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Jazz | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Jazz | Quotes


I'm crazy about this City. A city like this one makes me dream tall and feel in on things.

Narrator, Part 1

The City is not only the setting for many events in Jazz but almost another character, urging and aiding people as they make up new lives for themselves. The narrator loves the City and looks to it for wisdom and guidance.


He did not yearn or pine for the girl. ... He thought about her, and decided.

Narrator, Part 2

One reason Joe loves Dorcas so excessively is that he chose her. He fell, metaphorically and literally, into his relationship with Violet, but he experiences the pleasure of asserting his choice with Dorcas. The ability to decide for oneself, to make one's life deliberately, matters to him and to the narrator.


It was the ... dirty, get-on-down music ... danced to, close and shameless or apart and wild.

Narrator, Part 3

Alice Manfred, trying to understand the riots that orphaned her niece, blames not racism or "disgruntled veterans" but jazz and the sexual drives it represents to her. Jazz makes people "do unwise disorderly things," Alice thinks.


NO! that Violet is not somebody ... wearing my skin. ... Shit no that Violet is me!

Violet Trace, Part 4

Violet must reintegrate the angry, strong aspects of her nature with the betrayed and fearful aspects to move toward wholeness after Joe's affair. Her musings are an example of the stream-of-consciousness style that Morrison sometimes uses in Jazz.


You were the reason Adam ate the apple. ... He left [Eden] a rich man.

Joe Trace, Part 5

Joe explains his love for Dorcas using biblical references. She is like "the taste of the first apple in the world," and their love is like paradise to him, worth the cost, worth the "red peeling" that breaks the heart.


He is young ... and ... hurting, so I forgive ... his self-deception and his grand, fake gestures.

Narrator, Part 6

The narrator realizes that Golden Gray's treatment of Wild, and the heroic story he tells himself to cover his shame, is the result of his spoiled upbringing. The narrator often reaches into the past to explain present action, as do characters throughout the novel.


Girls can ... steer a man away from death or drive him right to it.

Narrator, Part 7

The narrator considers the sudden turn of Golden's world that Wild provokes. He arrives ready to scorn his African American father and is nearly sick over touching Wild, but something primal about her draws him into the wild.


There is ... mischief here, where partners cling or exchange at the urging of a heartbreaking vocal.

Narrator, Part 8

The narrator describes the "wicked" feel of the party where Joe finds Dorcas dancing with Acton. The sexually charged events change to fit the jazz that's playing; the music tells the partygoers to "live a little, why don't you?"—an example of situational irony because Dorcas will soon die to the sounds of this music.


You know the hard part of her; I saw the soft.

Joe Trace, Part 9

Joe explains to Felice that it was his "luck to tend" to Dorcas's hurts, to her "inside nothing." Joe makes Dorcas a sympathetic person again so that Felice can finally weep for her death.


Busy, they were, busy being original, complicated, changeable—human, I guess you'd say.

Narrator, Part 10

In the final part of Jazz, the narrator admits that her prediction that either Joe would kill Violet or Violet would kill Joe was entirely wrong. They "contradicted" her narrative and reminded her that people always have the chance to reinvent the melodies of their lives.

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