Jazz

by: Toni Morrison

Section 9

Raising Golden Gray together, True Belle and Vera Louise paint a radical picture of parenthood: an ex-slave and the wealthy daughter of a slave-owner, living without a man and doing fine. But even this family is not entirely stable. When Golden learns the truth, he abandons his family, and when True Belle is called away from her Baltimore home to be with her daughter in Virginia she disrupts and fragments the family structure. Interestingly, the black woman leaves the white woman; thereby exercising an independence that one associates with the masculine figure in abandoning the "feminine" home and its domesticity. Morrison reverses roles and plays with our expectations to highlight the reader's own preconceptions. Typicially, for instance, one thinks of the mixed-race offspring, exemplified here by Golden Gray, as a testimonial to a white man's desire to control and sexually subordinate a black woman. However, Golden Gray's origins do not lie in rape and racist domination but rather in the mutual love between a white woman and a black man. His name, "Gray," reflects his place between the black and white worlds of his parents.

Golden's journey to find his father bears the undertones of a mythic quest, in which the hero must return to his origins in order to know himself better. The notion of naming and finding one's true identity is further underscored by a passage in this section in which the narrator describes True Belle's cat. Named King, the cat sleeps at True Belle's feet like a dog and when Golden sees a bit of rag in Henry LesTroy's house, he thinks of the bed pillow: "Bits of truly unusable fabric shoved into a ticking shroud. It reminds Golden Gray of the pillow True Belle made for King to sleep on at her feet. She had been given the name of a powerful male dog, but he was a cat…." Names that don't quite fit also bring up the question of who is doing the naming. In a society where blacks are subjected to the stereotyping of a dominant white culture, names and labels don't always fit correctly. For this reason perhaps, Morrison is interested in playing with assumptions related to identity.