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The Bluest Eye | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Spring, Chapter 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Spring, Chapter 2 of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye.

The Bluest Eye | Spring, Chapter 2 | Summary



This chapter's run-on Dick and Jane lines are about their mother (SEEMOTHER), and the chapter focuses on Pauline Williams Breedlove, Pecola's mother. Morrison describes Pauline's early life and how she met Cholly. The chapter is partially told through a narrator, while italicized sections present Pauline's version of events.

An accident at age two left Pauline with a permanently damaged foot, but Morrison says Pauline's dreams really died when her front tooth rotted away. Pauline is always different and separate from others. She daydreams about a man who will rescue her from her boring life, and Cholly Breedlove finds her. He is gentle with her and loving, and they laugh a lot. The two of them marry and move North.

Pauline struggles to adjust to northern living—so many white people and no family around. She clings to Cholly, and he resents this. To earn money Pauline gets a job cleaning and cooking for a white family she neither likes nor respects. Cholly shows up at her job one day, frightens her employer, and gets Pauline fired. Her former employer encourages Pauline to leave Cholly and come back to work, but Pauline thinks "none too bright for a black woman to leave a black man for a white woman."

Cholly is pleased when Pauline gets pregnant, but she is still unhappy, alone in their shabby rooms. Going to the movies becomes her chief indulgence, and for a time she aspires to be as beautiful as a movie star. But after neglected dental care makes her front tooth fall out, Pauline gives up on beauty. When she goes to the hospital to give birth, she is forced to listen to a doctor explain how African American women are no different than horses, so they require limited medical attention. She gets no joy from her children, only more reasons to complain and worry. She becomes the provider for the family, turning to responsibility and religion. She gets a job with a wealthy family and enjoys all their lovely things, choosing to ignore her own shabby life as much as possible. She still remembers the good times with Cholly and the good sexual experiences they had, but those days are long gone. She tries not to think about them anymore.


Pauline thinks her injured foot makes her "different" from others, while Morrison emphasizes her rotten tooth. In fact, lack of access to health care or dental care was common for many African Americans at the time. Few African Americans were able to become doctors themselves, and some white hospitals and medical offices would refuse to care for African Americans. Plus medical care was expensive. If they were able to pay for care, they often got inferior treatment, as symbolized by the doctor who compares African American women to horses. To Pauline both her damaged foot and her rotten tooth symbolize the ways in which she is less desirable than other women.

Morrison deliberately brings Pauline's voice out, describing Pauline's life in first person. Morrison has often spoken of her desire to bring forward the voices of African Americans who are not always represented in literature. She gives Pauline a chance to talk about her own life, although she does not use the same device for Cholly.

Pauline fantasizes about a "presence"—an unfamiliar man who will give her "rebirth" without any effort on her part, a miraculous person "before whose glance her foot straightened and her eyes dropped." This mysterious stranger has godlike qualities. Pauline associates him with a hymn sung in church, creating a fertile environment for Cholly's arrival.

From an outside perspective Cholly's arrival is very odd. He sees a girl standing with her back to him, and he tickles her foot and kisses her leg. Pauline accepts it because Cholly is the godlike stranger she waited for, but most women would be uncomfortable with a strange man handling them this way without even saying hello. Cholly's description is important: he has "yellow, heavy-lidded eyes," and later Pauline talks about his "real light eyes." Cholly has lighter skin and light eyes—two qualities often valued in the African American community because they are closer to the appearance of Caucasian people.

Pauline and Cholly genuinely enjoy each other at first, which may explain why she stays with him so long. For a time she tries to keep his interest. Her pregnancies seem to draw him back, but nothing works for long. Pauline does not enjoy motherhood very much. In spite of her good intentions Pauline is harsh to her children. She finds Pecola especially disappointing because she thinks Pecola is ugly. Although Pecola's ugliness is reiterated throughout the book, there is no evidence Pecola is truly ugly. She may simply believe she is because of what she was told.

Cholly was Pauline's god, and he fails her, so she turns to religion. Cholly and the children become examples of her suffering. Pauline rejects anything less than perfection. She tries to be beautiful, but when she loses a tooth she gives up on her appearance. She enjoys her job in a wealthy white home because things are beautiful and people appreciate her. She puts so much effort into making their house, their food, and their lives beautiful that she has nothing left for herself or her family. Certainly many servants felt pressure to make their employers' lives flawless, but Pauline chooses that to the exclusion of all else.

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