Reading, The Bluest Eye: Some Last Thoughts
Assuming that The Bluest Eye is not necessarily a feminist novel, I have to wonder exactly what it is. It most certainly is an anti-racism novel, more specifically an anti-internalized racism novel. If you do not walk away from The Bluest Eye questioning how much of society’s ugliness is projected onto the lowest rung of the hierarchy, you missed an enriching opportunity.
In my opinion, Morrison is most sympathetic toward the men, especially Cholly. Yes, yes, I read the introduction that suggests that one must take refuge in the how since the why cannot be explained. “There is really nothing more to say —except why. However, since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” Well, I’m not satisfied with the why or the how.
There are no good men in Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye. Mr. Henry molests little girls. Soaphead Church molests little girls. Cholly Bleedlove rapes a little girl (his daughter), is a murderer, alcoholic, and an over all low life deadbeat. His father is an abusive gambler who abandons his mother (More than likely after having the sex that led to Cholly’s conception). Even, Blue who initially cares for Cholly succumbs to alcoholism and a life centered on hurrying death. Other than Mr. MacTeer, whose character is not explored, all the men are horrible.
One can infer that Morrison is saying since Cholly lives in a white supremacist world where white men are held in higher esteem than black men, and since white men can terrorize black men, then it exonerates Cholly (and by extension, the collective black man) when he in turn mistreats/abuses black girls and women. The white men terrorize Cholly, so Cholly gets to terrorize black women/girls as a relief valve, a pressure release. For example, when Cholly and Darlene, both teenagers are having sex in the pine woods, two white men come upon them. The two men, armed with guns, a spirit lamp and a flashlight demand that Cholly get on with having sex with Darlene. Cholly does not protest or fight. Of course probably it would have been fruitless, not to mention dangerous. However, instead of hating the white men, for no explainable reason Cholly turns his hatred toward Darlene. “Cholly, moving faster, looked at Darlene. He hated her. He almost wished he could do it—hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much. […] Cholly raised himself and in silence buttoned his trousers. Darlene did not move. Cholly wanted to strangle her, but instead he touched her leg with his foot. ‘We got to get, girl. Come on!’”
The next day when Cholly remembers the incident and has had time to reflect, instead of transferring his hatred to the white men from Darlene, he “cultivate[s] his hatred of Darlene.” Morrison goes on to justify his hatred for Darlene by claiming he is not mature enough at the time to hate the white men:
Never did he once consider directing his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, helpless. His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess—that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal, leaving only flakes of ash and a question mark of smoke. He was, in time, to discover that hatred of white men—but not now. Not in impotence but later, when the hatred could find sweet expression. For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence. The one whom he had not been able to protect, to spare, to cover from the round moon glow of the flashlight.
Blah blah blah. The poor thing could not reconcile his patriarchal duty of protecting a girl from the terrorists, so he is forced to hate her. He hates her because she, she alone was “the one who had created the situation.” As if Darlene was out in the pine woods seducing poor Cholly and Cholly had no agency to say no (to Darlene, not to the white men with guns) and, as if Darlene will not suffer from the incident as well.
The same sympathetic rationalization unfolds throughout the scene in which Cholly rapes Pecola.
I have been hard press to make sense of what Morrison is saying in the afterword.
And, although I was pressing for a female expressiveness, it eluded me for the most part, and I had to content myself with female personae because I was not able to secure throughout the work the feminine subtext that is present in the opening sentence (the women gossiping, eager and aghast in “Quiet as it’s kept”). The shambles this struggle became is most evident in the section on Pauline Breedlove, where I resorted to two voices, hers and the urging narrator’s, both of which are extremely unsatisfactory to me. It is interesting to me now that where I thought I would have the most difficulty subverting the language to a feminine mode, I had the least: connecting Cholly’s “rape” by the whitemen to his own of his daughter. This most masculine act of aggression becomes feminized in my language, “passive,” and, I think, more accurately repellent when deprived of the male “glamour of shame” rape is (or once was) routinely given.