07 April 2008

February...check! The Bluest Eye

February's book in the Reading Dangerously Challenge, was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Saturday morning I finished Anna Karenina - the behemoth - and started The Bluest Eye. I finished it Saturday night. It was such a quick and gripping read.

I'm not sure how I feel about it though. The book is about young Pecola Breedlove, a very poor, young black girl living in Ohio in the '40s. Although she is the central character, you only meet her from everyone else's point of view: her parents, her classmates, her neighbors. Morrison gives each a chapter or so and we are allowed to see their painful lives in intimate detail. And even though Pecola is the connection between all these people, the author purposely keeps her from being the focus of everyone's attention. Because that's who Pecola is. She lives on the fringe. The book is about her and yet it doesn't feel like it. She's the result. Not the intent.

It's dark. Very dark. The ever-present racism and discrimination of that time pulls all the characters into this mire that they can never escape. There is no hope.

And this is where I'm stuck. I don't know how to respond to this book. On the surface, it is a fictional piece about the truth of racism. But what is its purpose? Why tell me this dark story including everything from death, rape and incest (Think "the dad is his grandchild's father" kind of stuff.) when there is nothing I can do about it? Why craft a story that leaves me feeling that I'm impotent to reverse anything, especially considering that this is all taking place sixty years in the past?

Anyway, that's where I am. Morrison is a very talented author and her writing is incredible. The Bluest Eye was superbly written and almost impossible for me to put down (I think I only did twice.), although saying I enjoyed it wouldn't be entirely accurate. I just wish I knew what to do with these thoughts and these feelings she left me with.

Any ideas?


bethany said...

I haven't read this, for some reason Morrison always freaks me out. I read Why the Caged Bird Sings and since then I am terrified. I own several of hers..but still too scared. maybe soon though.

there are some things I literally just can't read about...child sexual abuse is one.

tricia said...

amen. i hadn't read her yet. didn't know what to expect. it's still haunting me. i understand what you mean. i have her pulitzer Beloved, but it will definitely sit on my shelf for a while.

Jadah said...

This book still lingers with me after reading it 5+ years ago.

I think that by reading this we are supposed to feel as you do. We feel we can't do anything about it, we feel repulsed, we feel sick with shame and pity for Pecola and even in a strange way for her dad. The truth is that when we see that this story is true and a representation of humanity on so many levels then maybe we can do something about it by facing reality, realizing the depravity of man and working to spread Jesus' redemption to all sinners. I think that Morrison is reminding us through Pecola's dad (can't remember his name.... Chorky or something?) that we all have the capacity to do great evil and that though we are all loved by Him we are not seperated from man.

Just a thought.... kinda glum.

I have Beloved on my shelf as well. I started it a couple years back and at the time couldn't get over some of the crudeness. I may try again eventually.

Have you read Lolita yet?? I'd love to talk to you after you do.

tricia said...

very insightful, jadah. now i feel like there was a reason in reading it, not just some sort of sick voyeurism. lolita isn't for a little while, i'm gonna read it in june. i'm not looking forward to it though, subject matter, you know... i'd love to chat with you, too.