Rape, Incest, and Sex
The most glaring challenge posed by The Bluest Eye is undoubtedly its graphic and disturbing sexual subject matter. The novel culminates in Pecola's rape at the hands of her father, Cholly. It also reaches back to deal with Cholly's impotence after being humiliated and emasculated as a young man when he tries to lose his virginity. Other sexual scenes and dialogue abound. These scenes are likely to cause discomfort and this is surely the point.
The key to turning this challenging material into a learning opportunity is to probe Morrison's purpose in depicting such disturbing scenarios. In the final paragraph of the novel, Claudia, the narrator, writes of part of Pecola being "assassinated." Pecola's rape functions as the most vivid enactment of Morrison's depiction of the assassination of a childhood. Likewise, students can be challenged to ask what might drive a man like Cholly to commit such a vile, horrific act upon his own daughter. Trying to understand – to "take refuge in how" as Claudia says – rather than just recoil from these disturbing events is what reading The Bluest Eye is all about.