Understanding Toni Morrison’s ‘Jazz’

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Toni Morrison is an award-winning American novelist. She won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her novel “Beloved” and the sought-after Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Even if there were many people who questioned her qualifications for the two prestigious awards, many of her loyal fans and fellow authors believe she is well deserving of those honors for her exceptional works.

Many fans describe her novels as lyrical, conveying emotions and imagery in a poetic manner. In her books, she chronicles the African-American experience, and according to the Nobel Prize Committee, she “gives life to the essential aspects of American reality.” She has published six novels and a collection of essays and lectures in the span of her career. One of those books is “Jazz,” which was released in 1992.

The novel is set in the 1920s, what many consider to be “the Jazz Age” because it was at this time when African-American literature, poetry, and art were developing, expanding and moving into mainstream. The story begins with a love triangle among Violet, Joe, and Dorcas. Joe secretly meets with the young girl, Dorcas, even though he is married (although unhappily) to Violet. A series of events ultimately lead to Dorcas’ death, and the remaining characters are left to deal with broken relationships and new friendships.

The title represents Morrison’s new approach to writing a literary narrative. It’s improvisational in nature, akin to jazz music. It can be difficult at times for the reader to follow but even so, many will agree that the descriptions are “highly visual, imagistic, and sonorous.” Much like Morrison’s other novels, “Jazz” is filled with symbols that should not be taken at face value. It resulted in a novel with a unique mix of magic, music, and history.

Image Source: slate.com

I am Lou S. Habash and I love jazz. Follow me on Google+ to learn more about the different forms of jazz.

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