Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reader Centered Approach-The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison

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Reader Centred Approach

As a student influenced by the strict guidelines and boundaries of school, I have adapted to the expectations of being an organised and cooperative student. This sense of control affects my style of reading, and I have become accustomed to a style of linear reading, where the organization of the text and my own ideas mould nicely into the novel, confirming my expectations. I am happy to relax and let the text be my guide, getting comfortable with situations and feeling strong emotion towards the characters. The Bluest Eyes broke down all my barriers of expectation and prediction, pushing me on a journey of incest, racism, poverty, and oppression.

Excited by this new and exciting way of reading, I was forced to create a story in my mind, based on my individual intuition. I was no longer the follower, I was now the leader, constantly predicting the directions and outcomes of the text. This tested both my ability to read between the lines and to understand a story by drawing my own conclusions. Piecing together timelines and events, I found it difficult to engage in a full and complete understanding of the novel. Taking unexpected time-lapse changes, character references and story line changes, I gained an understanding for Iser’s theory that

‘Reading is only pleasurable when it is active and creative, or it engages the reader’s imagination.’ (Iser 147 p. 107)

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Iser’s opinion of the ideal reading position, expresses that for a text to be enjoyable, it has to allow the reader to feel as though they are actively engaged in using their creativity and imagination. The Bluest Eyes allowed me to take control of the texts influences. This was determined by my own intellectual ability to involve logic, imagination and creativity whilst constructing a linear narrative in my minds.

Taking on the implied reading position, I enjoyed the frustration that I felt towards the book. I was frustrated by the lack of control that I had over the text, which mirrored my inability to involve strong emotions towards each of the characters. Diving into a new and exciting world of literature, I went to endless mental lengths trying to expand my knowledge of the text. My imagination ran wild with inferences about how the conclusion of the story was to be developed.

‘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.’…

‘There is really nothing more to say- except why. But since why is difficult to handle, we must take refuge in how.’ (pg. )

I felt as though I was achieving something within myself. This hunger for self-fulfilment comes from my social experiences. At school we are taught to ‘give it a go’. This happens especially on sports days when teachers encourage students to get involved in events for the sake of participation, which will hopefully give the student a greater sense of self-achievement and fulfilment.

I was especially shocked when I realised (after a second reading) that I was wrong in my predictions. Maureen Peal, a young girl who is highly respected and loved by her peers and teachers, is introduced. She is described as being the perfect image of purity, innocence and beauty, and I immediately concluded that she was in fact white. However, Maureen was black and I was ashamed of myself, realising that through my observance of societal expectations, I have gained an understanding that white holds a superior social status.

Feeling consequentially embarrassed by my preferred reading of racial superiority, I felt compelled to finish the novel, wanting to uncover any other misjudgements I had made. I felt an incomplete fulfilment, and I especially empathised with the character of Pecola, hoping to gain a better understanding of racism and oppression.

‘His soul seemed to slip down to his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her provoked the only sound she made- a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat.’ (pg. 18)

I am not able to empathise with Pecola on a specific emotional level, because the horrific pain of rape has not directly affected me, and I have always been shown love within my stable home life. However I do feel an emotional connection between her experiences and my personal experiences.

As an adolescent female, I have been taught the importance of individual opinions, self-defence, and the essential need to equality within sexual relationships. Witnessing Pecola’s helpless battle for an identity and freedom, I feel heart broken by her innocence and naivety. I see that she has no control over the situations that she is forced into, and that she can only endure the pain and anguish of having to live her life as a hopeless and defenceless being.

I enjoyed the inconsistent nature of The Bluest Eyes which forced me to become involved in the complex verities of its reading. Taking me on a journey of realisation, it made me aware of the implications of social expectations and of racism. I enjoyed the novel and I felt that it fulfilled its purpose, giving me essential knowledge that will allow me to become a greater individual. I have gained a fulfilling sense of understanding of African American oppression through blue eyes.

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