Place Names in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye: A Literary Landscape of Racism
Copyright (c) 2022 Christine DeVinne
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, recounts the story of Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old Black girl in Lorain, Ohio, where her wish for blue eyes represents desire for what she is denied, the privileges of her white classmates and the comforts of a safe home. Amid this novel set in 1941 during the Great Migration, a place name-based analysis reveals a literary landscape of racism in the mid-20th-century US, from the Jim Crow South to the industrial North. A toponymic study reveals how Morrison uses place names as stylistic devices in two ways. In the narrative present, she deploys them as opening frames for immediate lessons in racial behaviors for the children who are her main characters; in the narrative past, he uses them to recall distant locations from adult characters' histories to suggest ways in which racism persists across space and time. In combination, Morrison's application of toponymy and setting casts Lorain as microcosm of the nation and implicates all its citizens in the racist ideology that destroys Pecola and her family.
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