Sunday, February 14, 2010

Looking at the Formalists through Morrison's The Bluest Eye

In the “Introduction: What is Literature?” Eagleton states, “The Formalists, then, saw literary language as a set of deviations from a norm, a kind of linguistic violence: literature is a ‘special’ kind of language, in contrast to the ‘ordinary’ language we commonly use. But to spot a deviation implies being able to identify the norm from which it swerves” (4). This statement reminded me when Toni Morrison begins her novel The Bluest Eye with a narrative from a Dick and Jane reading primer. Morrison repeats the story three times consecutively, the second time without punctuation, and the third time without spacing. In the second narrative form, only the first letter “Here is the house” becomes capitalized, and then following, none of the words are capitalized after that, and it lacks any sort of punctuation. The third narrative form, begins with the same capitalization, but then leaves no spacing in between any of the words, creating a jumbled and chaotic paragraph of letters, “willplaywithjanetheywillplayagoodgameplayjaneplay”. As the Dick and Jane story becomes distorted by the lack of punctuation and spacing so does Pecola’s world. By presenting the Dick and Jane narratives in all three forms, Morrison chooses to question the why and how racism continues to disrupt and destruct the American society. We are able to see the strong desire in Pecola to be given blue eyes, and why she wants to possess qualities of the white Shirley Temple. Morrison also shows how Pecola and the rest of the Breedlove family is affected and hindered from growing individually and in society. Therefore, by knowing the “norm” of writing and “deviating” away from it, Morrison can create her language of meaning.

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