English 1130: The Bluest Eye
Write an essay (roughly 1,000—1,200 words in length) on one of the following topics. In your essay, ensure that you provide a specific thesis in the introduction and, as you develop your paper, refer frequently to the text itself (via paraphrasing and quotation) in supporting your ideas. You are not required to perform any external research for this assignment, but should you use any outside sources in producing the paper, all such sources must be acknowledged (in correct MLA style).
1. In the foreword of her novel, Morrison writes the following:
The Bluest Eye was my effort to say something about that; to say something
about why she had not, or possibly ever would have, the experience of what she possessed and also why she prayed for so radical an alteration. Implicit in her desire was racial self-loathing. And twenty years later I was still wondering about how one learns that. Who told her? Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was…the novel pecks away at the gaze that condemned her.
Considering the quote above, and the prevalence of violence and depredation that maintains between the white and black communities in Lorain at that time (the 1940’s), explore the author’s depiction of Pecola’s desire for transformation. What does this desire suggest about her needs in this community? What might this need also suggest about Morrison’s view of life as a black woman in the America of her time? Be specific in your response.
2. On page 188 of the novel, Claudia expresses the following:
Little by little, we began to piece a story together, a secret, terrible, awful story. And it was only after two or three such vaguely overheard conversations that
we realized that the story was about Pecola. Properly placed, the fragments of talk ran like this—“Did you hear about that girl?”
This narrative focuses on the destruction of a single individual, Pecola, but in an unconventional way. In light of the quote above, examine the novel’s fragmentary and disjointed structure (italic text, the grade school primer, reported conversations, letters and songs, seasonal divisions, numerous flashbacks, and so on). How might the structure of the novel help to articulate its theme?
3. On page 32, Pecola wonders how a person gets someone to love one. On page 206, the narrator states that she is sure that her father loved her. Yet, Pecola is clearly a victim in the story. With this in mind, explore the depiction of love in the novel. How would you define Morrison’s treatment of love in this environment?
4. Do you think of Pecola as a real individual, or do you imagine that Morrison has some other goal, symbolic or otherwise, in her crafting of this character? Refer specifically to the text in making your response.
5. Examine the novel’s depiction of the relationship between parents (and the adult world as a whole) and their children. Even outside of the Breedlove household, what statement do you think Morrison is making about the frequency of violence and violation that strafes the world of the children?
According to Wikipedia, a bildungsroman “tells about the growing up or coming of age of a sensitive person who is looking for answers or experience. The genre evolved from German folklore tales of a youngest son going out in the world to seek his fortune. Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on his journey. In a bildungsroman, the goal is maturity, and the protagonist achieves it gradually and with difficulty”.
Considering the quote above, explore how we might define The Bluest Eye as a bildungsroman, and suggest by the end of your essay whether or not Pecola or Claudia (or both) succeeds as such a protagonist.
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