Essay 3 Assignment: A Critical Analysis of The Bluest Eye “I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. ” — Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye Overview This is a critical analysis essay, which means I am expecting you to develop an argument about meaning that you see in the novel and to support your argument through analysis and discussion of passages of text. Your goal should be to convince your readers that your way of thinking about the text makes sense and help them see something in the text that they may not have noticed before. Your argument should be about what you feel Toni Morrison is saying through the story about important issues such as standards for beauty and whiteness, the power of popular culture to shape our lives, gender identity, emotional and physical abuse, desire and repression, suffering and survival, power and oppression. Your argument should be supported by analysis of specific passages of text and elements such as setting, characterization, plot, symbol, and narration (all covered in the GIIW chapter on “Writing about Literature”). Essays should be in MLA document forma, and please take special care to introduce and format quotations correctly. Length: 1500-2000 words 1/6/22, 10:21 AM Essay 3 Assignment: A Critical Analysis of The Bluest Eye: ENGL1A: College Composition: Section 0985, 0760: Royal J https://canvas.santarosa.edu/courses/53682/pages/essay-3-assignment-a-critical-analysis-of-the-bluest-eye?module_item_id=1756910 2/4 Requirements Your essay should have an introduction, a thesis statement, several body paragraphs (3–6 paragraphs, depending on your argument), and a conclusion. You should assume your reader has read the text(s) you are talking about and does not need a plot summary of the work. Essays should be in MLA document format, and please take special care to introduce and format quotations correctly. NOTE: In the explanation below, I focus on critical essays about the novels Winter’s Bone and Howard’s End, but the points I make about a thesis, body paragraphs, etc. hold true for your writing about The Bluest Eye. Thesis Your thesis should clearly state your overall position about a theme or issue you see in the text. problematic thesis: “Ree longs to leave the Ozarks, but she sacrifices her own needs for her family.” explanation: The problem here is that the author is writing about the story without talking about what critical idea we learn through reading the story. improved: “Ree’s sacrifice is like that of so many heroes: she gives up her own cherished dreams in order to make others’ lives better.” explanation: This thesis is stronger because the author focuses not only on Ree, but also on a definition of heroism: through reading the story of Ree’s journey, we contemplate the nature of heroism, in general. In your thesis, you may choose to emphasize the literary elements — setting, characterization, figurative language, etc. — that you will discuss in the body of the essay, as in the example below: thesis emphasizing setting and motif: “Throughout Winter’s Bone, Woodrell portrays nature as brutal and indifferent to human suffering. The striking thing is that this same brutality and indifference is seen in many of the characters. Woodrell seems to suggest that the landscape itself whittles away at the humanity of those who live there, and yet, Ree somehow stands apart, giving us hope that our fate is still in our own hands.” explanation: Based on the language of the thesis, it looks like this author will be discussing setting, characters, and motifs. 1/6/22, 10:21 AM Essay 3 Assignment: A Critical Analysis of The Bluest Eye: ENGL1A: College Composition: Section 0985, 0760: Royal J https://canvas.santarosa.edu/courses/53682/pages/essay-3-assignment-a-critical-analysis-of-the-bluest-eye?module_item_id=1756910 3/4 Body Paragraphs In a typical supporting paragraph for a literature analysis essay, there is (1) an idea-based topic sentence and (2) evidence from the text and (3) explanation of the evidence. Take a look at an the following example: 1. Start with an idea-based topic sentence to tie the evidence to the thesis and to connect the content of the paragraph together. (IMPORTANT: Never begin a supporting paragraph with a quote! A quote should support your own assertion, not replace it.) Forster suggests that objects out of the past lose their meaning unless they can be placed in a “living” home and are part of the living history of the occupants. 2. Next, transition into and present evidence from the text For example, it is only when Miss Avery arranges all of the Schlegel’s furniture in Howards End that the house becomes their home: Margaret notices that Tibby’s bassinet, their father’s sword, the dining room chairs, and the oriental rug, all “fitted extraordinarily well” (186). 3. Then, explain the evidence and show how it supports the topic sentence. Notice that the explanation is the heart of the paragraph, and takes up the most space. Also note that the discussion brings in other parts of the story. The writer is showing how this one scene is important to the meaning of the novel as a whole. Their belongings are no longer fragments from their past, signs of a lost world, but instead they are now, at Howards End, a guarantee that the meaning that can be found in the past will endure in the present. When Margaret and Helen, reconciled at last, walk together through the house, they notice the way the sun shines on their dining room chairs, and they recall that in fact at Wickham Place, the chairs never saw the sunlight. This difference is meaningful — the sun at Howards End causes them to notice an old stain on one of the chairs. They debate the cause: was it soup or coffee? And suddenly they recall their shared past, a whole lifetime ago — there was a horrible song sung by Aunt Julee, Tibby’s irritability as a child, their own youth. Howards End shows them that their salvation is “lying round them — the past sanctifying the present; the present, with wild heart-throb, declaring that there would after all be a future with laughter and the voices of children” (186). Essay Prompts The essay prompts are designed to get you thinking and to help you come up with a thesis for your essay. You should not state any part of the prompt in your introduction. (Admission: I borrowed these prompts from sources such as Sparknotes. If you come up with another topic you really like, just run it by me first!) 1/6/22, 10:21 AM Essay 3 Assignment: A Critical Analysis of The Bluest Eye: ENGL1A: College Composition: Section 0985, 0760: Royal J https://canvas.santarosa.edu/courses/53682/pages/essay-3-assignment-a-critical-analysis-of-the-bluest-eye?module_item_id=1756910 4/4 1. To what extent is Cholly to blame for his violence against his family? Which other people or circumstances may also be to blame? What is the novel’s position on blame? 2. The novel includes a number of secondary story lines, such as Geraldine’s and Soaphead Church’s histories, with the main story line of the Breedlove family. Select one of these secondary stories and explain how it relates to or comments upon the main story line. 3. Write an essay in which you discuss Morrison’s juxtaposing the primer’s Mother-Father-Dick-Jane sections with Claudia’s and the omniscient narrator’s sections. What is the relationship between these three differing narrative voices? 4. Discuss the symbolism associated with Shirley Temple in the novel. What does she represent to Pecola? What might she represent to Maureen Peal? 5. How does Morrison present gender relations in the novel? Are men and women’s relationships generally portrayed positively or negatively? Support your answer with examples from the text. 6. Discuss the mother-daughter relationships in the novel. 7. Does Morrison present any positive role models for Pecola and other girls like her? How might Morrison define what beauty is? Does she present any examples of such beauty in the novel?