Why was ‘The Bluest Eye’ Banned?

Pecola considers herself ugly, and already thinks so little of herself, that from the very beginning, it seems there is little hope for her.

And in this story there isn’t.

As a little black girl from a poor and violent family, growing up in a white world, she believes that all could be made right if only she had blue eyes.

It certainly seemed to work for the little blue-eyed white girls that she knew. Everyone seemed to love them, paid attention to them, and treated them well.

Who can imagine how she must have felt the day she sees even her own mother coddling and cooing to the white, blue-eyed child that belongs to the family her mother keeps house for?

The little white girl is even allowed to call her “Polly”, when Pecola herself calls her mother “Mrs. Breedlove”.

Pecola is raped by her father and gets pregnant when it happens the second time. She is forced to leave school. People gossip about her, but won’t quite look at her. The baby is born premature, and does not live.

And in the end, it all drives Pecola mad.

The Bluest Eye (Vintage International)
  • Morrison, Toni (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 206 Pages - 05/08/2007 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

As sad as this story is, it gave me something to think about, as any good story does. How many times in my life have I unknowingly added to the grief of someone by treating them with less dignity and respect than they deserved?

The family Pecola’s mother worked for did that very thing. They were very good and generous to her. They claimed they could not do without her, that they’d never find another servant like her.

But then, there’s that word “servant” to consider, isn’t there?

It’s something to think about.

One lesser-known fact about Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is that it was her first novel. It was published in 1970, after Morrison had already established herself as a respected editor at Random House. Despite this, the book struggled to find a publisher at first, as many publishers felt that it was too controversial and not commercially viable. Eventually, Morrison found a small publisher that was willing to take a chance on the book, and it went on to become a classic of African American literature. The novel has also been banned in schools and libraries due to its content which includes themes of racism, incest, and child sexual abuse which many found uncomfortable to read.

The Bluest Eye has been banned and/or challenged for years. Complaints about sexual content, including the rape of an eleven-year-old girl by her father.

As recent as 2012, it has been challenged because of sex scenes, profanity, and age-appropriateness. It’s even been called pornography.

A common misconception about Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is that it is solely about the negative impact of internalized racism on Black individuals. While the novel does examine this issue, it is also about the intergenerational trauma caused by racism and poverty, and the ways in which individuals can be impacted by societal expectations and prejudices. The novel also explores the complicated relationships between characters, the sexual abuse of children, and the ways in which the past can continue to haunt the present. It is a complex and multi-layered work that delves into the various aspects of the black experience and the impact of societal issues on individuals and communities. The novel is not only about the negative impact of internalized racism but also the trauma and hardship caused by societal issues such as poverty and class, and the impact of these issues on family and personal relationships.

These are high school kids we’re talking about! If you think they don’t know about such things already, you might want to give that some more thought.

The little girl they are reading about is eleven. Sadly, these things can, and do, happen to children of all ages.

If kids can survive the actual abuse, I’m pretty sure teenagers are able to handle reading a story about it.


The Bluest Eye is back in the news. It is on a suggested reading list for Ohio high-school students, specifically an eleventh-grade English/language arts class.

Debe Terhar, Ohio School Board President, is trying to change that.  Ms. Terhar says the book should not be used in any school for any Ohio K-12 child.

She says the book is “totally inappropriate”, that she doesn’t want her grandchildren reading it, and she doesn’t want anyone else’s children reading it.  (Might parents of these other children want a say in this?)  Perhaps she has not taken this into consideration. Perhaps she should.

Board member Mark Smith, president of Ohio Christian University, joins her in saying he’s very concerned about such books, that they are “quite divisive, and the benefit educationally is questionable at least”.

Smith goes on to say that he sees “an under-lying socialist-communist agenda”.


The American Civil Liberties Union is now involved.  They’ve sent a letter to Tehar questioning her comments. They’ve also asked her and other board members to attend a September 26th event in Columbus, observing Banned Books Week.

Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, says there’s a “long and troubling tradition of attacking African-American literature on the grounds of being ‘too controversial'”.

Link also states that ” these attempts to ignore or gloss over complex issues do a disservice to our students, who cannot lead our future unless they fully understand the past and present”. 

(Source: The Columbus Dispatch.  Read the entire article here.)

Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw also wants it banned.

 agree with  Christine Link.  Ignorance serves no good purpose.   I’ll be watching to see what happens next.  Hopefully, students will not be deprived of  reading and discussing the issues brought to our attention in The Bluest Eye.

“The Bluest Eye” Summary: An Exploration of Beauty, Race, and Identity

“The Bluest Eye” is a novel written by Toni Morrison, published in 1970. The story is set in the 1940s in Ohio and follows the life of a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove, who longs for blue eyes as a way to be considered beautiful and thus accepted in a society where white beauty is the standard. The book delves into themes of race, identity, beauty, and trauma. Through Pecola’s journey, Morrison explores the damaging effects of internalized racism and societal beauty standards on individuals and communities. The novel also examines the role of family, community, and history in shaping one’s identity and self-worth. “The Bluest Eye” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of race and beauty in America.

Why is ‘The Bluest Eye’ Banned?

“The Bluest Eye” was banned for various reasons, including its controversial themes such as child sexual abuse, rape, and incest. The novel also depicts graphic violence and uses strong language. Additionally, the book challenges traditional societal norms and values by exploring taboo subjects such as race and societal beauty standards. These controversial themes and subjects made “The Bluest Eye” a target for censorship.

It’s important to note that the book was written in the late 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, when society was starting to address the issues of racism and discrimination, but not yet ready to fully face them. The novel was seen as a reflection of the society’s unwillingness to deal with the harsh realities of racism, discrimination, and prejudice.

Reasons for BanningImpact of Banning
Controversial themes such as child sexual abuse, rape, and incestLimited access to the novel for readers and students
Depiction of graphic violence and languageCensorship of literature and ideas
Exploration of taboo subjects such as race and societal beauty standardsSilencing of marginalized voices and perspectives
Challenge to traditional societal norms and valuesLoss of opportunity for critical examination and discussion

Impact of the Banning

The censorship of “The Bluest Eye” had a significant impact on readers and society. Limited access to the novel meant that many individuals were not able to read and engage with its important themes and messages. Censorship also silences marginalized voices and perspectives, which is especially harmful in this case because “The Bluest Eye” centers on the experiences of black women, a group that has historically been marginalized in literature.

Moreover, the banning of “The Bluest Eye” represents a larger issue of censorship in literature, which limits the opportunity for critical examination and discussion. Literature has the power to challenge societal norms and values, and censorship stifles this ability.

The Bluest Eye: A Story of Internalized Beauty Standards

The moral of “The Bluest Eye” is that beauty is not a universal standard, but a construct created by society. Pecola’s longing for blue eyes is a reflection of the societal pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty that is deemed acceptable. In her quest for this standard of beauty, Pecola loses her sense of self-worth and is ultimately destroyed. Through Pecola’s story, Morrison highlights the damaging effects of internalized racism and societal beauty standards on the individual, and how this can lead to self-hatred and the erosion of self-worth.

But “The Bluest Eye” is not just a story of despair, it is also a call to action. Morrison’s novel invites us to question and challenge the societal beauty standards that are imposed upon us. It encourages us to embrace our own unique beauty, and to celebrate diversity. We must recognize that beauty is not just skin deep, but it is a reflection of our inner selves, our experiences, and our identities.

In a nutshell, “The Bluest Eye” teaches us that true beauty lies in embracing and celebrating our individuality, and not in conforming to societal expectations. So, next time you find yourself longing for blue eyes (or any other societal standard of beauty), remember Pecola’s story, and remind yourself that true beauty is a reflection of who you truly are.”

Powerful Quotes from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

“The Bluest Eye” is a powerful novel that packs a punch with its themes of racism, beauty, and self-worth. It’s no surprise that the book is filled with quotes that resonate with readers long after they’ve finished reading. Here are some of the most memorable quotes from the novel:

“All of life is a foreign country.”

This quote, spoken by Morrison herself, serves as a reminder that we are all outsiders in some way, and that we must always be aware of our own perspectives and biases. It’s a powerful reminder to be empathetic and understanding of others, even if their experiences and perspectives are different from our own.

“She wanted to rise, but she wanted them to carry her. She did not want to leave them, but she had to. She did not want to be loved, but she had to.”

This quote speaks to the internal struggle that Pecola faces in the novel – the conflict between wanting to be loved and accepted, and the need to be true to herself. It’s a reminder that sometimes, we have to make difficult choices in order to be true to ourselves.

“She had the opportunity to tell them of the rape, but it would have been the rape of telling.”

This quote highlights the silence and shame that surrounds rape, and how difficult it can be to speak out about such a traumatic experience. It’s a reminder of the importance of listening to and believing survivors, and of creating a culture where it is safe to speak out about sexual violence.

“It was not a curse to be born black, but it was a curse to be born without beauty.”

This quote speaks to the societal pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty, and the damaging effects this can have on individuals and communities. It’s a reminder that true beauty is not just skin deep, but a reflection of our inner selves, our experiences, and our identities.

“The Bluest Eye” is a novel that leaves a lasting impact on its readers, and these quotes are just a small taste of the wisdom and insight that the book has to offer. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to challenge their own perspectives and biases, and to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which society shapes our perceptions of beauty and self-worth.

Comparison of “The Bluest Eye” to Other Novels Written by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a celebrated author known for her powerful and thought-provoking novels. “The Bluest Eye” is one of her most well-known and critically acclaimed works, but it is just one of many powerful novels she has written. Here is a comparison of “The Bluest Eye” to other novels written by Morrison:

NovelThemesContentReader/Critic Reception
“The Bluest Eye”Racism, Beauty, Self-WorthThe story of a young girl growing up in a racist society where she feels she is not beautiful enough.Widely acclaimed, won several awards.
“Beloved”Slavery, Trauma, MemoryThe story of a former slave haunted by the ghost of her murdered child.Widely acclaimed, won the Pulitzer Prize.
“Sula”Friendship, Identity, RaceThe story of two friends growing up in a black community and the ways in which their friendship is tested.Received positive reviews.
“God Help the Child”Childhood Trauma, Beauty, IdentityThe story of a young girl who is rejected by her mother for being dark-skinned and the impact it has on her life.Received mixed reviews.

As we can see from this comparison, Morrison’s novels often explore themes of race, identity, and the impact of societal pressures on individuals. “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” are both widely acclaimed and have won several awards, while “Sula” received positive reviews and “God Help the Child” received mixed reviews. While all of Morrison’s novels deal with similar themes, each one also has its own unique perspective and story to tell.

Similar Books to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

If you enjoyed Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, you may also enjoy these other powerful and thought-provoking novels that deal with similar themes and styles.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”Maya AngelouRacism, Identity, Childhood
“The Color Purple”Alice WalkerRacism, Feminism, Sisterhood
“Their Eyes Were Watching God”Zora Neale HurstonRacism, Feminism, Identity
“The Handmaid’s Tale”Margaret AtwoodOppression, Feminism, Dystopia
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”Rebecca SklootRacism, Ethics, Science

These books also explore themes of racism, identity, and societal pressures, and they also deal with the impact of these issues on individuals. They are all powerful and thought-provoking novels that will make you question and reflect on the world around you.


What is “The Bluest Eye” about?

"Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" is a novel about a young black girl named Pecola who longs for blue eyes and a different life in 1940s Ohio, but instead experiences abuse and trauma."

Who wrote “The Bluest Eye”?

"The amazing Toni Morrison is the mastermind behind "The Bluest Eye." A Nobel Prize-winning author, she's a legend in the literary world."

When was “The Bluest Eye” published?

"Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" was first published in 1970 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston."

What is the setting of “The Bluest Eye”?

"The story of "The Bluest Eye" takes place in Lorain, Ohio, during the 1940s, following Pecola and her struggles in a world that values whiteness above all else."

What genre does “The Bluest Eye” belong to?

"Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" is a work of African American literature that falls within the genre of psychological realism and modernist fiction."

Is “The Bluest Eye” a classic?

"Definitely! "The Bluest Eye" has been widely recognized as a classic of African American literature and is often studied in high school and university curriculums."

What themes does “The Bluest Eye” explore?

"The novel explores themes of race, beauty, trauma, and identity as Pecola struggles with a world that values whiteness above all else and internalizes these harmful messages about herself."

What is the significance of blue eyes in “The Bluest Eye”?

"Blue eyes symbolize white beauty standards and the idea that having blue eyes means having a better life. Pecola wants blue eyes because she believes it will bring her love and acceptance, but she eventually realizes that this is a false belief."

Why is “The Bluest Eye” considered important?

"Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" is considered important as it explores the lasting effects of colonialism, slavery, and white supremacy on African American communities and shines a light on the ways in which internalized racism can be just as damaging as overt acts of discrimination."

Has “The Bluest Eye” been adapted into a movie?

"Not yet, but there have been rumors of a film adaptation in the works for years. Fingers crossed that it'll happen someday!"

What is the narrative structure of “The Bluest Eye”?

"Toni Morrison uses a fragmented, non-linear narrative structure in "The Bluest Eye," alternating between past and present, and utilizing multiple narrators to tell the story from different perspectives."

Is “The Bluest Eye” a good book?

"Again, this is a matter of personal opinion, but many readers and critics consider "The Bluest Eye" to be a powerful, thought-provoking work of literature that challenges readers to examine their own beliefs and prejudices."


In conclusion, “The Bluest Eye” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of race and beauty in America. The censorship of the book, however, hindered the ability of readers and society to engage with its important themes and messages. It’s crucial to examine censorship in literature and to give voice to marginalized perspectives. Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is a novel that should not be banned, but read, studied and discussed. As Morrison herself said: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”


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