Toni Morrison’s Jazz
A look at loss and displacement in Morrison’s novel, `Jazz` set during the Harlem Renaissance.
This essay deals with the deep-rooted sense of loss that the main characters find themselves which results from the displacement of the characters from their homelands and which works itself out in violence. The paper connects the characters to Morrison’s own childhood in the 1930s. The paper then explores the setting of the novel in relation to the dislocation of blacks using historical knowledge of the decline of the Harlem Renaissance during the Great Depression. The paper examines Morrison’s writing style in relation to the novel’s title, and compares “Jazz” to Morrison’s previous novel, `Beloved.`
`The black Americans of the years of the Great Depression believed that they were moving out of the South voluntarily, and of course in many ways they were. But the forces that made them want to leave (racism, segregation, poverty, lack of opportunity for jobs or education) were beyond their control, and so the idea that they went north entirely out of their own free will is an illusory one. They were pushed out of the South, even if many did not feel the shove. And because they believed that they went willingly, they did not see the price that they would have to pay in leaving their homeland behind. Even as many blacks in the 1920s and 1930s felt deeply alienated from the South, the truth was that it had been their home for generations. Casting off a home leaves scars. Immigrants may well believe that the place that they end up in is a better one than the place that they left behind, but they will never be entirely whole again once they become displaced people. Much of the psychological motivations in Jazz relate to the state of exile (even if voluntary, even if in many ways exhilarating) in which these characters find themselves.`