Toni Morrison

Pulitzer prize winning author Toni Morrison depicts Afircan-American women as heros in her various novels. Morrison, herself, is a hero for all Americans, African and otherwise, for her writings.

Pulitzer prize winning author Toni Morrison depicts Afircan-American women as heros in her various novels. Morrison, herself, is a hero for all Americans, African and otherwise, for her writings. Morrison writes about the African-American experience in different periods of American history. In Jazz, Toni Morrison uses shifting points of view in non-chronological order to emphasize the need for African-Americans to remember their past.

Each point of view tells a different story that combines to tell a larger story. The effect of Morrison weaving these separate stories together creates a poetic prose form of jazz music that like Jazz music starts with total chaos and transforms into organized chaos. Jazz is a metaphor for the various stream of consciousness points of view Morrison presents the reader.

The Past is the strength that glues together the Black community. It is the one common denominator they all have. The majority of the characters in Jazz are first and second generation freed slaves who are incapable of love, because they have never been taught how. In order to heal the wounds of slavery that prevent loving, the characters in the story must remember the past. The hero of Jazz, Violet, must overcome her husbands sins to forgive him, and rise above her ancestral past by learning to love.



In the past, African American history was told through verbal stories. It is as if the narrator is sitting in front of us telling us the stories passed on by her various ancestors. Thus, the weaving of individual stream of consciousness stories into a greater whole. The chronology of these stories is not important. What is important is the continuing cycle of lovelessness that is passed on from one generation to another.

The lack of love in Jazz is evident from the beginning of the book when Violet kills the parrots. The parrot sits on the window sill saying I love you until it freezes to death, but Violet remains stoic(3). That she does know how to love or what love is, is obvious by her reactions to Joe's infidelity. Even after Joe kills Dorcas, Violet is at a loss for Joe's lack of love towards her. Instead of realizing that Joe was incapable of loving--because she too is incapable of love--Violet tries to get even with Joe:

Violet is mean enough and good looking enough to think that even without hips or youth she could punish Joe by getting herself a boyfriend and letting him visit in her own house. She thought it would dry his tears up and give her some satisfaction as well. It could have worked, I suppose, but the children of suicides are hard to please and quick to believe no one loves them because they are not really here (4).

Joe ignores Violet's misguided attempts to have him fall back in love with her and she resorts to seeking love elsewhere, "So she decided to love--well, find out about--the eighteen year-old whose creamy little face she tried to cut open even though nothing would have come out but straw(5)." Joe, like Violet, is incapable of love. He kills Dorcas, the girl he thinks he loves, because she does not love him back, a bizarre way of demonstrating love.

Dorcas's own inability of love is passed on from her aunt, Alice. Alice admits passing on the lack of love to Dorcas: "Growing up under that heated control, Alice swore she wouldn't, but she did, pass it on. She passed it on to her baby sister's only child (77)." That Alice does not have a clue how to love is obvious by her belief that perhaps if her husband stayed, Dorcas would have learned love from their relationship. "And wondered now would she have done so had her husband lived or stayed or if she had had children of her own. If he had been there by her side, helping her make decisions, maybe she wouldn't be sitting there waiting for a woman they called Violent and thinking war thoughts. (Jazz 77)." Morrison is saying that we must remember the past so we do not we repeat our mistakes. The past was loveless and if African Americans wish to learn how to love they must learn from the mistakes of the past.

Violet is a hero, because she does learn to overcome the grim reality of her past. She never fully learns what love is, because her parents and her grandparents love was stolen from them. She is a first or second-generation ex-slave who rises above the ashes of her charred life and learns to live within society. She and Joe made not realize they have love, but her willingness to accept Joe through all his faults makes her a hero. Morrison's characters are not cut and dry. They are not all good or all evil, but some do show greater characteristics than others. The men in Jazz, and in most of Morrison's work, have had their dignity stolen from them. It is up to the women to step to the forefront, be strong, and hold a family together. Violet does just that, and it is what makes her a hero for African-American women. In current times when many African-American, and American in general, families are fragmented by divorce and separation, Violet learns to overcome her husbands past, and teach him how to rise above the mistakes he has made.

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