The Bluest Eye | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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The Bluest Eye | Summer, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

This chapter's Dick and Jane lines begin with "LOOKLOOK." The chapter is written as dialogue, alternating between sentences in italics and sentences in plain text. Pecola talks to another person, mostly about her new blue eyes. Pecola says most people no longer look at her. She is surprised no one compliments her blue eyes but says she no longer attends school because the people there are "prejudiced" against her blue eyes.

As the "conversation" continues, it's clear something is not right. Pecola's "friend" is invisible to everyone else. The friend appeared around the same time Pecola got her blue eyes. Pecola insists Cholly never did anything to her but later admits Cholly did "something" to her another time on the couch. Pecola shows increasing anxiety about her eyes, worrying they are not "blue enough."

After a break of a couple blank lines, the story continues in Claudia's voice. Claudia says the baby was born prematurely and died. Pecola loses her mind and is seen wandering through the neighborhood, gesticulating senselessly. Claudia and Frieda feel they failed her because their flowers never grew, and they avoid her.

Claudia says Sammy, Pecola's brother, ran away, and Cholly was gone. Mrs. Breedlove continued to care for Pecola, who never recovers. Claudia says all of them—including herself and Frieda—dumped their ugliness on Pecola, and made themselves feel better because she was so obviously inferior to them. Pecola "stepped over into madness" because of how she was treated.

Claudia says Cholly must have loved her, but love itself can be damaged by the person who loves. She talks again about the flowers that never grew—not only her flowers but all the flowers in town that year—and how the environment was not right for them. The book ends with the idea that it's "much, much, much too late" to fix some environments that are hostile to growing things.

Analysis

Morrison demonstrates consummate skill as a writer in the first part of this chapter. Using simple dialogue she slowly builds a sense of dismay in the reader. For the first few lines the reader isn't even sure who is speaking, and it takes multiple pages for the reader to understand what has happened to Pecola.

Pecola has lost her mind. She believes she has blue eyes and spends all her time looking at them in a mirror and talking to an imaginary friend. Pecola thinks people resent her because of her eyes, but it is her pregnancy that upsets people. Even in her own head Pecola shies away from some hard truths. She gets angry when her "friend" calls her crazy and when her "friend" suggests Cholly "made" her do something. Pecola insists he tried, but didn't do anything. Later she admits he did.

Pecola imagined her life would be better if she had blue eyes, thinking no one would say or do bad things around her if her eyes were blue. Perhaps she hopes Cholly will stop raping her if she has blue eyes. Yet once she has blue eyes (in her own mind), her life is no better. Now she worries her eyes are not "blue enough." Pecola has so internalized the racist beauty messages of her culture that she believes everything is affected by her eye color.

Morrison shifts to Claudia's perspective to confirm Pecola's insanity, describing how she wanders around. Claudia believes she failed Pecola because no flowers grew from the seeds, although she stated at the start of the book that none of the seeds ever produced flowers.

Claudia talks about how Pecola served all of them. She was someone to look down on, someone to feel better than, and they all saw themselves as better people because at least they weren't like Pecola. The reader can draw parallels between this description and the way some white people treated African Americans. In the pre–Civil War South, for example, even the poorest and most badly educated white person was seen as better than a slave.

Claudia says Cholly loved Pecola, a description that is hard for many readers to accept. Morrison writes "love is never any better than the lover," suggesting Cholly's love for Pecola may have been so terrible because Cholly was so terrible, beaten down by a lifetime of abuse, neglect, and rejection.

As the book ends, Claudia thinks of the seeds that never grew. She has an adult's broader perspective now, and she says "the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year." Morrison moves past Pecola to the broader question of how African Americans were treated in the country. In 1941 African American life and culture was not being nurtured anywhere in America, Morrison argues. She addresses the idea of blaming the victim: "we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live," and she challenges the idea. The book ends with the phrase "it's much, much, much too late," suggesting the country has so damaged African Americans they may never know who they could have become, like seeds that never grow.

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