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Jazz

Toni Morrison

Section 8

Section 7

Section 9

Summary

In this section, Joe continues in his narration and describes Dorcas with her long hair and bad skin. She asked him to give her the beauty products that would help her blemishes but he was glad that they never worked because the marks on her face were like a kind of trail for him to follow similar to the trail that he followed in Virginia to track down Wild, his mother. Joe had also followed Dorcas' trail for the five days that led up to party where he shot Dorcas across a crowded room of dancers. He looked for her that Tuesday at her hairdresser's and was told that she wouldn't be in. He began to wonder about a story she had told him to get out of meeting Joe the previous Saturday. When Malvonne saw Joe that week, her eyes were laughing and he knew that something was up. When he finally tracked Dorcas down that week he took her to Malvonne's place one last time and she said hurtful things to him. Joe thought about the young men hanging out on the street and realized that they never had to track down women, the women came to them.

The day that he went to Malvonne's and she laughed with her eyes, Joe ran all the way to Inwood where he and Dorcas first met. Running through the snow he remembered their first meeting, thinking about the shoes that she wore and the hoof-print like marks on her cheeks. Joe had told her that she was worth Adam's expulsion from Eden and that he would suffer it all again to be with her. He had brought her so many presents and always worried if she would be pleased. When they first slept together in Malvonne's nephew's bedroom, it was Dorcas's first time and in a way it was Joe's first time too. He felt that he had chosen her and that he had risen rather than fallen in love.

Analysis

The "hoofmarks" that Joe describes on Dorcas's cheeks are the "tracks" that he loves and reflect the trail that he will use to hunt her down and find her. Joe maintains that he doesn't look for the trail but that the trail came and found him, suggesting once again that the environment, specifically the City, has a power to influence the behaviors of its inhabitants, turning them into predators or criminals. Urban life constantly threatens to corrupt the characters in Morrison's book with its violence, money, prohibition, nightclubs and adultery. The blacks in Harlem walk around "free," but in building their own community they have internalized some of the values of the oppressive white culture. Men and women flaunt their money and clothes; they walk the streets to impress others and to attract the gaze of their neighbors. Dorcas, for instance, needs to be constantly admired and observed in order to make her identity felt. However, the voyeuristic gaze of a third party keeps her from finding herself on her own terms.

Other characters such as the so-called "blind twins" that Joe finds at the beauty shop use the city to hide or refigure their true origins. The handicapped musician brothers, according to Joe, are neither blind nor brothers but they are willing to deny their authentic selves in order to make some money. Similarly, Golden Gray did not know until he was eighteen that he was half black, and as such he was living with a false identity. As Joe scours the city for Dorcas, he starts to address questions to her directly, speaking to a ghost and memory that can never respond.

After speaking with the ladies at the beauty parlor Joe asks Dorcas, "What did you have the touch-up for?" Now that he has murdered her, Joe can converse with Dorcas in his imagination and she will never respond hurtfully to him; he controls his memory of her more effectively than he controlled the living person who threatened to desert him. The music that Joe heard in the beauty parlor calmed him and mitigated the evil in his thoughts, so he decided to return home rather than continue his search. In working its spell, the music obscured the trail to Dorcas by working its way into his thoughts.

However, Joe begins to panic again when his masculinity and pride come into question and he doubts Dorcas's faithfulness. His anger stems primarily from his feelings toward the young, good-looking "roosters" that hang out on the street corners. Joe must humble himself to the white guests at the Windemere Hotel where he is a waiter, so back in Harlem he feels entitled to reclaim his self- respect and identity. He wants to be a man like Henry LesTroy, a man whose sexual potency attracts women so that he does not have to hunt them down. Whereas Henry attracted the admiration of a white woman, Joe's lover is still black but of lighter skin and probably of a mixed-race background.

The gifts that Joe brings for Dorcas are similar to the assorted belongings that he once found in Wild's hidden burrow. And Joe's meetings with the young girl are forbidden just as were Wild's escapades with Golden Gray, who disappeared with the crazy lady into the woods. Joe boasts that he would have strutted out of Eden, bitten the apple, just for the forbidden pleasure of having Dorcas as his lover. A man who has been beaten within inches of death by whites and has suffered the hardships of racial prejudice, Joe clings to his love as a way of asserting his own authority and making a choice, while his skin color determines almost everything else.

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