September 25, 2017

P.O.U. Book Club: The Bluest Eye


I hope everyone has been able to read the section entitled, ” Winter” from P.O.U. Book Club selection, The Bluest Eye.

During Winter we are introduced to the following characters:

Maureen Peal– Claudia and Frieda refer to her as “Meringue Pie”; she is both hated and admired because of her beatiful clothes, light skin, long hair, and green eyes. 

Geraldine– A socially conscious middle class black woman, Geraldine shows little affection towards her son, Louis junior, but she has enormous adoration for her blue eyed cat. 

Louis Junior– Geraldine’s only child, who is unloved and deeply troubled. He bullies and torments Pecola

Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Buddy Wilson, Junie Bug- A group of black school boys who torment Pecola, until she is rescued by Claudia, Frieda, and Maureen Peal.

Maginot Line– It was a system of heavy fortifications built before WWII on the eastern frontier of France; it failed to prevent invasion by the Nazi Forces. Also, the name of China’s friend.

The section starts off with Claudia paying homage to her dad.  She uses winter metaphors and similes, for example:

His intimidating eyes become a ” cliff of snow threatening to avalanche,” and “his eyebrows bend like black limbs of leafless tress.”

Mr. MacTeer is the complete opposite of Cholly Breedlove( Pecola’s father). Mr. MacTeer is hard working and loves his family. He shows his love through his actions and his words.

Maureen Peal is a light-skinned girl who is worshipped by her classmates and teachers. They are fascinated by her “whiteness” She is considered pretty and flawless, unlike Pecola who considered ugly, flawed  and black.

What is Toni Morrison  trying to convey by using this sentence to describe Maureen’s hair, ” It looked like two lynch ropes lying down her back”?  

Claudia is isn’t a big fan of Maureen Peal and has daydreams of slamming her face into a locker.  Claudia and Frieda come up with several names for Maureen that shows their disdain.

Maureen ends up befriending Claudia and wants to walk home from school with her and Frieda. On their way home, they see Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Junior Wilson, and Junie Bug making fun of Pecola .Claudia and her sister decide to intervene and make the boys stop with their taunts.  Afterwards they all head to an ice cream parlor where Maureen buys Pecola and herself some ice cream. Eventually, Claudia and Maureen have an argument, and Maureen storms off. 

They head home and see Mr. Henry, who gives them some money to go get ice cream and leave the house. He calls them Ginger Rogers and Greta Gabor. They head out to get candy and chips instead, head back home, only to find Mr. Henry sucking on China’s fingers. While another woman, Maginot Line looks on. They debate on whether or not they should tell their parents what they saw, but changed their minds. Mr Henry lies and tells them that women were in his bible study. It seems as if the girls were disappointed by the fact that an adult blatantly lied to them.

The story changes course and focuses on Geraldine and her son Louis Junior. Geraldine is  a middle class balck woman who feels unhappy  about her life. She shows more affection towards her cat than her son. She lives a completely empty existence.  Her son is a complete bully on the playground and he hates his mother’s cat.  Geraldine informs Louis that he is a colored person and not a nigger. She proceeds to tell him the differences between the two groups., which boils down to Niggers are dirty, poor and loud; and Coloreds are clean, quiet, and the total opposite of a nigger. She only wants her son to play with whites, not blacks. While having sex with her husband, she  gives her husband a finite amount of sex as long as he doesn’t touch her too much. Sex seems like a chore for her. 

Louis Junior lures Pecola from the playground, by offering her a cat. She hesitates but goes anyway to Louis’s house. Once she arrives, she marvels at how beautiful the house is. Louis ends up throwing cat on her, and the cat ends up scratching Pecola’s face. She screams and wants to go home, but Louis keeps her locked in. While she is screaming and sobbing the cat comes back to rub against  her and calms her. Louis opens up the room and notices the cat has taken a liking to Pecola similar to his mom. He takes the cat by the tail, swings it over his head and let’s the cat go. The cat his the window and gets hurt. Geraldine shows up and blames the cat’s injuries on Pecola. Geraldine starts to think about what Pecola stands for (dark, poor, loud) becomes repulsed,  and screams at her to get out of their house. 

White perceptions of beauty are pervasive throughout the chapter, with references to Greta Gabor, Hedy Lamarr, Ginger Rogers and Betty Grabel.

How did you feel about this section in general? Any other issues, or events stood out?

Why would there be a character named Maginot Line? 

Next section is a long one, it is entitled, “Spring.” We will have the next discussion on this book on April 12th. I look forward to discussing more about the book then.

  • Bri

    I have been meaning to read this book, and will be checking it out at the library this week.

  • Miranda

    Excellent summary Pbomb. The whole “our kind of people” vibe rears its ugly head which is expected,especially in a period book like this one.

    • PBomb

      I agree. Geraldine called Pecola such a nasty name. That was only after, she gave Pecola the once over, she looked a ther hair, skin, clothing, and shoes and labeled her trash.

      I still don’t get why Toni Morrison named a character (prostitute) Maginot Line.

      • Miranda

        I was wondering about that too, from what I gathered, the Maginot Line was considered a failure – but still not sure why that’s the name of the character.