Saturday, June 18, 2011

Styles and Moods of The Bluest Eye

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In The Bluest Eye, author Toni Morrison uses various creative writing styles in order to accentuate the dark moods that the book is based upon. Improper grammar, font styles, repetition, and narrator switching are all used in place of long descriptive paragraphs to convey the moods associated with topics such as abuse and incest.

The first creative writing style presented to the reader is a manipulation of the words themselves. In the first chapter, the “Dick and Jane” primer, Morrison starts by reciting the book as it would be read. Soon, however, the capitalization and punctuation disappear. These are then followed by the spaces, creating a mass of unseparated words. Without describing anything later in the story, Morrison succeeded in conveying to the reader that the story that follows will not contain the perfect house, family, or pet. The reader gets the sense that a character in the story is reading the “Dick and Jane” book, and that the character progressively gets annoyed with the book and its dissimilarity to real life. Morrison foreshadows by simply breaking the rules of grammar. She then goes on to manipulate the second chapter. However, this time its not by omission of punctuation, but by font style. The entire chapter is written in italics, indicating the separation of mood from the first chapter and its confusion of words. This change of style allows the reader to understand that the main story has not yet begun. The past is merely being introduced, telling of the incest between Pecola and her Father. This introduction prepares the reader for the setting, themes, and characters that are about to enter the scene.

In addition to the manipulation of the text itself, Morrison makes use of phrase repetition in order to remind the reader of the characters annoyance with the so-called “perfect world”. At the beginning of nearly every chapter, an uppercased segment of the run-together primer is printed. This segment is read as a mockery of how life truly is, and sets the reader up for an explanation of that real world. Chapter 4, mocking the “pretty house” part of the primer, contains vivid descriptions of the old, decrepit Breedlove home and its unsightly furniture. Chapter 7 starts with a mockery of the perfect cat, then continues to describe Geraldines love for her pet, and her sons abuse of it. This repetition of the primer foreshadows the evil that is soon presented and enforces the depressing emotion which results from this evil.

Lastly, Morrison used the technique of switching narrators at certain points in the book so that different views could be presented, and the moods of these views accented. There are only two true narrators Claudia MacTeer and a third-person narrator. However, Claudia narrates with both an adult perspective and a child perspective, allowing the reader to see what happened in the past, then receive Claudias opinion on it later in life. An example of this appears in chapter two. After Claudia vomits and falls asleep, adult Claudia has an aside in which she contemplates if life really was as painful as she remembers. She discusses the reason for which, when she thinks of Autumn, she thinks “of somebody with hands who does not want [her] to die.” Using this style, Morrison is able to have adult Claudia state her feelings and moods on the topics she narrates, allowing the audience as well to grasp the same moods she felt.

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Using these techniques of textual manipulation, repetition, and narrator switching, Morrison was able to convey many moods which, otherwise, could only be shown in large, descriptive, potentially uninteresting paragraphs. Her talent for being able to control how the reader actually reads the book is one that makes The Bluest Eye a true masterpiece.

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