The Bluest Eye
How we cite our quotes:
His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man. (3.9.5)
Soaphead – the sole academic figure in the book – uses his intelligence to manipulate the concept of innocence, extending it to include his own sexuality.
And there wasn't nastiness, and there wasn't any filth, and there wasn't any odor, and there wasn't any groaning – just the light white laughter of little girls and me. And there wasn't any look – any long funny look – any long funny Velma look afterward. No look that makes you feel dirty afterward. That makes you want to die. With little girls it is all clean and good and friendly. (3.9.41)
In this passage, innocence is not something experienced by young girls so much as a quality seen and desired by an adult. The fact that children do not experience innocence but instead have it taken away from them seems to be one of the major tragedies of the novel.
Look, look. Here comes a friend. The friend will play with Jane. They will play a good game. Play, Jane, play. (First Prologue)
The chipper language of the prologue stands in stark contrast to the sexual and racial horrors we confront as the novel unfolds. It raises the question of who exactly gets to experience innocence in society.