The Bluest Eye: Novel Summary: Spring
In the section called Spring, Claudia resumes her narrative. She begins by telling about the whippings they received and how the green twigs stung more than the strap or hairbrush with which they were beaten in winter.
Frieda is crying and Claudia asks her why. Frieda tells her about Mr. Henry who was caught fondling her breasts. She's crying because her father beat Mr. Henry, and because her mother's friend, Miss Dunion, said she was ruined. They discuss the fat Maginot Line, one of the prostitutes who live above Pecola's apartment, because they know she is ruined. They guess that the reason why the other prostitutes aren't fat is because they drink whiskey. They decide to go to Pecola's to get whiskey to drink, so Frieda can avoid being ruined like Maginot Line. When they get to Pecola's she is gone but they see Maginot Line who invites them upstairs to wait for Pecola. When they tell her they cannot come upstairs Maginot Line laughs and throws the root beer bottle down at them.
They go to Pecola's mother's workplace and discover her on the back porch stoop, smiling. They are surprised to see her smile. Mrs. Breedlove tells them to wait inside while she finishes her work. A white child comes into the kitchen and sees them. She is afraid of them. When she asks, "Where is Polly?" the girls are disgusted that she addresses Mrs. Breedlove by her first name, so informally, when her own daughter, Pecola, and the others must address her formally as Mrs. Breedlove.
The girls see a berry cobbler, and as they move closer to inspect it, it crashes to the floor splattering berries everywhere. Mrs. Breedlove enters the room and smacks Pecola and scolds her and Frieda for knocking the cobbler off the counter. The white girl comes in crying, so Mrs. Breedlove comforts her and assures her that she will make another cobbler for her. Mrs. Breedlove shouts over her shoulder for Pecola and Frieda to take out the laundry and get out of the house.
The next section, told by the omniscient narrator, recounts Mrs. Breedlove's early life and marriage to Cholly. She grew up in a five-room frame house in a town in Kentucky. When she was old enough, she left school and looked after the house for her mother, who had a day job as a cleaner. Pauline also looked after the two youngest children. When they were ten years old, they went out to work. Pauline was fifteen, still keeping house, but dreaming of love and of men. One summer she met Cholly, and they fell in love. They agreed to marry, and he suggested they move north to Lorain, Ohio, where he could get a job in a steel mill.
In Lorain, Pauline was lonely. She didn't feel comfortable in Lorain because she was a country girl. Although Cholly was still kind to her, they had less to say to each other, and to ease her loneliness and boredom she got a job working in the home of a white family of slender means. Cholly drank more and started to get mean towards her. One day he showed up drunk at her day job. Pauline's employer saw him and threatened to call the police if he didn't leave. Therefore, Pauline left with Cholly, to get him away from her employer. As a result, her employer gave her an ultimatum: leave Cholly and keep your job or stay with Cholly and don't come back to work. Pauline chose Cholly.
Pauline became pregnant and Cholly seemed to be happy and cut back on his drinking. At that time in her life, Pauline started going to movies. She loved the images in the movies of romantic love and physical beauty. Absorbing the white culture's ideal of beauty, she tried to style her hair like Jean Harlow. She later had another child, Pecola. Her relationship with Cholly deteriorated and she became the sole breadwinner in the family. She went to church and attended prayer meetings. She looked down on Cholly and felt superior to him. She also became self-righteous and rigid in her thinking.
Pauline secured a job with a well-to-do white family who valued her as an excellent servant. She took pride in her attention to detail in serving the white family. Sometimes she dreaded her life with Cholly, and she started to dream of leaving him and having a better life. But in the end she didn't leave him. Cholly used his masculine body and lovemaking skills to keep her. She enjoyed their sexual life together, and that is why she did not leave him.������
In the next section, the omniscient narrator tells about Cholly and his upbringing. Cholly was abandoned by his own mother in infancy and raised by his Great Aunt Jimmy. She was old and seemed superstitious to Cholly. However, Cholly met a man named Blue Jack at the grain store where he worked. He admired Blue Jack and thought of him as a father figure. Cholly especially remembered a Fourth of July event at a church picnic where Blue invited him to eat the heart of the watermelon with him. This was the only nurturing or acceptance from a father figure that Cholly received growing up.
Cholly's Great Aunt died when he was only thirteen. During the family gathering after the funeral, Cholly had his first sexual experience, with Darlene. It started out mutually inviting and natural; however it degraded into a voyeuristic spectacle when two white men found them and watched them with a flashlight. They laughed at the teenagers and forced Cholly to continue having sex with Darlene even when he no longer had any desire. Darlene covered her face and waited for the white men to leave. Cholly felt ashamed and humiliated. But he did not attribute his situation and feelings to the white men or the white culture. Instead, he hated Darlene because of this incident, not the white men who abused them. He hated the girl who witnessed his impotence, the girl he did not have the power to protect.
Finally, Cholly entertained the notion that Darlene may be pregnant, so he ran away to Macon. He sought out his father because he needed to be understood, and to understand himself. When he arrived in Macon he found his father playing craps, but the man didn't want anything to do with Cholly. In a panic, Cholly ran away and lost control of his bowels. Afterwards� he just lay there in his own feces under a pier on the river where he was hiding. After a while he got up and washed himself and his pants. He thought of his Great Aunt Jimmy and her simple, giving nature. He cried. Later, he walked the streets of Macon and hung out listening to music. He felt the music spoke to him and his turbulent life. After he realized he had no one in the world, he felt free for the first time in his life. He realized that he had been rejected by both his mother and his father. No one cared about him. But because he had lost everything, he felt free. He had no ties, no responsibilities and no reason to lie or act in any specific way. He felt he could be true to himself.
He also realized that because no one cared about him, he didn't have to care about himself. He could behave any way he wanted to, without feeling any responsibility. He had nothing to lose because he had nothing.
It was in this state of self-proclaimed freedom that he met Pauline. Pauline was the image of stability and steadfastness. He married her but he didn't really understand why. Worst of all, he could not understand how to be a parent. When their children were born he reacted to them without any awareness of his own value system or of the normal or natural way to act like a parent.
At the end of this section, the reader learns that years later, Cholly raped his eleven-year-old daughter. It was a Saturday afternoon, and he came home drunk. Pecola was washing dishes in the kitchen. Feeling a strange combination of hatred and tenderness, Cholly gave in to his own selfish desires, not restrained by any sense of the appropriate way to act as a parent, w which was something he had never learned. After raping Pecola, he left her unconscious on the kitchen floor.
The omniscient narrator continues, telling the story of the psychic faith healer, Elihue Micah Whitcomb, known as Soaphead Church. Soaphead is visited by the twelve-year- old Pecola who asks him for blue eyes. He wants to help her and is angry that he is powerless to do so. He tricks her into feeding poisoned meat to his landlady's dog. If the dog acts strangely, he tells Pecola, it is a sign from God that she will be granted the blue eyes. Pecola gives the meat to the dog, which dies almost immediately. Horrified, Pecola runs away.
Soaphead then writes a letter to God, saying that he has given the girl what God Himself had failed to do-the blue eyes she desperately wanted.� No one else will ever see them, but she will. She will believe that she has blue eyes, and will therefore live happily ever after.
After writing the letter, he falls asleep. His landlady emerges from her candy store and finds the dead dog.
In her employer's house, Mrs. Breedlove wears a white uniform; there is "white porcelain" and "white woodwork" in the house, which is impeccably neat and clean. Mrs. Breedlove's actions suggest that she has internalized the stereotype that whites are superior to blacks, even though she herself is black. She treats the little white girl with "corn yellow" hair and pink clothes-she is the daughter of her employers-better than she treats her own daughter, comforting her when she is upset and promising to change her stained dress and make another pie to replace the one that Pecola knocked to the floor. Pecola never receives this kind of tenderness from her mother. The incident brings out the way Mrs. Breedlove has come to perceive the world: the black girls bring in disorder and messiness, whereas in the white world, everything is cleanliness and order.
So far the novel has presented a very negative picture of Cholly and Pauline Breedlove. Cholly has behaved irresponsibly by putting his family "outdoors," and he and his wife are constantly fighting. The reader also has known from the beginning that Cholly raped his daughter. In this section, Spring, however,� the reader learns a great deal about how Cholly and Pauline came to be the way they are. To an extent they are themselves victims of their� impoverished environment and of white racism. They did the best they could given the situations they found themselves in. It is as if the author is saying: the ways that Pauline and Cholly were raised caused them to ignore and devalue Pecola, just as it caused them to ignore and devalue themselves. Morrison's technique of allowing Pauline to tell some of her story herself (the italicized portions of the narrative that are written in the first-person voice), contributes to the sympathy with which the reader may start to view her.
However, the reader cannot excuse or forgive Cholly and Pauline's behavior by a knowledge of their backgrounds. Least of all can Cholly's bad experiences in life exonerate him for the rape of his own daughter. The author makes it clear that whatever the disadvantages from which they suffered, both Pauline and Cholly made bad choices in their lives, all of which led up to the terrible moment when Pecola was raped.
It appears, then, that there is a contrast in the novel between two different kinds of black family: the MacTeers who do not accept the hateful images of black culture and protect their family; and the Breedloves who do not value black culture and do not protect their family members. As a result, the Breedlove family falls apart, but the MacTeers survive and remain functional.