It is possibly or probably Morrison speaking from her own personal heart, maybe remembering her own childhood as a black girl in a time when black children were not very often used as characters in books; meanwhile, author Morrison has Claudia saying (62) "What was the secret?" Of Maureen's magical whiteness and social power. "What did we lack? Why was it important? And so what?"
Morrison also offers readers a little history lesson about how life was for Southern African-Americans who migrated north in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Through the character of Pauline Breedlove, Pecola's mother, who moved to Lorain, Ohio, readers learn that Pauline wasn't used to "so much white folks. The ones I seed before was something hateful... [and] they was everywhere - next door, downstairs, all over the streets - and colored folks few and far between." Even the "colored folks" were "different" in the north; "No better than whites for meanness," Pauline explained.
It is interesting to learn from a scholarly article by Ruth Rosenberg in the journal Melus that there weren't many books about what it was like growing up as a black child when Morrison was a child in Lorain, Ohio in the 1940s. In fact, Rosenberg writes that "Black girls did not exist as far as the publishers of school anthologies were concerned." A study of 5,206 children's book that were published between 1962 and 1964 showed that of those "thousands of books," only 349 include "even one black child either in the illustrations or the text," Rosenberg explains. Only 6.7% showed a black child. So with that as backdrop, Rosenberg quotes Morrison as saying that at the time she started writing the Bluest Eye in 1965 she was tired of "little black girls who were props" and were "never center stage."
Now that Morrison has written the Bluest Eye little black girls are center stage. And in the book, Rosenberg writes that life for Morrison as a child is very likely the same life that the girls in her book are living. And it is a life where children are supposed to be totally obedient and not question their place in society. "Adults do not talk to us - they give us directions," Claudia the narrator states. "They issue orders without providing information," she goes on. "We didn't initiate talk with grown-ups; we answered their questions."
CONCLUSION: In his book, Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison, author Trudier Harris writes about how cruel people were to Pecola; and his point on page 30 of his book is an example of another lesson about human nature that a reader should get from this book. "If parents set out to have children," Harris explains, those parents should be willing to accept their children. And poor Pecola's parents didn't accept her even from the beginning. Her mother, Pauline, looked at Pecola right after she was born and said, "Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly" (Harris 30). Pauline said Pecola at birth was "A cross between a puppy and a dying man." Harris says that by rejecting her daughter (and in the process, her whole family), Pauline "not only denies them love, but she denies to them the opportunity to see love exhibited." And should Pecola should ever get married and have children, what will she use as a basis "...to show love or true nurturing" Harris wonders. Harris makes a very important point, and it is one that Morrison is making in this book, as well. The failure to show love to a child, the harsh treatment at home, leads a character like Pecola to expect "only harsh treatment from the world outside," Harris explains. She is "forever crushed" by her belief "that she is ugly" and worse yet, when other little children see "a target willing to be abused, they willingly oblige," Harris asserts. This is a lesson for teachers in schools, for parents, and for friends, that treating a person with cruelty can have a negative effect on that person for the rest of her life.
Byerman, Keith E. "Beyond Realism: The Fictions of Toni Morrison" in Modern Critical
Views: Toni Morrison, Ed. Harold Bloom, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.
Harris, Trudier. Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991.
Kuenz, Jane. "The Bluest Eye: Notes on History, Community, and Black Female Subjectivity."