cover image The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison. Holt, $5.95 (164p) ISBN 978-0-03-085074-5

It’s difficult enough to be poor and black, but to be poor, black, defenseless, and ugly, even in the eyes of other black people, is almost unbearable. Such is the fate of Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old girl growing up in Ohio in 1941. Unloved by her parents, she finds some solace in the company of three black prostitutes, and two younger girls who pity her. Most of all, however, she dreams of the magic day when she will be given blue eyes, bluer than the eyes of Shirley Temple. Raped and made pregnant by her drunken father, beaten by her mother, humiliated by the neighbors, she is driven to madness. In her first novel, Miss Morrison writes with compassion but unstinting realism of the cruel emotional and physical poverty of black life in Middle America. Her treatment of the three younger girls—their destructive reactions to white dolls and their feelings about adults—is especially moving.

Note: This review was originally published in the Aug. 24, 1970, issue of Publishers Weekly.