Jazz

by: Toni Morrison

Section 13

What she says about her new boyfriend, Acton, betrays her need to have an identity created for her when she fails to find her own. He will mold her into a woman and Dorcas is extremely conscious of eyes being on her and of being watched. A person's gaze provides her with a sense of self that she lacks in isolation. When she imagines Joe entering the party, she knows exactly what she will look like to him, saying, "he will look and see how close me and Acton dance. How I rest my head on my arm holding on to him. The hem of my skirt drapes down in back and taps the calves of my legs while we rock back and forth, then side to side." Dorcas's repetition of the phrase "He is coming for me" becomes her own refrain in the greater jazz structure of the book. Like Violet, Joe, and Golden Gray, Dorcas insists on defining herself in terms of someone else. These characters share an inability to provide their own happiness, but are reliant on factors outside themselves. Dorcas warns that when Joe "he will see I'm not his anymore. I'm Acton's and it's Acton I want to please. He expects it." Thus, Dorcas willingly reduces herself to a piece of property because being so gives her an identity that she feels unable to maintain on her own.

At Dorcas's deathbed, Acton fusses with a stain of blood on his shirt, and in this way he resembles Golden Gray in his self-absorption at the moment of Wild's childbirth. The birth and the death are thereby connected as Joe is brought into the world and later takes Dorcas from it.