Deceptive First Impressions in Morrison's Jazz
The novel Jazz by Toni Morrison is an extremely well written account of black life during the mid 1850's to the late 1920's. Morrison manipulates the three main character's personas while analyzing their lives to show the effect that a person's history has on their present day life. The most interesting thing I found concerning this novel has the way in which Toni Morrison was able to present you with a first impression of the characters, then proceed through history, to give you a new conception of their character. This is seen through three important individuals: Violet, Joe, and Dorcas. At the beginning, Violet is depicted as crazy and foolish, but through the interpretation of her history, a clearer picture of a woman in love is presented. At first, Joe is seen as a man without standards who is simply a cheating husband who kills his girlfriend, but this also is abolished when the extenuating circumstances of his history are described. Dorcas plays the role of the piteous,innocent woman who is stuck in the middle of this crisis at the beginning, but is relieved of this generalized characterization through her actions towards Joe and her search for self-satisfaction. Even though the history that is recounted in this novel is more gossip than fact, it presents a more accurate story than the one depicted in the “offical story” located at the beginning of the novel. Toni Morrison attempts, through these three characters to illustrate how the narrator's perception of each character's history can alter the reader's understanding of a character's actions. Through this technique, she is able to demonstrate that circumstances andevents are not always as simple or truthful ...
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...th explanations for certain behavior and prohibits the reader from jumping to unsound conclusions. Through knowing their personal history the reader's perception of the three characters is distinctly changed: Violet is no longer seen as crazy; Joe is
not seen as the cold-hearted, adulterous murderer anymore; and Dorcas transforms from an innocent young girl to a more callous, immature, child solely concerned with self-satisfaction and a longing for belonging. Although the chronological style Toni Morrison uses is not unique, the reader finds it very useful for it allows them to experience the events as though they were being remembered by the characters. Through the characters in this novel, Toni Morrison is able to teach the reader a familiar lesson about life: not to judge a book by its cover.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. New York: Plume, 1992.