Course Hero. "The Bluest Eye Study Guide." Course Hero. 5 Oct. 2017. Web. 8 June 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bluest-Eye/>.
Course Hero. (2017, October 5). The Bluest Eye Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bluest-Eye/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "The Bluest Eye Study Guide." October 5, 2017. Accessed June 8, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bluest-Eye/.
Course Hero, "The Bluest Eye Study Guide," October 5, 2017, accessed June 8, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bluest-Eye/.
Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye.
The book is set in 1941, and much of it is narrated by a young African American girl, Claudia MacTeer. Claudia lives with her parents and her older sister Frieda. A man named Mr. Henry rents a room from her family, and he likes to tease Claudia and Frieda. Claudia mentions another African American girl, Pecola, who goes to stay with the MacTeers after her father, Cholly Breedlove, tried to burn down the Breedloves' home. Pecola and Frieda bond over an appreciation of Shirley Temple, whom Claudia dislikes. Claudia also dislikes white baby dolls, which people try to give her as gifts. While Pecola is staying with Claudia's family, she begins menstruating.
Pecola's family moves into an abandoned storefront. Her father, Cholly, drinks frequently and works very little. Her mother, whom Pecola calls Mrs. Breedlove, is a housekeeper for a white family. Mrs. Breedlove and Cholly fight violently, and Pecola tries to hide from her parents' fighting. Pecola wants to have blue eyes. She believes if she had blue eyes her parents wouldn't fight any more.
At school Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda must deal with a classmate named Maureen Peal. Maureen is a lighter-skinned African American child, and almost everyone loves her. Claudia and Frieda are reluctant to trust her, and their reluctance is proved right. When she gets angry, Maureen is quick to insult Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda. Claudia and Frieda fight back, but Pecola does not.
One day Claudia comes home to find Frieda crying because Mr. Henry, their family's boarder, tried to molest her. Their father tried to kill Mr. Henry, but now Frieda is frightened because someone said she might be "ruined." To avoid being "ruined," the girls think Frieda should drink alcohol, and they decide to get some from Cholly, Pecola's father. They find Pecola waiting outside the house where her mother works. Mrs. Breedlove invites them inside for a few minutes. They are challenged by a little white girl who lives there, and Pecola accidentally spills a pie. Mrs. Breedlove scolds Pecola harshly but speaks gently to the little girl.
The next two chapters describe the personal history of Mrs. Breedlove and Cholly. As a child Mrs. Breedlove, whose first name is Pauline, suffered a foot injury, which never fully healed. She was happy to leave her hometown when Cholly arrived. They had good times for a while, but now their relationship is mostly screaming and hitting each other.
Cholly's chapter describes how he was abandoned by his mother as an infant. His great-aunt raised him, but she died when he was 14. Shortly after her funeral, Cholly's first sexual experience is interrupted when two white men catch him having sex with a girl. They insist Cholly keep going for their enjoyment. Afterward Cholly runs away. He lives on the road for years, which is when he meets Pauline. They marry, but Cholly loses interest in being with only one woman. He also doesn't know how to be a father because he never had parents when he was growing up. One morning, as he comes home drunk, Cholly sees Pecola standing in a pose that reminds him of Pauline. He tries to flirt with Pecola, and then he rapes her.
Pecola visits Soaphead Church, a fortune teller. She asks him to help her get blue eyes. Soaphead tricks Pecola into poisoning his landlady's elderly dog, telling her if the dog reacts to the "treat" she gives it, the Lord will give her blue eyes. The dog dies, and Pecola runs away, terrified.
To earn money to buy a new bicycle, Claudia and Frieda travel the neighborhood, selling seeds. They overhear gossip in the neighborhood about Pecola: she is pregnant with Cholly's baby. Claudia and Frieda are sad for Pecola and the baby, whom nobody seems to want. They decide to bury their saved-up money and seeds as an offering to protect Pecola's baby. They believe if the seeds grow, the baby will be fine.
Pecola has lost her mind. She believes she has blue eyes, and she thinks everyone ignores her now because they are jealous of her beautiful eyes. In conversation with an invisible friend, Pecola admits Cholly raped her more than once.
At the end of the book Claudia is narrating once again. She says Pecola went crazy and the baby died. Claudia reflects sadly on the way some environments never seem to provide nourishment for seeds—or people—to grow the way they should.
The Bluest Eye Plot Diagram