The fictional illustration of the American city African American literature is commonly characterized by a stark manifestation of its hierarchical color division. Interestingly, African American novels are replete with pictures of post bellum migration to the city and the ghettozation of the “nigger.” Toni Morrison’s “Jazz” powerfully captures an imaginative and prescient of an urban locale through which racial areas are viscerally demarcated for the blacks by way of long conditioning, although in reality no bodily marker separates the white and black worlds. Such a traumatic consciousness of their pariah status makes the blacks in Morrison’s Jazz perpetually reposition themselves.
This structure of distinction evidently replicates all through the city-scape where each race and sophisticated class create their respective unique areas. These components may compel critics like Anne-Marie-Paquet-Deyris to view within the city an inimical force that denatures the Black communal voice: “As a new composite, the City is conditioned by the Great Migration from the rural South which started in the 1870 and climaxed between 1910 and 1930. Whatever traces of this former history survive in the text remain fragmentary or else inarticulate. They sometimes even lead to literal dead ends”. This perspective assumes that the displacement necessitated by the northward migration has resulted in an irreparable lack of the group’s historic narratives.
Deyris’s take is a problematic because there may be nothing to warrant the belief that the group invested unstintingly in a consolidated historic voice prior to the urban relocation. Whatever was misplaced owing to the migration to the city had been greater than compensated by the large alternatives it provided for liberal engagement with black individualism and collective group action, as has been fantastically delineated in Morrison’s Jazz. Particularly for the black lady, this relocation to the urban centre was a blessing in that they not have been confined to the home area or no matter socio-cultural atmosphere was assigned to them. Violet has an excessive degree of mobility inside the contours of black area. Ironically, it’s Joe, the former master woodsman in Vesper County, who’s lowered to a salesman of cosmetics within the city. The black women within the novel by way of continuous engagement with their environment show sensitivity to the urban cartography. Delimiting such territory contributes to a simultaneous creation of a personal atmosphere which facilitates an easy transition to the social life of town.
Read About: What are the Important Themes in “Jazz”?
It can’t be denied, nonetheless, that regardless of how liberating such areas change into, a way of fear haunts the avenues of action out there to the black individuals. The insertion of an extra “n” that bizarrely transforms Violet’s name to the sobriquet “Violent” satirically touches upon the primeval drive for survival. Nevertheless, the provision of such linguistic play bespeaks a luxury hardly attainable within the pre-urban time-frame. Further, such an artistic chance ties in meaningfully with the shift in signification, later, from “Sth” to “Sweetheart” which is richly evocative of a temper of fruition and achievement that was woefully absent prior to the transitional section marked by the textual content.
The sheer ebullience of the narrative in Jazz then considerably attests to the mental mobility of the community itself. In having Dorcas fall prey to her personal whims and venalities the novel subtly underwrites the endurance and invincibility of the matriarchal imaginative and prescient that sustains the black narrative. Violet serves the function of a cultural link bridging the Past of the group within the nation with the present within the City, because it had been, and appropriately she even exhorts Felice to “make up the way you want it to”. It is abundantly clear from the textual content that these communal narratives each maintain and empower the beleaguered black population via the transition phase. The color division has paradoxically helped developed an area and tradition within the city that’s uniquely and vociferously black. Of course, the mushrooming of a number of interest groups and associations later such because the National Negro Business League and the Civic Daughters discussion board point to the venture of consciousness elevating that’s already underway. And the opportunity of the central narrative voice being gender-neutral is unmistakably belied by the intimate access this voice has to areas such because the Salem Women’s Club. These associations with their palpable presence within the narrative signify discourses that clearly reject stereotypical notions of the Negro as being regressive.
Thus, Morrison’s Jazz forcefully registers the nascent stirrings of group action at a sure historic moment, which although not politically strident, maintain out the opportunity of exploding into an organized revolt in opposition to the hegemonic forces.
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