The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
African-American Modernist Fiction
The influence of Modernism on Morrison's work cannot be stressed enough. Morrison wrote her Master's thesis on Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner – two of the most important figures of British and American Modernism, respectively. Their influence can be seen in the form of the novel, which features the multiple perspectives and stream-of-consciousness so typical of modernist works. We might even think of Pecola's split psyche at the end of the novel as something that marks her as a subject in the modern world. The novel also takes up some of Modernism's thematic concerns, including the breakdown of the modern family, the dissolving of community, and an increasing skepticism about religion.
What distinguishes Morrison's work from those of her idols, though, is the way she combines Modernist form and content with distinctly African-American elements, such as old blues lyrics, black southern dialect, and narration from the point of view of African-American characters. This puts Morrison in another literary tradition as well – that of black Modernists such as Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Nella Larsen.