35.1 | Timothy K. Nixon

“The Joy It Promised”: The Dichotomous Deployment of Food in The Bluest Eye

“‘The Joy It Promised’: The Dichotomous Deployment of Food in The Bluest Eye” considers the ways in which Toni Morrison incorporated foodstuffs into her first novel. The persistent references to alimentary items are inescapable in this work, so this essay attempts to understand what it is the author was trying to do with them. Employing Freudian concepts, this essay shows that foodstuffs can have positive, homely associations for the characters and readers, which equates to the idea of the canny, yet food and food imagery can have negative, disturbing associations, which is more in line with Freud’s notion of the uncanny. Finally, there is a third category of gustatory items that are neither negative nor positive but nevertheless useful for situating the characters and the narrative itself in a specific historical, cultural, and ethnic context.