Franklin High Schoolers Assigned Book About 11-Year-Old Raped By Her Father

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It’s a controversial book that has been banned many times over the years.

And yet, it’s assigned in Franklin Public Schools — and one teacher taught it to students as recently as this past school year. It’s unclear if she plans to teach the book this school year.

The book is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, published in 1970. The protagonist is an 11-year-old girl who gets raped and impregnated by her father. The subject matter has drawn opposition from parents in various parts of the country.

Franklin School Committee candidate Dashe Videira strongly opposes using the book in Franklin public schools. She noted that teacher Katherine Kellett’s 11th grade English class read the book last school year, although it’s unclear if they’re using it this school year. Additionally, she said there are at least three copies of the book in the high school’s library.

“We’ve just unfortunately over time entrusted so much in the school systems to be the drivers of our children’s education,” Videira told NewBostonPost in a telephone interview on Friday. “Now we’re seeing this differently and parents are asking questions. Normally parents would totally trust the curriculum being designed by the school system with no real care in the world. Typically, you’d have to be kind of a hovering parent to a degree to ask questions about the curriculum and the books they’ve been assigned.”

Videira is one of 12 candidates for seven available seats on the Franklin School Committee in the town election scheduled for Tuesday, November 2. Members of the school committee serve two-year terms.

She said that parental consent in public education is essential, and that there are certain topics that many parents don’t want their students learning.

“In some sense, they are the primary educators and they’re supposed to help nurture children and the schools are supposed to be there to help them understand and how to get their needs met when it comes to reading, math, and writing,” Videira said. “For some reason, we’re so far from that where they’re going for the social and emotional aspects. They’re really trying to be a one-stop show.”

Morrison (1931-2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. The Nobel committee quoted an essay in which Morrison wrote that her work “requires me to think about how free I can be as an African-American woman writer in my genderized, sexualized, wholly racialized world.”

One of the most controversial passages of The Bluest Eye has to do with the father of the protagonist raping his own daughter in graphic detail. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 8. [Editor’s Note:  Graphic and vulgar language follows.]


The tenderness welled up in him, and he sank to his knees, his eyes on the foot of his daughter. Crawling on all fours toward her, he raised his hand and caught the foot in an upward stroke. Pecola lost her balance and was about to careen to the floor. Cholly raised his other hand to her hips to save her from falling. He put his head down and nibbled at the back of her leg. His mouth trembled at the firm sweetness of the flesh. He closed his eyes, letting his fingers dig into her waist. The rigidness of her shocked body, the silence of her stunned throat, was better than Pauline’s easy laughter had been. The confused mixture of his memories of Pauline and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him, and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length, and softening the lips of his anus. Surrounding all of this lust was a border of politeness. He wanted to [expletive deleted] her – tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down to his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made – a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon. Following the disintegration – the falling away – of sexual desire, he was conscious of her wet, soapy hands on his wrists, the fingers clenching, but whether her grip was from a hopeless but stubborn struggle to be free, or from some other emotion, he could not tell. Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted. Cholly stood up and could see only her grayish panties, so sad and limp around her ankles. Again the hatred mixed with tenderness. The hatred would not let him pick her up, the tenderness forced him to cover her. So when the child regained consciousness, she was lying on the kitchen floor under a heavy quilt, trying to connect the pain between her legs with the face of her mother looming over her.


The narrator of the book also describes in Chapter 9 the pedophile father’s sexual interests and reveals that he is a closeted homosexual:


He could have been an active homosexual but lacked the courage. Bestiality did not occur to him, and sodomy was quite out of the question, for he did not experience sustained erections and could not endure the thought of somebody else’s. And besides, the one thing that disgusted him more than entering and caressing a woman was caressing and being caressed by a man. In any case, his cravings, although intense, never relished physical contact. He abhorred flesh on flesh. Body odor, breath odor, overwhelmed him. The sight of dried matter in the corner of the eye, decayed or missing teeth, ear wax, blackheads, moles, blisters, skin crusts — all the natural excretions and protections the body was capable of — disquieted him. His attentions therefore gradually settled on those humans whose bodies were least offensive — children. And since he was too diffident to confront homosexuality, and since little boys were insulting, scary, and stubborn, he further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable and frequently seductive. His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man.


The 11-year-old girl also shows an animus against certain dolls because they’re white. At one point in Chapter 1 she says:


I destroyed white baby dolls. But the dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. To discover what eluded me, the secret of the magic they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say, ‘Awwwww,’ but not for me.


Kellett and Franklin superintendent of school Sara Ahern could not be reached for comment by telephone or email on Friday or Monday this week.


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