"The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, "Spring"

In the Nobel Prize-winner's first novel, a young black girl yearns to conform to society's rigid standards of beauty.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Foreword, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer

Here are links to other books by Toni Morrison: Beloved, Sula

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. complement
    something added to embellish or make perfect
    "Hush. Don’t worry none,” she whispered, and the honey in her words complemented the sundown spilling on the lake.
    The honey in Polly's words for the pink and yellow girl complemented the beauty of the sunset but they contrasted with the abusive language and actions Mrs. Breedlove directed towards her own daughter.
  2. redemption
    the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
    The songs caressed her, and while she tried to hold her mind on the wages of sin, her body trembled for redemption, salvation, a mysterious rebirth that would simply happen, with no effort on her part.
  3. relish
    derive or receive pleasure from
    He seemed to relish her company and even to enjoy her country ways and lack of knowledge about city things.
  4. infirmity
    the state of being weak in health or body
    Instead of ignoring her infirmity, pretending it was not there, he made it seem like something special and endearing.
  5. linger
    be about
    She was still no more than a girl, and still waiting for that plateau of happiness, that hand of a precious Lord who, when her way grew drear, would always linger near.
  6. succumb
    be fatally overwhelmed
    There in the dark her memory was refreshed, and she succumbed to her earlier dreams. Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another—physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.
  7. curtail
    place restrictions on
    It would be for her a well-spring from which she would draw the most destructive emotions, deceiving the lover and seeking to imprison the beloved, curtailing freedom in every way.
  8. obstruct
    hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of
    So she became, and her process of becoming was like most of ours: she developed a hatred for things that mystified or obstructed her; acquired virtues that were easy to maintain; assigned herself a role in the scheme of things; and harked back to simpler times for gratification.
  9. delicate
    exquisitely fine and subtle and pleasing
    More and more she neglected her house, her children, her man—they were like the afterthoughts one has just before sleep, the early-morning and late-evening edges of her day, the dark edges that made the daily life with the Fishers lighter, more delicate, more lovely.
  10. revel
    take delight in
    It was her pleasure to stand in her kitchen at the end of a day and survey her handiwork. Knowing there were soap bars by the dozen, bacon by the rasher, and reveling in her shiny pots and pans and polished floors.
    A person who revels is usually engaged in "uproarious festivities" or "unrestrained merrymaking" but in deliberate contrast to her always-drinking husband, Mrs. Breedlove takes delight in looking at the work she'd put into polishing her employer's pots, pans, and floor.
  11. conscientious
    characterized by extreme care and great effort
    She was an active church woman, did not drink, smoke, or carouse, defended herself mightily against Cholly, rose above him in every way, and felt she was fulfilling a mother’s role conscientiously, when she pointed out their father’s faults to keep them from having them, or punished them when they showed any slovenliness, no matter how slight, when she worked twelve to sixteen hours a day to support them.
  12. solicitude
    a feeling of excessive concern
    The solicitude of the women, the head pats of the men, pleased Cholly, and the creamy conversations fascinated him.
  13. cultivate
    foster the growth of
    Sullen, irritable, he cultivated his hatred of Darlene.
  14. impotence
    the quality of lacking strength or power
    He was, in time, to discover that hatred of white men—but not now. Not in impotence but later, when the hatred could find sweet expression. For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence.
  15. belligerent
    characteristic of an enemy or one eager to fight
    While thus fascinated by the pitiable clean space hedged around by neglected tufts of wool, the man turned a hard, belligerent face to him.
  16. oblivion
    total forgetfulness
    Nothing, nothing, interested him now. Not himself, not other people. Only in drink was there some break, some floodlight, and when that closed, there was oblivion.
  17. render
    cause to become
    But the aspect of married life that dumbfounded him and rendered him totally dysfunctional was the appearance of children.
  18. accumulation
    an increase by natural growth or addition
    Had he been interested in the accumulation of things, he could have thought of them as his material heirs; had he needed to prove himself to some nameless “others,” he could have wanted them to excel in his own image and for his own sake.
  19. revulsion
    intense aversion
    The sequence of his emotions was revulsion, guilt, pity, then love.
  20. befuddled
    stupefied by alcoholic drink
    What could his heavy arms and befuddled brain accomplish that would earn him his own respect, that would in turn allow him to accept her love?
  21. antipathy
    a feeling of intense dislike
    Then, too, he had read several books and made the acquaintance of several great misanthropes of the ages, whose spiritual company soothed him and provided him with yardsticks for measuring his whims, his yearnings, and his antipathies.
  22. disdain
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    As in the case of many misanthropes, his disdain for people led him into a profession designed to serve them.
  23. wallow
    delight greatly in
    To contemplate, for example, evidence of human footsteps on the mat—absorb the smell of the quilt and wallow in the sweet certainty that many bodies had sweated, slept, dreamed, made love, been ill, and even died under it.
  24. mar
    render imperfect
    All in all, his personality was an arabesque: intricate, symmetrical, balanced, and tightly constructed—except for one flaw. The careful design was marred occasionally by rare but keen sexual cravings.
  25. industrious
    characterized by hard work and perseverance
    They were industrious, orderly, and energetic, hoping to prove beyond a doubt De Gobineau’s hypothesis that “all civilizations derive from the white race, that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it.”
  26. lascivious
    driven by lust
    That they were corrupt in public and private practice, both lecherous and lascivious, was considered their noble right, and thoroughly enjoyed by most of the less gifted population.
  27. eccentricity
    strange and unconventional behavior
    No obviously bad effects were noticed from these ill-advised unions, but one or two old maids or gardener boys marked a weakening of faculties and a disposition toward eccentricity in some of the children.
  28. predilection
    a strong liking
    He read greedily but understood selectively, choosing the bits and pieces of other men’s ideas that supported whatever predilection he had at the moment.
  29. invincible
    incapable of being overcome or subdued
    He resisted the introduction, but she married him anyway, only to discover that he was suffering from and enjoying an invincible melancholy.
  30. melancholy
    a constitutional tendency to be gloomy and depressed
    When she learned two months into the marriage how important his melancholy was to him, that he was very interested in altering her joy to a more academic gloom, that he equated lovemaking with communion and the Holy Grail, she simply left.
  31. poignant
    keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
    Of all the wishes people had brought him—money, love, revenge—this seemed to him the most poignant and the one most deserving of fulfillment.
  32. contemplation
    a calm, lengthy, intent consideration
    How is it I could lift my eyes from the contemplation of Your Body and fall deeply into the contemplation of theirs?

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