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.
This is how 9 years old Claudia begins telling us the story of Pecola that she and her sister Frieda, 10, were witness to. In this story, Morrison takes her readers into the world as seen in the eyes of two black girls whose fortune is only a little better than the distressed Pecola. Pecola, influenced by the seemingly happy life displayed on the screen of this pretty blond with blue eyes, decides that what happened to her could be prevented if she had Shirley Temple’s blue eyes:
It had occurred to Pecula … that if her eyes … were different, … she herself would be different. If she looked different, beautiful, maybe Cholly would be different, and Mrs. Breedlove. Maybe they’d say, “Why, look at pretty-eyed Pecola. We mustn’t do bad things in front of those pretty eyes.” …Each night, without fail, she prayed for blue eyes.
But Pecola is not that lucky. Her eyes aren’t blue. And her father Cholly rapes her. And her mother Mrs. Breedlove breeds no love on the girl.
So it was.
A little black girl years for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment.
We saw her sometimes, Frieda and I—after the baby came too soon and died. After the gossip and the slow wagging of heads. She was sad to see. Grown people looked away; children, those who were not frightened by her, laughed outright.
All of us—all who knew her—felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness.
She, however, stepped over into madness, a madness which protected her from us simply because it bored us in the end.
It is only when Claudia grows older that she realizes that the town and she herself were wrong when they acquiesce to life’s unjust treatment to one of their own, saying the victim has no right to live.
I love Morrison’s multiple narrators. I love her refusal to allow her readers to classify good and evil. I love the fluidity of her style. But most of all, I love this, her first novel, and to me, the most gripping of all her 8 novels.
My aim is to begin some sort of a book review here. Not a very typical one, just my own thoughts and observations of a few of my favorites books. Toni Morrison being my favorite author, I will begin with this, then follow with the rest of her 8 novels before I move on to other writers.
That, my dear reader, is the plan. But I am generally not one to follow through with her plans :)