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Jazz

Toni Morrison

Section 15

Section 14

Important Quotations

Summary

The narrator speaks out in this final section and feels that she has failed as a voyeur of other peoples' lives. Looking in on the lives of other people in the City, the narrator forgot to have a life of his or her own. She was sure that Joe would kill Violet or vice versa and had been waiting for it to happen. She also says that she made further assumptions all throughout the story about the characters' thoughts and their pain. She assumed that history would repeat itself but no one turned out to be as predictable as the narrator had guessed. The narrator says that she would like to retreat to the rock dwelling where Wild lived and meet with the crazy woman, look her eye to eye.

Alice Manfred moved back to Springfield and Felice continued to buy records and meat, walking slowly down the streets and steering clear of friends and people like Dorcas, who might use or hurt her. Joe takes a new job at a speakeasy, working at night and returning home in the early morning to spend the day with Violet. The couple naps together, walks around the neighborhood, plays cards and holds each other under the covers.

In 1906 when Joe and Violet still lived in Virginia, Joe went away for two months to work in Crossland. One afternoon Violet had returned from plowing the fields in front of their tiny house and she carefully washed herself and changed out of her work clothes before putting on a clean white shift. Exhausted from the heat and work, she fell asleep on the bed as she took off her shoes and when Joe returned from the trip he encountered this image of her sleeping peacefully. Now Joe and Violet whisper peacefully under the covers and tell each other secrets and stories and are totally absorbed in their love.

The narrator tries to figure out what it is in the shadows of the City or the quality of the music that drives men and women to love each other, meeting secretly and feeling intensely. The narrator envies the love that Joe and Violet share, one that is private and secret, public and mundane. While Joe and Violet can show their love in public, simple ways, the narrator has only known the secret kind of love but wishes to say out loud to someone that she needs and wants that person.

Analysis

Morrison's narrator is extremely self-conscious, constantly doubting and questioning the job that she is doing in representing the individual characters, the City, and its rhythms as a whole. The reader watches her in the process of framing and creating the story and is therefore privy to all of the self-doubt that characterizes her decisions. She wants desperately to tell the story of Harlem right and to do the characters justice. She shows us the cracks in her judgment to illustrate how the notion of objectivity easily collapses, as any standpoint assumes a bias. Now, at the very end of her story the narrator undercuts her own narrative when she says, "I missed the people altogether." She suggests that she did not reach the core of the characters or the genesis of their suffering. Further, the narrator blames herself for not having her own life. Instead, she tried to make sense of everyone else's existence while allowing herself to be emptied out. Thus, Morrison suggests that observing, studying, and empathizing are not sufficient: one must be more than a narrator; one must be a character.

The narrator thought that she was invisible but now she realizes that the characters were aware of her all the while, that they knew that they were being sized up and her conceit of invisibility was all a sham. The characters know that someone else is watching them and trying to make a story from them, understanding only a fraction of the complete tale. The narrator admits her own humanity and her own pain and finally finds comfort in Wild's golden lair, hidden in the woods. After hovering above the characters' lives, the narrator immerses herself in their plot by allowing herself to be seen and comforted by Wild's knowing eyes. In Wild's eyes the narrator becomes visible and whole and then moves on quickly to wrap up the lose ends of her story. When she realizes that she must tend to her own pain, the narrator arrives at the statement, "Now I know." Like a mother figure, Wild heals the narrator's wounds. While Joe never understood the gesture that his supposed mother had made, the narrator knows that Wild is, in a sense, all of their mothers when she receives the woman's hand. Having found her own mother, the narrator finally has an identity and a parentage.

In this section the story of Violet and Joe is reshaped as the story of the narrator herself. Before this we were led to believe that the focus was on these Joe and Violet while in fact, another journey was unfolding as the narrator came closer to her own peace. Once she finds it, at the very end of the book, she is free to wrap up the other tale, the one that cloaked her story, and to live her own life. Therefore, she leaves some characters, such as Malvonne, Hunters Hunter and Vera Louise, totally unaccounted for while she gives brief updates on others. She quickly summarizes what happens with Alice Manfred and Felice and then spends more time talking about the new love between Joe and Violet. The narrator focuses on the hopefulness of the couples' romance as she ends her tale because she sees that they have found something to sustain them, and that she has found the same thing in the course of her narrative.

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