Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bluest Eye Questions - First batch!

1. The novel opens with an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer. The lines begin to blur and run together—as they do at the beginning of select chapters. What social commentary is implicit in Morrison's superimposing these bland banalities describing a white family and its activities upon the tragic story of the destruction of a young black girl?

2. How does Morrison's powerful language—both highly specific and lyrical—comment on the inadequacy of "correct" English and the way in which it masks entire worlds of beauty and pain?

3. "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow."

With these lines Morrison's child narrator, Claudia MacTeer, invites the reader into a troubling community secret: the incestuous rape of her 11-year-old friend Pecola Breedlove. What are the advantages of telling Pecola's story from a child's point of view?

4. In what ways does Morrison show how Pecola's environment—and American society as a whole—are hostile to her very existence?

6 comments:

Kim L said...

1. I think this opening is showing us what was considered the "normal, perfect" family in those days. Pecola's family doesn't fit into that norm at all, although she wants desperately to. I think it shows us the contrast between the ideal and the reality for poor black families.

3. This book is about the death of dreams, and most of the adults in the book have already had their dreams destroyed. Claudia isn't quite old enough to understand all the harshness of the world, so her perspective is perhaps more clear-eyed. Also, none of the adults take notice of Pecola and they seem to blame her when she is raped. So I think it was important to have Claudia as the narrator, because she did take notice of Pecola, being the same age, and she didn't have a clue why all of the adults were so harsh to Pecola.

4. When is she not showing the harshness of society in this book? j/k. Well we do learn how her parents both suffered in their day and have come to treat her terribly. A child learns how to view themselves from their parents, and so Pecola learns that she is ugly and deserves to be abused. The school children tease her, and when she is lured into the house by Junior and his mother walks in to see the cat thrown against the wall, she immediately judges Pecola to be unworthy of her attention and doesn't bother to find out if she did throw the cat or not. Even Claudia's mother, though she shows some compassion by taking her in, shows hostility when she goes on a rampage about the milk being drunk. The man who gives her the blue eyes forces her to unwittingly kill an old dog for him. When a child has this much working against them, how can they have the power to withstand it all?

Lisa said...

1. To me, it seemed to me as if Pecola were repeating these phrases over and over in her head to try it make it all come true for her. She so desperately wanted to have a family like that. She wanted to be beautiful and have everyone notice her and appreciate her. It demonstrates the huge disparity between what some children enjoyed and what Pecola had to endure.

4. The reader sees how the cycle of hopelessness, poverty and violence is perpetuated from Pecola's parents to Pecola herself. Violence and abuse is NEVER justified, but the reader does get some sense of why things are the way they are for Pecola. I think what infuriated me the most was the way in which some of the people in town blamed Pecola for her rape. She was a little girl for crying out loud!

Michaelann said...

1. The opening started out readable, then began running together, and became unreadable and jumbled as if someone was chanting it over and over. (like lisa said) Also it seemed as if it mimicked Pecola's need to find a friend.

2. Sometimes using "correct" english makes the image or scene to proper and sterile. By using language in the way she did Morrison was able to connect the reader to the emotions in the scenes and relay the images in a different way.

3. I agree that the adults seemed to take no notice of the children and what they were facing and so would not have been able to tell the story as close to Pecola's point of view as another child could. Also adults would have brushed off the way the other adults treated Pecola as normal because they themselves would have done the same. A child sees everything through different/new eyes and can see the harshness the adults can't.

4. Everything about Pecola's existence is hostile to her. Her family leads her to believe she is ugly because that is how they have come to see themselves. Her parents are violent towards each other and towards the children. Everyone in school is mean to her and as Kim said even Claudia's mother is mean even as she helps. After everyone finds out about the rape they do not come to Pecola's aid but instead blame her even though they know her father is a drunk and she is just a child.

MissHum22 said...

1. Because it shows how what we consider to be normal "banalities" are luxuries to some folk. I'm just going to reiterate the obvious when I say it shows the stark contrast between the life rich white people took for granted versus the horror that was Pecola's life.

2. see michaelann's comment.

3. Children's innocence can put into perspective an adults hardened and prejudiced way of looking at the world. I loved the part where Claudia asked, (and I do not quote correctly) Why is it okay that everyone is wishing this unborn baby dead? There it is, swishing around in there, growing a head full of black hair, an innocent baby, and people are already calling it ugly and hoping it dies for everyone else's sake. That paragraph really got to me.

4. What I focused on in my review of this book was the end where she said, "We were so beautiful astride her ugliness..." etc. It shows how everyone - blacks, whites and all - are clamoring for this perfect existence which is unattainable. So they turn on someone "worse off" than them, Like a poor, ugly, abused black girl who wouldn't fight back, to make them feel better about their own imperfections. This tendency is in everyone to different degrees. Not just unfortunate people, that is why all of existence would be hostile to Pecola - not just the kids at school.

Andrea said...

1. It is interesting that Morrison compares a black family to the excerpt, like Junior's family. His family looks perfect and acts perfectly outwardly, they even have a cat. But the narrator gives us a glimpse into Junior's mother's feelings and emotions, which aren't so perfect. I wonder if Morrison is also trying to say that all families have problems, even people who seem perfect may be jumbled up on the inside, if only because of the way they treat people like Pecola.

kristen said...

3. I agree with others' reflections. I think Morrison sees the adults as lost causes. They are jaded, ruined and coarse. They speak of Pecola as possibly playing a part in her sexual assault while Claudia and Frieda play seeds and pray to God. The adults do not take note of Pecola's invisibility--or the degradation of the black race in general. They encourage Claudia to play with Shirley Temple dolls and assume black children are playing "dirty." Children took notice of the unfairness. They were kind spirited and aware.

In terms of both literary "rules" and social critique, I think the use of a child narrator privileges the voices of the disenfranchised. Children are perhaps the most damaged by racism, sexism and violence. To give credence to their story is to show the need for more attention to the harm our social structures do.