Essay on Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Toni Morrison's Jazz

Essay on Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Toni Morrison's Jazz

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Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Toni Morrison's Jazz

 
   Textual, mnemonic, and physical gaps leave room in which identity is found through body and environment in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Toni Morrison's Jazz. Ondaatje's characters retrieve their absent personas by mutually colonizing lovers' bodies, thus developing a metaphor for the body as topography. Morrison spins this in reverse, personifying and merging the City's infrastructure with human structure as the characters synergistically carve out their selves through the City's spaces. Though geographical boundaries do impede characters' ability to connect, both novelists optimistically argue that the bonds of human affection can span the physical borders of the world, for between these no chasm exists.

 

In The English Patient, empty spaces are represented by Almasy's and other characters' porous memories of history, their bodies, and geography. Ondaatje draws a parallel between human memory and written texts: "So the books for the Englishman, as he listened intently or not, had gaps of plot like sections of a road washed out by storms" (7). The use of a geographical simile also foreshadows the connections between humans and environment Ondaatje will explore. Hana's self-identity, too, is endangered by her unwillingness to recognize or celebrate her body: "She had refused to look at herself for more than a year, now and then just her shadow on walls...She peered into her look, trying to recognize herself" (52). Hana's "shadow" is illustrative of her problem; in her eyes, her body's sensuality has been squeezed out of a voluptuous three-dimensional form "the way maps compress the world onto a two-dimensional sh...


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...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.

Kubitschek, Mary Dehn.  Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion.  Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998. 139-161.

Morrison, Toni.  Jazz.  New York: Penguin, 1992.

Ondaatje, Michael. The English Patient. London: Pan Books, 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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