Essay on The Omniscient Narrator in Toni Morrison's Jazz

Essay on The Omniscient Narrator in Toni Morrison's Jazz

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  In her sixth novel Jazz, Toni Morrison "makes use of an unusual storytelling device: an unnamed, intrusive, and unreliable narrator" ("Toni Morrison" 13).  From the onset of the novel, many readers question the reliability of the narrator due to the fact that this "person" seems to know too many intimate personal details, inner thoughts, and the history of so many characters.  Although as readers we understand an omniscient narrator to be someone intimately close with the character(s), the narrator of Jazz is intrusive, moving in and out of far too many of the characters' lives to be reliable.  No one person could possibly know and give as much information as this narrator does.  But, as readers of Morrison novels, we must remember that Morrison is a gifted and talented writer whose style of writing, as Village Voice essayist Susan Lydon observes, "carries you like a river, sweeping doubt and disbelief away, and it is only gradually that one realizes her deadly serious intent" ("Toni Morrison" 6).  Therefore, when we consider the narration of the novel, we must examine every possibility of Morrison's intent.  One possibility appears with the novel's title-Jazz.  The title, which encompasses the pervasive sound, its musical timbre of the decade in which the story is set, resonates throughout the novel as a character in its own right.  Just as "New York is presented as the City throughout the novel to designate it as an active character" (Kubitschek 143), so is jazz.  Like the improvisation of jazz, the storytelling technique of the narrator "improvises" as it moves in and out of the characters' lives where it would be least expected.  Therefore, jazz must be considered an active participant, a character, w...


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...rison."  Gale Literary Databases.  Contemporary Authors.  28 November 2014. <http://www.galenet.com>.

 

Sources Consulted

Berret, Anthony J. "Toni Morrison's Literary Jazz." College Language Association Journal 32.3 (March 1989): 267-83.

Eckard Paula Gallant. "The Interplay of Music, Language and Narrative in Toni Morrison's Jazz." CLA Journal 38.1 (1994): 11-19.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and K. A. Appiah, eds. Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad P, 1993.

Page, Philip. Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison's Novels. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1995.

Peach, Linden. Toni Morrison. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Rice, Alan J. "Jazzing It Up A Storm: The Execution and Meaning of Toni Morrison's Jazzy Prose Style." The Journal of American Studies 28 (1994): 423-32.

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