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The Bluest Eye is a 1970 novel by Toni Morrison. The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio, named Pecola. It takes place against the backdrop of America's Midwest as well as in the years following the Great Depression. The novel explores the relationship between beauty and race. The protagonist realizes that darker-skinned black people are treated worse than lighter-skinned black people, who more closely fit Caucasian standards of beauty. Pecola comes to believe that if she had blue eyes, she would escape race-based oppression.

Tropes used in The Bluest Eye include:


  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Deconstructed. Most of the characters subscribe to this belief, which is extremely damaging to those who are unlucky enough to be labelled "ugly," especially since they're all being judged using Caucasian standards of beauty.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Breedloves.
  • Blue Eyes: Pecola dreams of having blue eyes, hoping that they will free her from the oppression she suffers for being black, female, "ugly," and lower-class.
  • Break the Cutie: Pecola.
  • But Not Too Black: Many of the characters subscribe to this, treating mixed-race people more humanely than "blacker" people.
  • Butt Monkey: If something humiliating and depressing can happen to Pecola, it will.
  • Downer Ending
  • Driven to Madness: Pecola
  • Foregone Conclusion: The narrator spoils the Downer Ending on the third page of the novel.
  • Hair of Gold: Deconstructed. Both black and white characters alike tend to privilege blonde-haired children above the dark-haired protagonists, which is a source of great ire and confusion for Claudia.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Whenever Claudia narrates.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Junior, and the gang of boys who bully Pecola.
  • Parental Abandonment: Cholly's parents both abandoned him, and he ended up being raised by his great-aunt.
  • Parental Incest: Cholly rapes his daughter, Pecola.
  • The Power of Love: Brutally subverted.
    • Claudia's closing narration observes that "love is never any better than the lover," so violent/screwed-up/weak/wicked people will love in violent/screwed-up/weak/wicked ways.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Shout-Out: To Shirley Temple and Raggedy Ann and Andy. Also, Vulcans are brought up. Presumably, not THOSE Vulcans, though.
  • Start of Darkness: Several chapters are devoted to the backstory of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove, showing how they got to be so screwed up.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The chapter that Pecola narrates.
  • Tragic Dream: Pecola's dream of having blue eyes.
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