Thursday, 26 March 2015

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Warning: This book contains adultery, miscarriages, mother hunger, depression, irrational behaviour, slavery, racism, child abandonment, suicide, murder, mutilation of a dead body, and more.

OK, joking. Couldn't help it, after reading this post:


The characters in Jazz lack a sense of self. Alice Manfred is afraid of everything that she practices self-denial, suppresses her own desires and wishes, chooses the safe way, repeats exactly what her parents have done to her that she thought she would never do herself, imposes those hard rules on her young niece. Her niece Dorcas loses her parents from a young age and has hardly anyone but a strict aunt, whom she resists, and she does everything that she's not supposed to do, live fast, die young. Neither have a self, neither truly live- Alice's too busy conforming, Dorcas's too busy rebelling. Dorcas accepts Joe because of his affection and devotion, and the fascination of breaking rules- to have a secret affair with a married man old enough to be her father; and leaves him because he accepts everything about her, whereas she needs someone to shape her, create a sense of self for her, as Acton does. Joe Trace reacts to being abandoned by his own parents and having no last name by creating his own self and renewing it 7 times, only to carry within him an empty nothing until he meets Dorcas- the man who has never claimed anything now claims Dorcas and later can't cope with her leaving him, that he shoots her to revenge or to keep her to himself, so that she can never belong to anyone else. Violet comes to the City, the place of hope and the future, while still stuck in her past, and after 3 miscarriages she has guilt, like the voice in Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "The Mother" (though these are miscarriages, not abortions, the feeling is similar because for a while Violet doesn't want children), and later becomes more and more desperate in her mother hunger, more and more depressed, that she finds herself split into 2 and sees the chores being done instead of seeing herself doing them, just as people see her as having 2 sides, the Violet side and the Violent side. She never has anything- her father is never home, her mother Rose Dear jumps into a well, her grandmother True Belle is too obsessed with the figure of Golden Gray that remains forever stamped in Violet's mind, she claims Joe (Joe doesn't claim her), she lives in the City having nothing, no children, and later no Joe either. But if Dorcas devastates and kills Joe emotionally, with his murder of her, she wakes up Violet and sets her in motion. 
Even Golden Gray, the perfect boy, the golden boy, doesn't have a self either. The moment he finds out that his biological mother pretends to have adopted him and that he has black blood, or maybe later, when he meets his own father and gets insulted for his hesitation to embrace his own identity, he has an identity crisis and his whole world falls apart. Knowing that he belongs nowhere, he finds refuge in Wild's world. 

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