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The Bluest Eye | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Spring, Chapter 3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Spring, Chapter 3 of Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye.

The Bluest Eye | Spring, Chapter 3 | Summary



This chapter's run-on Dick and Jane lines talk about the father (SEEFATHER), and the chapter focuses on Cholly. Cholly's mother abandoned him on a junk heap when he was four days old. His great-aunt Jimmy raised him. He never knew his mother, and his father had left town before he was born. Aunt Jimmy dies when Cholly is 14.

After the funeral Cholly and his cousin Jake go for a walk with a couple of girls. The two pairs get separated, leaving Cholly alone with a girl named Darlene. She touches him in a suggestive way, and they start to have sex. Two white men catch them, shining a flashlight on them. The white men order Cholly to keep having sex while they watch. Cholly is embarrassed, as is Darlene, but they cannot refuse. The two men eventually leave, but Cholly and Darlene are both deeply upset by what happened and barely speak to each other.

Later Cholly starts to worry Darlene will be pregnant. He decides to run away to look for his father. He does odd jobs to earn money for a bus ticket. He goes without food and even avoids using the bathroom to make sure he doesn't miss the bus. He finds his father, a short and balding man, in a pool hall. He can't bring himself to confront him, and his father—who does not know him—yells at him to leave. Outside the pool hall Cholly collapses, crushed by his father's rejection. His bowels give way and he "soiled himself like a baby." Cholly runs to the river to hide. At the river he cleans himself and finally is able to grieve for Aunt Jimmy.

Cholly has nothing to lose. Morrison summarizes many years of his life, saying he has more women, more violence, and more drinking than he can ever remember. He was free and "godlike" when he met Pauline, but he has no idea how to be a husband or a father.

One morning he comes home drunk and finds Pecola washing dishes. He feels a complex mixture of emotions toward her: guilt and pity, love and hate. Her movements remind him of the first time he met Pauline, and he responds to Pecola in an affectionate, almost flirtatious way. Pecola is shocked. Cholly enjoys her shock, and he rapes her. Pecola loses consciousness. Cholly leaves her on the kitchen floor, covered by a blanket.


Cholly's mother didn't stick around long enough to name him. This detail is essential because it symbolizes so much about Cholly. He was left on a "junk heap." To his own mother Cholly was junk. His father may never have known he was alive. How could Cholly know how to be a parent when he never had any parents himself?

Cholly is strangely childlike throughout most of this chapter. He is "Jimmy's boy," and his future is discussed in front of him, as if he is a baby who cannot understand. When Cholly and Darlene are alone, Cholly doesn't realize what could happen until Darlene begins to touch him. Later when Cholly fails to confront his father, his bowels loosen "like a baby." At the end of the chapter Cholly has moments where he treats Pecola more like a peer than a child. He approaches her flirtatiously, the way he approached Pauline, with no awareness of how wrong it is.

Cholly is caught having sex by two white men: one of the first details Morrison ever shares about him. To Cholly, sex and power are tied together. The white men force him to continue having sex with Darlene, though he no longer wants to. Sexual objectification of African Americans—male and female—has been associated with slavery and postslavery discrimination. Certainly many slaves were forced to have sex with their owners, and slaves' sexual characteristics might have been discussed in the same way a farmer might discuss the sexual prowess of a stallion in a field.

Morrison tries to draw the reader sufficiently inside Cholly's head to understand why he rapes his preadolescent daughter. Morrison does not justify the action, but she wants the reader to keep reading, not turn away in disgust. She shows the reader what a father is supposed to do: Claudia and Frieda's father almost kills Mr. Henry when he tries to touch Frieda's breasts. Before Pecola's rape Morrison discusses how Cholly "conquered" women's bodies and hit women "in the head" but also "cradled that head in his arms" and was "gentle when she was sick." Sex and love and violence and power are all tangled up in Cholly's head. He feels "tenderness" toward Pecola, but there is hatred as well. He rapes his own daughter and will not pick her up off the floor, though he covers her with a blanket.

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