend asks if Cholly made the blue eyed girl have sex. The blue eyed girl denies it vehemently. Then the friend asks why she did not tell Mrs. Breedlove when it happened a second time with Cholly. The blue eyed girl says she didnít tell because Mrs. Breedlove did not believe her the first time.

They finally return to the delighted conversation about the beautiful blue eyes. The blue eyed girl makes the other assure her that her eyes are bluer than anybody elseís. She wonders obsessively if her eyes are blue enough.

Claudia ends the story by telling how she and Frieda occasionally saw Pecola after the baby came too soon and died. She spent her days walking up and down the street, her head jerking to an unheard rhythm, flailing her arms. Claudia and Frieda never went near her because they had failed her. Their flowers never grew. Sammy left town. Cholly died in a workhouse. Mrs. Breedlove continued to do housework.

For Claudia, Pecola was the scapegoat of the entire town, even the entire society. Against her ugliness, everyone felt beautiful. The rest of the people managed to get along, but Pecola stepped over into madness. Some loved her. The Maginot Line did and so did Cholly. He was the only one to love her enough to "touch her, envelop her, give something of himself to her." However, Chollyís touch was fatal. "The love of a free man is never safe."

Now when Claudia sees Pecola looking through the trash, she remembers how it was not the fact that she planted the seeds too deeply for them to grow. Instead, "it was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town." She even imagines that the soil of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. The soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. When the land refuses to grow certain seeds, people say the seed is bad, that it has no right to live anyway. This is wrong, but it doesnít matter because it is too late. At least in Claudiaís home town, on the edge of town, where garbage and sunflowers intermingle, it is too late.

Notes

Morrison ends the novel by giving voice to Pecola Breedlove, hitherto merely the subject of Claudiaís and the omniscient narratorís reportage. However, she never names Pecola in this chapter. She is an unnamed voice and the reader is left to surmise that it is Pecola who is speaking about her blue eyes. Pecola is insane at this point of the narrative, yet she is happy. She has an imaginary friend who recognizes her beauty and she believes she has The Bluest Eye in the world. However, even in her happy conversation, thoughts still come up about the rape. The consequences of the rape are thereby given to the reader in an indirect way. The reader finds out that when Mrs. Breedlove found Pecola lying on the floor of the kitchen coming to consciousness, that she beat her almost to death. We also find out that Mrs. Breedlove never believed the truth about the rapist. Another disturbing hint is that Cholly did not stop at one rape, but raped Pecola again. In her insanity, Pecola has found a way to push these memories down only to a certain extent. They still emerge, spoken by her imaginary friend, whom she scolds and calls nasty for bringing up this memory.

Claudia ends the novel with memory. It is the memory of a summer when she saw Pecola wandering around the town, flapping her arms, and talking to herself. Claudia muses that Pecola served the town as a scapegoat. If all its ugliness and meanness could be put into one little girl, the people of the town could presumably live peacefully. For Claudia, this strategy did not work. It only produced superficial and empty people and it caused the tragedy of Pecolaís life.

Of course, in this section of the final chapter, Morrison is using Lorain, Ohio as a microcosm for the larger U.S. society. It plays out the tragedy that is played out in all towns of the U.S. as it continues to teach the lessons of color ideology, presenting only European images of beauty and goodness for the consumption of the public, leaving all people of other heritages to believe in their inferiority, their ugliness, against that false standard.


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