Readings from The Bluest Eye
Select one of the videos below to engage with dramatic readings from the novel.
Here is the House
This opening passage is an experimental engagement with the popular, mid-20th-century Dick and Jane primers. Beginning with the language of the primer, the narration breaks down and becomes deconstructed. Because Dick and Jane primers featured white children during an era of segregation and Jim Crow, Morrison is making an intervention by showing how distorted this narrative can be for Black children navigating racism and sexism in America.
Quiet as It’s Kept
One of the opening passages of the novel, the first lines are haunting. They introduce the main aspects of the story that will be developed in the novel, so it is both a teaser and a summary. This passage sets up a kind of intimacy with the reader as though they are in conversation and demonstrates Morrison’s fresh and innovative approach to storytelling.
In this passage, the principal narrator, Claudia Macteer, critiques the valorization of white dolls in her family and the broader community. She describes being disappointed in receiving them as gifts. She also notes the disparity between the way she and her sister are treated vs. the media representations of white girls like Shirley Temple.
Reading by Ayvaunn Penn
Reading by Angela Mack
Reading by Tychelle Bearden
Pauline Breedlove: A Mother’s Self-hate
This passage gives background on Pauline Breedlove who is the mother of Pecola Breedlove. It details her disability, her lost tooth, all the elements she feels make her less desirable. It also gives context for why she projects her self-hatred onto her family.
Pauline: Escaping, Remembering, Reflecting
This passage describes Pauline Breedlove escaping into movies to imagine a different life for herself. She also details the dehumanizing treatment she receives in the hospital while giving birth to Pecola. She comments on Pecola as being born “ugly” and an inescapable reminder of her own feelings of inadequacy.
Cholly, Pecola’s Father
This section gives background on Cholly Breedlove, Pecola’s father. He is largely an orphan and has just lost his aunt Jimmy. During the post-funeral gathering, Cholly leaves briefly with a love interest named Darlene. Both teenagers, they engage in flirtatious acts until two white men stumble on them and dehumanize them.
Reading by Arielle Roberts
Reading by Rachael Palmer
Reading by Mario Terrell
This section depicts a confrontation with religion in the voice of a community outcast, Elihue Micah Whitcomb, also known as “Soaphead Church.” Once a priest, Soaphead reflects on Pecola Breedlove asking him to perform a miracle in granting her blue eyes. Knowing he cannot, Soaphead misleads the girl into the idea that he can grant them and proceeds to write a letter castigating God and lamenting on the cruelty of a world that would so thoroughly harm an innocent child in the way that it has Pecola.
In this passage, Pecola Breedlove has reached a breaking point. She imagines that she has indeed received the blue eyes she covets. Often interpreted as a descent into madness, this scene offers Pecola’s extended internal dialogue with herself as she processes all the trauma she has experienced.
In this closing narration, Claudia delivers the broader implications of Pecola’s story and what it means for their community. She reflects on the poor way Pecola was treated and how a singular person did not bear responsibility for this. Rather, everyone was culpable. This passage has often been read as a form of Chorus, similar to ones in Tragedies, and offers the ultimate message of the narrative.
Reading by Nijel Smith
Reading by Jaden Lewis
Reading by Ashley Parks
Special Thanks to Theatre TCU Black Excellence and all featured readers
Artist Akua Naru performs a live session titled Toni Morrison, mentioning The Bluest Eye in her piece.