Comparison of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth and Toni Morrison's Jazz in Identity Formation of the Characters Through Dependence on Others for Money and Love

Essay by XanbotUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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Discovering One's Identity: Love and Money in New York City

"With some people, solitariness is an escape not from others, but from themselves. For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves." The quote by Eric Hoffer reminds me of Toni Morrison's Jazz and Edith Wharton's House of Mirth in that the main characters of the novels encountered pivotal crises where their sense of identity was thwarted by money, love, or their relationship with another character. The House of Mirth centers on Lily Bart's attempt to acquire wealth and a haughty social status, which, in turn, leads her to achieving a sense of self, but only at the highest of cost. Her relationships with Selden and other male characters, such as Percy and Trenor, lead her to a full realization of her true place in society and teach great moral lessons to the reader on wealth and love.

In Jazz, Toni Morrison portrays the difficulty of African-American's in New York City in their ability to gain a sense of self understanding through the obstacles of money and the emotion of love through the characters of Dorcas, Violet, Joe, and Golden Gray. Although race and societal status of the primary characters offers a certain degree of variation between Jazz and The House of Mirth, both novels give inspiring dimensions to characters that alert and instruct the reader to a higher level of understanding themselves in a society whose high values are placed on achieving wealth, prominent status, and profitable personal relationships, extraneous to love or personal satisfaction.

The theme of love is introduced in both novels from the very beginning, both leading us down paths in which identity and money play equally important roles. When Violet sets the parrot squawking, "I love you," free and when...