Jazz Essay Questions

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate May 2001

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1. What does Toni Morrison write about in general? What point of view does she take in her writing? What Toni Morrison most likely writes about is the black people's idiosyncrasy that causes them infinity of problems. She understands that there's indeed a difference between black and white people because they come from different places and have different culture. That's why she tries to tell them that they cannot compare themselves with whites. Therefore she is trying to show her own race their identity and is saying that white people are not responsible for all the Negroes´ problems. I say for all of their problems because they are responsible for some like racial discrimination, though it exists also between blacks. She mentions other problems like the low level of work and education and that they have no legal rights, between others.

She also writes about the feminine point of view.

All the problems that black women go through in the US., sometimes being the head of their family, which is her, so-to-call, exclusive subject for her writings. She encourages them to be strong in their daily fights for survival.

2. Tell about the author's particular style of writing that earned her the Noble Prize. Any striking phrases you would like to quote? Toni Morrison has a unique style with a poetic language. In her novels (at least in Jazz) we find very sharp and specific observations, compassion and a certain number of mythic elements. Her concern for the relationship between individual and community is also observable in her novels. She obtained the Nobel Prize in 1993 for her novel Beloved.

3. Timeframe of events. Historical facts mentioned.

In 1926 takes the novel place in Harlem, a neighborhood in Manhattan. A lot of the citizens come from the southern States. They came up to New York because during those years there was a great migration from black people from the south to the northern States, since they were treated in better in some ways than in there. They had access to education, jobs, etc. though they were much less than the ones the whites had. The City became in some way the dream of the southern Negroes, though it was full of violence, riots and danger, but this time it was not only interracial, it was also between people from the same race.

4. The dancing train. The city.

Which social problems of Afro-Americans were addressed in the novel so far? (Segregation, discrimination, racial violence, riots, the phantom father, families, social levels, jobs, and education, etc.) Joe and Violet decide to change their environment, they will move from their rural town in the south to one of the biggest and important cities there is, New York City. As they are sitting in the train, they have the sensation they are dancing due to the movement of the machine, that's why they call it "dancing train". In the train, as it climbs from south to north, at the beginning there is a curtain that divides the train in two zones, one for white people and the other for black people. But further north it is lifted. This is so because the racial discrimination in the southern states is stronger than in the north.

In the city they see a whole other environment, there are people from various races and very marked social statuses, there are poor neighborhoods as well as middle class and rich.

Afro-Americans are living in much better conditions in the City, but there is still discrimination between races and social classes. There is a lot of violence; most of the riots are between white and black people, because the Negroes take the jobs that before belonged only to the white. Also rich people segregate the poor, no matter they are from their same race. In a lot of homes the head of the family is the mother because the father is gone and as them to bring up their children they have leave them alone. There is also abuse towards children and/or women with in the family. Another problem in that society is the huge lack of education that exists in a lot of its members.

5. Alice Manfred: some facts of her life and how she copes with it She wants to protect her niece Dorcas.

What from? In what way? What is the effect on the girl? Alice Manfred, Dorcas´ aunt, takes care of her niece after her parents' death. They are everything each other have. Alice has a very accurate knowledge of the dangers in the City. She knows about the violence and all bad things that happen there. That's why she wants to protect her niece from it, because she is very afraid of what can happen to her. Therefore she raises Dorcas in a very strict way. She doesn't let her go to parties because besides of the riots, there exists the temptation of sex and drugs. She tries to keep Dorcas inside the house as much as possible and prohibits her to dress, as she likes; she has to use old-fashioned clothes. She even sends her to be religiously instructed. But all what she went through for her niece is not worth because Dorcas cannot restrain herself and rebelled against her, she didn't care about her education any longer.

6. Joe becomes attracted to Dorcas, who is neither pretty nor attractive.

Why does he get involved with her and what is the nature of their relationship? Why do neither Joe nor Violet want to have children? Joe is looking for someone who understands him and listens to him because in this moment he is going through a difficult period. There is a lack of communication between him and Violet, she is going through her menopause and does not speak to him much. He finds very easy to tell Dorcas things that he was never been able to tell his wife. He renews his memories when he speaks to her he makes a strong connection with her. With her he remembers his youth. So he doesn't care about how Dorcas looks, he just likes her personality and that she listens.

Neither Joe nor Violet want to have children because they just don't like the environment in which they live. They don't want their child to suffer from the discrimination and injustices. Joe refuses to bring a child in such a world. Violet does so as well, but she has another reason; she remembers what happened with her mother. Besides they know the trouble that is to have children, the upbringing, etc.

7. Violet: her youth in rural America which shaped her character.

This Violet and that Violet.

What does she learn in her conversations with Alice? Violet who grew in rural America is a very person with a strong character and can stay tall in almost every situation. Due to where she was raised she does not have much education. Her father went away when she was little and her mother suicide. This made her a strong woman. When she moves to the City she is having her menopause and has therefore like two different parts, two personalities "this" Violet and "that" Violet. "This" Violet is the "normal" one, she knows what she wants and is a hard worker; she cuts hair for a living. On the other hand, "that" Violet, also known by her neighbors as Violent, is more instinctive; she is not responsible for her actions and is in some cases a bit dangerous, capable of doing anything. She is like this because of all she has went through in her life.

8. Who were True Belle and Rose Dear? Why did the latter die in the "beckoning" well? What does the story of the two women teach us? Rose Dear was Violet's mother. After Violet's father abandoned them she raised her children only by her self and she had succeeded in it. But one day white people came by and took all of their things, suddenly she could no longer maintain her family, therefore she felt very disappointed. True Belle was Rose's mother (Violet's grandmother) she worked taking care of Vera Louise and her son, it was a good job. But when she knew what had happened to her daughter and her children she came back to help her raise them.

With her mothers help, Rose Dear accomplished her mission, her children were again in a fine situation, and they have survived the crisis. Since she felt that she was no longer needed, she wanted to give it a break. She felt the call of the "beckoning" well and since she felt that her children would be in good hands, she threw herself in and died.

The story of the two women teaches us the unity within the Afro-American Families. We see how one abandons what she has in order to help a relative of hers, in these case her daughter. We appreciate how they fight to help themselves. They have to be strong since they are both mother and father in their families, this brings them together.