Hidden Text In Morrison's Jazz Essay

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In an essay that discusses Toni Morrison's authorial voice and her deconstruction of Western realist epistemology Susan Sniader Lanser focuses on the two areas that Morrison highlights in her depiction of human life and behaviour - the inexplicable, and the unknowable. The first revolves around the idea that characters and events cannot be explained with certainty because it is "impossible to assign causes to effects or to delineate clear boundaries of responsibility" (Lanser 131); besides, human behaviour "remains only partially amenable to explanatory forms" (Lanser 132). The unknowable, meanwhile, has to do with the inarticulable or "what realism has designated non-existent or impossible" (Lanser 133). On the one hand the inexplicable …show more content…

The diction and syntax accentuate the paradoxical and the strange:

Sth, I know that woman. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Know her husband, too. He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going. When the woman, her name is Violet, went to the funeral to see the girl and to cut her dead face they threw her to the floor and out of the church. She ran, then, through all that snow, and when she got back to her apartment she took the birds from their cages and set them out the windows to freeze or fly, including the parrot that said, "I love you." (3)

Near the end of the novel the narrator realises the limitations in the depiction of character and event:

Something is missing there. Something rogue. Something else you have to figure in before you can figure it out. (228)

The attempt to delineate responsibility and blame leads ultimately to an admission of helplessness. The narrator remarks:

I missed the people altogether.... Now it's clear why they contradicted me at every turn... They knew how little I could be counted on.... That when I invented stories about them - and doing it seemed to me so fine - I was completely in their hands.... Busy, they were, busy being original, complicated, changeable - human, I guess you'd say, while I

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