Break It Down: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

[By Goyland Williams]

“Break It Down” is an HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.

This week, Blog Contributor Goyland Williams has analyzed an excerpt from Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye.

P. 206

Oh, some of us “loved” her. The Maginot Line. And Cholly loved her. I’m sure he did. He, at any rate, was the one who loved her enough to touch her, envelop her, give something of himself to her. The narrator’s use of the term “give something of himself” is referring to Cholly’s rape of Pecola, which is ultimately her undoing. But his touch was fatal, and the something he gave her filled the matrix of her agony with death. The baby dies which is a death as well as Pecola’s own social death that pushes her further to the margins than before. Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. Morrison is using the term “free” in the traditional sense that we have come to understand it; no attachments, as in Cholly’s having nothing left to lose. He exists solely for himself, for the indulgence of his own needs and impulses and is thus still unable to love here and give her the attention that she so longs for. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.

And now when I see her searching the garbage—for what? Pecola’s outcast position in the community is reflected in her searching the garbage. The thing we assassinated? I talk about how I did not plant the seeds too deeply, how it was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. The failure of marigolds that year is symbolic, not literal. What destroys Pecola is the individuals who know Pecola, the black community which transfers its own self-hatred to her and the racist white society that contributes to her double consciousness. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. The narrator uses land to refer to the specific community-both black and white, that contributed to Pecola’s demise. Blacks in the community use Pecola to feel better about themselves and her passive strategy for survival “invited” them to dump their own problems on her. We are wrong, of course, but it doesn’t matter. It’s too late. At least on the edge of my town, among the garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it’s much, much, much too late.