Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Love

By Toni Morrison

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Autumn, Chapter 1
Pecola Breedlove

Dandelions. A dart of affection leaps out from her to them. But they do not look at her and do not send love back. She thinks, 'They are ugly. They are weeds.' Preoccupied with that revelation, she trips on the sidewalk crack. Anger stirs and wakes in her; it opens its mouth, and like a hot-mouthed puppy, laps up the dredges of her shame. Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. (1.3.31)

Pecola identifies with and loves the weeds because they are ugly.

She eats the candy, its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. (1.3.33)

In Pecola's mind, loving Mary Jane seems to be associated with becoming her. This moment reminds us of Pecola's obsession with Shirley Temple. Pecola seems to love people that represent what she wants to be.

Claudia MacTeer

Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window. I could smell it – taste it – sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base – everywhere in that house. (1.1.10)

Although the MacTeer house is cold, they have their love to keep them warm. (Aww!)

Autumn, Chapter 3
Cholly Breedlove

What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? (3.8.87)

Cholly's self-hatred seems to rear its head right before he rapes Pecola. He doesn't understand how such an innocent creature could love him.

Having no idea of how to raise children, and having never watched any parent raise himself, he could not even comprehend what such a relationship should be....Had he not been alone in the world since he was thirteen, knowing only a dying old woman who felt responsible for him, but whose age, sex, and interests were so remote from his own, he might have felt a stable connection between himself and the children. As it was, he reacted to them, and his reactions were based on what he felt at that moment. (3.8.85)

Cholly's lack of love for his children is explained here. His experience mirrors that of other characters in the novel – like Soaphead Church – who cannot love in a moral way because they were never showed how. Childhood experiences shape the adult.

Soaphead Church

Once there was an old man who loved things, for the slightest contact with people produced in him a faint but persistent nausea. (3.9.1)

Soaphead Church believes that his "nature" is to love objects and not people. This misanthropy leads him to become attracted to young girls.

Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical beauty. Probably the most destructive idea in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. (3.7.22)

This passage presents us with some of the dangers of love.

Pauline Breedlove

Pauline and Cholly loved each other. He seemed to relish her company and even to enjoy her country ways and lack of knowledge about city things. He talked with her about her foot and asked, when they walked through the town or in the fields, if she were tired. Instead of ignoring her infirmity, pretending it was not there, he made it seem like something special and endearing. For the first time Pauline felt that her bad foot was an asset. And he did touch her, firmly but gently, just as she had dreamed. But minus the gloom of setting suns and lonely river banks. She was secure and grateful; he was kind and lively. She had not known there was so much laughter in the world. (3.7.14)

Cholly is Pauline's dream come true. Having always felt detached from her family and left out of their fun, the laughter and innocence Cholly provides makes her feel safe, young, and vibrant.

She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit. (3.7.22)

Love is a kind of ownership for Pauline.

Winter, Chapter 4

Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover's inward eye. (4.11.8)

Wow, this passage is intense. Here it seems that the way that people love, and the quality of their love, is tied to their personalities. What do you think is being said here? Do you agree with its assessment of love?

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