Home in The Bluest Eye represents more than the physical structure where a family lives. In Morrison's novel, home is an idea that defines the characters' sense of self and self-worth, and likewise, informs the way they are perceived by those around them. The homes depicted in The Bluest Eye are set against an ideal image of home and family, presented in the novel's opening section written in the style of a Dick and Jane primer. This ideal serves to contrast the non-traditional homes and family compositions in which the novel's black families live.
Because the idea of home is fundamental in the way black families are perceived, owning and caring for a house becomes the primary focus of most black families. Already disadvantaged because of the color of their skin, home becomes a means through which black families may establish and sustain a sense of value. Several homes are depicted in the novel, offering the degrees to which idea of home defines an individual's or family's sense of worth. The Breedloves live in an abandoned storefront and have the lowest sense of self-worth. To the contrary, The Macteers live in an old house, but it is theirs and Mrs. Macteer takes great pride in it, and Geraldine lives in a beautiful house, which allows her to feel superior to other black families.
Claudia draws a sharp distinction between being without a home and being "outdoors". Most black families in the novel don't own homes, but still possess a sense of home and family. Being "outdoors", to the contrary, signifies the end of home and family, a place from which there is no return. Cholly's rape of Pecola represents the complete absence of home and family. In raping his own daughter, Cholly commits the ultimate violation of home and family. To the contrary, possessing a sense of home and family can serve as a redemptive force in one's life. Because of their home and family, Claudia and Frieda are capable of having a different perspective than characters lacking home and family. In the end, Claudia's untarnished perspective allows Morrison's narrative to unfold for the reader.
Home and Family ThemeTracker
Home and Family Quotes in The Bluest Eye
Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that didn't sprout; nobody's did…It had never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds into his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.
Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership. The firm possession of a yard, a porch, a grape arbor. Propertied black people spent all their energies, all their love, on their nests.
Cholly Breedlove, then, a renting black, having put his family outdoors, had catapulted himself beyond the reaches of human consideration. He had joined the animals; was indeed, an old dog, a snake, a ratty nigger.
"How do you do that? I mean how do you get someone to love you?"
The Breedloves lived there, nestled together in the storefront. Festering together in the debris of a realtor's whim. They slipped in and out of the box of peeling grey, making no stir in the neighborhood, no sound in the labor force, and no wave in the mayor's office. Each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness, each making his own patchwork quilt of reality—collecting fragments of experience here, pieces of information there.
[The Breedloves] lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed because they believed they were ugly.
Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove fought each other with a darkly brutal formalism that was paralleled only by their lovemaking. Tacitly they had agreed not to kill each other. He fought her the way a coward fights a man—with feet, the palms of his hands, and teeth. She, in turn, fought back in a purely feminine way—with frying pans and pokers, and occasionally a flatiron would sail toward his head.
It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.
What did love feel like? she wondered. How do grownups act when they love each other? Eat fish together? Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as through he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence.
White kids; his mother did not like him to play with niggers. She had explained to him the difference between colored people and niggers. They were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud… The line between colored and nigger was not always clear; subtle and telltale signs threatened to erode it, and the watch had to be constant.
Mrs. Breedlove's skin glowed like taffeta in the reflection of white porcelain, white woodwork, polished cabinets, and brilliant copperware.
His soul seemed to slip down into his guts and fly into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made—a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.
It was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to the marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.