The Multiple Personalities of Jazz
Toni Morrison’s novel, Jazz, has an interesting and original narrative structure. The novel is a postmodernist fiction that imitates the form of an improvisational piece of jazz music. The various narrators seem to be those of the various instruments that play the music individually, by turns, and then join together in the general sound. As Morrison herself asserted in an interview, her design in Jazz was to give the impression that the book “was talking, writing itself in a sense.”(Cutter 137) The story seems to be told from the point of view of several characters, such as Violet, Joe Trace, Alice Mansfield or Felice, that are guided by an omniscient narrator. Jazz speaks for itself as if it had no author whatsoever.
The narrator undergoes a few evident transformations in the text. At first, he or she plunges in the narrative full of self-assurance, confident in its omniscience. The very first lines of the novel seem to belong to a gossipy and well-informed narrator: “I know that woman.”(Morrison, 3) The omniscience of the narrative voice in the first stage of the telling is also emphasized by the hint that it is somehow a disembodied being that has full access to the lives of the characters: "I haven't got any muscles, so I can't really be expected to defend myself" (Morrison, 8). At first the narrator speaks in an omniscient voice that seems to be able to tell us the truth about the events presented in the novel and to control the story and the characters in an effective way.
As the narrative progressed, the narrator begins to be more and more uncertain of his or her own design. The voice becomes suddenly faltering and unreliable, misjudging the characters and making false prophecies about the story: "I always believed that girl was a pack of lies."(Morrison, 35) The narrator becomes too intrusive and looses his or her claim to veracity. The voice begins to speak about itself and its own unreliability, realizing that...