The Renegade Rip

‘I wouldn’t give up the lesson it taught me for anything’

Daniella Williams

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When I was 6, I fell into a rosebush. It was painful, and I cried. For the first time in my life I was injured and it taught me what pain was and to be careful not to make others feel like that. Reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is like a mature version of that pain. Reading it hurt me and made me cry while it taught me compassion. I will never forget it.

With all the recent controversy over the book’s “pornographic” content, I decided to pick it up and decide for myself. What I found was a poignant tale of a forgotten girl abused by her family. Although there is, as the book’s detractors point out, graphic sexual depiction, that isn’t the point of the novel. The book actually is a commentary on the American standard of beauty.

Pecola, a little black girl, is sexually abused by her father, psychologically abused by her mother and shut out by her community. Her only hope is to wish for blue eyes. If she were a little white girl, her tormented life would be perfect, or so she believes. The blue eyes never come, and she retreats far into herself. Only the fact that Pecola is not narrating her own story kept me from feeling utterly overwhelmed by her sadness, grief and loneliness.

The secret wish of black people to fit within the standard definition of American beauty is an ugly truth. It was blatant in the ’50s and ’60s, but instead of going away, it has gone underground. It’s the reason that I’ve been told I have “good hair” all my life. If my hair is “good,” does that mean my black friends have “bad” hair? No. Pecola sees herself as less than human, and that feeling is one that still permeates the life of minorities and has to be fought against every day. Society has to be made conscious of that struggle, something the book succeeds in doing.

Trying to ban “The Bluest Eye” under the charge of pornography is unfounded. The novel is the antithesis of a light read, and the depiction of Pecola’s rape is tough to get through. But the book is not filled with pornography, only pain. Although I’m sure my mother would have loved to protect me from being hurt by that rosebush, I’m glad that she didn’t. It wasn’t fun, I don’t want to do it again, but I wouldn’t give up the lesson it taught me for anything. I don’t regret my decision to read “The Bluest Eye.” The characters have stayed with me long after I stopped reading. I fully recommend it to anyone who wants to be challenged by an unforgettable experience.

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‘I wouldn’t give up the lesson it taught me for anything’