Collected Quotes: The Bluest Eye

“He had been reared in a family proud of its academic accomplishments and its mixed blood-in fact, they believed the former was based on the latter. With the confidence born of a conviction of superiority, they performed well at schools. They were industrious, orderly, and energetic, hoping to prove beyond a doubt De Gobineau’s hypothesis…

“He had been reared in a family proud of its academic accomplishments and its mixed blood-in fact, they believed the former was based on the latter. With the confidence born of a conviction of superiority, they performed well at schools. They were industrious, orderly, and energetic, hoping to prove beyond a doubt De Gobineau’s hypothesis that ‘all civilizations derive from the white race, that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves the noble group that created it.’”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – 167-168

“We took as our own the most dramatic, and the most obvious, of our white master’s characteristics, which were, of course, their worst. In retaining the identity of our race, we held fast to those characteristics most gratifying to sustain and least troublesome to maintain. Consequently we were not royal but snobbish, not aristocratic but class-conscious; we believed authority was cruel to our inferiors, and education was being at school. We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure and thought recklessness was freedom. Our manhood was defined by acquisitions. Our womanhood by acquiescence.”
— Eilhue “Soaphead Church” Whitcomb – The Bluest Eye – 177

“Until that moment I had seen pretty, the lovely, the nice, the ugly, and although I had certainly used the word ‘beautiful,’ I had never experienced its shock – the force of which was equaled by the knowledge that no one else recognized it, not even, or especially, the one who possessed it.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – Afterword

“Who told her? Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale? The reclamation of racial beauty in the sixties stirred these thoughts, made me think about the necessity for the claim. Why, although reviled by others, could this beauty not be taken for granted by the community? Why did it need wife public articulation to exit? These are not clever questions.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – Afterword

“The assertion of racial beauty was not a reaction to the self-mocking, humorous critique of cultural/racial foibles common in all groups, but against the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority originating in an outside gaze.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – Afterword

“My choices of language (speakerly, aural, colloquial), my reliance for full comprehension on codes embedded in black culture, my effort to effect immediate co-conspiracy and intimacy (without any distancing, explanatory fabric), as well as attempt to shape a silence while breaking it are attempts to transfigure the complexity and wealth of Black-American culture into a language worthy of the culture.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – Afterword

“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another: physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – Page 123

“I thought about the baby that everybody wanted dead, and saw it very clearly. It was in a dark, wet place, its head covered with great O’s of wool, the black face holding, like nickels, two clean black eyes, the flared nose, kissing-thick lips, and the living, breathing silk of black skin. No synthetic yellow bangs suspended over marble-blue eyes, no pinched nose and bowline mouth. I felt a need for someone to want the black baby to live-just to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals.”
— Claudia – The Bluest Eye – 190

“We had defended ourselves since memory against everything and everybody, considered all speech a code to be broken by us, and all gestures subject to careful analysis; we had become headstrong, devious, and arrogant. Nobody paid us any attention, so we paid very good attention to ourselves. Out limitations were not know to us-not then. Our only handicap was our size; people gave us orders because they were bigger and stronger. So it was with confidence, strengthened by pity and pride, that we decided to change the course of events and alter a human life.”
— Claudia – The Bluest Eye – 191

“ among all the beauty and waste of the world – which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us – all who knew her – felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used – to silence our own nightmares. And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt. We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty and yawned in the fantasy of our strength. And fantasy it was, for we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not goof, but well behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life. We substituted good grammar for intelligence; we switched habits to simulate maturity; we rearranged lies and called it truth, seeing in the new pattern of an old idea the Revelation of the Word.”
— Claudia – The Bluest Eye – 205-206

“The pieces of Cholly’s life could become coherent only in the head of a musician. One those who talk their talk through the gold of curved metal, or in the touch of black-and-white rectangles and taut skins and strings echoing from wooden corridors could give true form to his life. Only a musician would sense, know, without even knowing that he knew, that Cholly was free. Dangerously free.”
— Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye – 159

“ had explained to him the difference between colored people and niggers. They were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud. The line between colored and nigger was not always clear; subtle and telltale signs threatened to erode it, and the watch had to be constant.”
— Claudia – The Bluest Eye – Page 87

“They seemed to have taken all of their smoothly cultivated ignorance, their exquisitely learned self-hatred, their elaborately designed hopelessness and sucked it all up into a fiery cone of scorn that had burned for ages in the hollows of their minds-cooled-and spilled over lips of outrage, consuming whatever was in its path, They danced a macabre ballet around the victim, whom, for their own sake, they were prepared to sacrifice to the flaming pit.”
— Claudia – The Bluest Eye – Page 65

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