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The Bluest Eye | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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The Bluest Eye | Quotes


Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.

Claudia MacTeer, Prologue

Morrison piques the reader's interest: Why were there no marigolds? Why is that important? The sentence also informs the reader of part of the novel's setting: 1941, almost 30 years before the book was published.


But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

Claudia MacTeer, Prologue

This sentence refers to Pecola's incestuous pregnancy. Morrison says the novel will try to explain how her the events surrounding the pregnancy came about. How and why are connected in some ways, and Morrison will address both topics.


I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die.

Claudia MacTeer, Autumn, Chapter 1

Claudia describes how someone cares for her when she is sick as a child. Morrison establishes the love in Claudia's family—love that is lacking in the Breedlove family. Although Claudia's mother is stern, she genuinely loves her children. It is unclear if either Mrs. Breedlove or Cholly really loves Pecola.


They lived there because they were poor and black, ... stayed ... because they believed they were ugly.

Narrator, Autumn, Chapter 3

This refers to the Breedlove family and their inadequate and unloving home in the abandoned storefront. Morrison wanted this book to delineate two different forces that impact the lives of African Americans. One was the poverty and discrimination African Americans faced, particularly in 1941. The other, however, is more significant to Morrison: the cultural attitude that made African Americans believe themselves to be ugly.


Mrs. Breedlove was not interested in Christ the Redeemer, but rather Christ the Judge.

Narrator, Autumn, Chapter 3

Christ the Redeemer and Christ the Judge are two symbolic descriptions of Jesus Christ. Christ the Redeemer is a figure of forgiveness, while Christ the Judge is a stern figure who demands obedience.

The religious imagery fits Mrs. Breedlove, who is devoutly religious, and it expresses her treatment of her family, which has much more to do with punishment and judgment than with forgiveness.


Nobody loves the head of a dandelion. Maybe because they are so many, strong, and soon.

Narrator, Autumn, Chapter 3

Pecola notices dandelions when most others don't. She is sensitive to the flowers' beauty but also knows most people ignore or dismiss them. Morrison describes them as "so many, strong, and soon," which could be symbolic of how some white people view African Americans. White people, to Morrison, are unable to appreciate African American beauty, just as most people fail to appreciate a dandelion.


It was their contempt for their own blackness that gave the first insult its teeth.

Narrator, Winter, Chapter 1

Some children at school taunt Pecola by calling her "black." Morrison points out how children have already internalized the cultural message that dark skin is bad. Children can be cruel, and the cruelest thing these children can think to say is to call someone "black."


He laughed the grown-up getting-ready-to-lie laugh. A heh-heh we knew well.

Claudia MacTeer, Winter, Chapter 1

This is Mr. Henry's response when Claudia and Frieda catch him in a lie. Morrison lays the groundwork for the eventual revelation of Mr. Henry as a child molester: here she establishes him as untrustworthy and perhaps overly focused on unusual sexual behaviors. The line also emphasizes the wisdom of children: Claudia and Frieda are perfectly capable of knowing when an adult is lying.


To find out ... how dreams die, one should never take the word of the dreamer.

Narrator, Spring, Chapter 2

Morrison suggests Mrs. Breedlove might not be able to give a truly accurate answer about how her dreams ended. In fact Morrison implies the dreamer may tell a story to herself to justify the dream's death rather than stating the truth.


She bore him like a crown of thorns, and her children like a cross.

Narrator, Spring, Chapter 2

This describes Mrs. Breedlove's attitude toward her husband and children. It refers to Christian imagery of the crucifixion. Before he was crucified, Jesus had a crown of thorns placed on his head. The crown of thorns and the crucifixion exemplified Jesus's suffering. Morrison suggests Mrs. Breedlove suffers through her relationships with her husband and children.


What ... would earn him his own respect, that would ... allow him to accept her love?

Narrator, Spring, Chapter 3

Several characters in this novel lack the capacity to love themselves. Cholly is one of these. At this moment he is staring at Pecola and wondering why she loves him. Cholly's feelings for Pecola are a combination of positive (affection, love, tenderness) and negative (resentment, scorn, disgust). Much of his anger toward her comes from his anger about his own life, and his inability to be a good parent comes, in part, from the way his parents abandoned him.


We ... took as our own the ... most obvious, of our white masters' characteristics, ... their worst.

Soaphead Church, Spring, Chapter 4

In his letter to God Soaphead explores the history of "his people," the multiracial community that built a shadowy version of the white culture for themselves.

In his confessional letter Soaphead admits they modeled themselves after white society but often used the "worst" elements of white society as their example. This expresses Morrison's opinion as well. Earlier in the book she describes how women like Geraldine build a life for themselves that is picture-perfect but emotionally barren, just as many white women's lives were picture-perfect but emotionally empty during this era.

Soaphead, who is being blunt and honest in his letter to God, states it as a fact while earlier Morrison merely implies it.


I felt a need for someone to want the black baby ... to counteract the ... love of white baby dolls.

Claudia MacTeer, Summer, Chapter 1

Claudia knows people value white babies because of the way she was told to treat her white baby doll. She does not know about sex, so she does not understand why Pecola's baby horrifies the people around her. Claudia sees the baby as a symbol: a black baby who is unwanted because in this culture white babies are inherently superior. Claudia wants someone to want Pecola's baby.


Love is never any better than the lover.

Claudia MacTeer, Summer, Chapter 2

This is a central argument for Morrison: love cannot be ideal when the person giving the love is not ideal. A person can only give what he or she is capable of giving. While technically this section is written in Claudia's voice, it is the voice of a much more mature Claudia, looking back on her childhood.

This is a nuanced view of love, but it is also an uncomfortable way to view Cholly. By this logic he "loved" Pecola in the only way he knew how, but most people would debate the idea of incestuous rape as any form of "love."


When the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce ... We are wrong ... but it doesn't matter.

Claudia MacTeer, Summer, Chapter 2

In the last paragraph Morrison makes the connection between seeds and people. She says people may blame the seeds for not growing when the environment is to blame. Morrison suggests a parallel between seeds and African Americans: they may be blamed for some of their behaviors when their behaviors are the result of the environment in which they live.

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