Jazz (Toni Morrison) Essay

Words: 1310
Pages: 6

While the struggle to individually survive is inherent in Toni Morrison’s Jazz, what stands out more is the way companionship helps the characters to survive. The relationships that develop within the story are potent in their effects on characters, especially Joe Trace, a fifty-three year old man struggling with a failing marriage. Trying to fulfill his own desires, he has an affair. But because he kills Dorcas, his young lover who does not truly love him, Joe finds himself isolated from his wife and the rest of society. By reestablishing his relationships and connections to people who want to truly care for him, Joe is able to make himself whole again.
In his previous relationships that are problematic, such as his
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Because she is the first to show care for Joe—she is the first to elicit an emotional response from Joe. When she is speaking to Joe on the couch, Felice describes Dorcas’s nature: “[Dorcas] used people” (212). By describing this nature of Dorcas to Joe, Felice helps to begin a slow awareness in Joe. When Felice describes Dorcas as using him and then asking him if he wanted her to use him, Joe responds, “Must have” (212). Joe is slowly awakening to the reasons why his relationships have been failing lately. Admitting that he wanted to be with someone who would need him, Joe’s understanding and awareness of this inherent problem in his relationship with Dorcas causes a realization. While before, he thought that Dorcas needed and wanted him, now he understands that it was he fooling himself.
By recounting the moments and situations that characterize his failed relationships, Joe discovers the driving forces behind his actions. He becomes truly interested in finding the reasons why he acted the way he did in having an affair with Dorcas. As Felice helps Joe realize, the only solution for his problems is this understanding of his actions. When Felice is eating dinner with Joe and Violet, and asks Violet why she had ruined Dorcas’s funeral, Joe looks at Violet “as though he had asked the question” (211). Joe needs the answer to that question and others like it, for he needs to hear and understand the reasons for the major problems that