The City Shines Gold, but Only From a Distance

When Christopher Morley explains in Where the Blue Begins that "All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim," he may not realize how closely he is describing the city illustrated in Jazz, a novel by Toni Morrison. Jazz tells the story of those striving to get to the place of their dreams, Harlem, and how in the face of harsh reality, they must construct false hopes for that eventually destroy their lives and the lives of those around them. The City particularly affects Violet and Joe, who come to New York to begin a new life. As the City makes powerful promises of eternal bliss to Violet and Joe, their expectations soar. Unfortunately, great expectations invite the possibility of great disappointments, and as reality sets in, the characters in Jazz fall victim to the danger of relying on the City for happiness and success.

Violet and Joe travel to New York in the hopes of a new beginning. Violet's rough childhood led her to look for hope and happiness in places far from her home state of Virginia. Her family consisted of a mother who committed suicide and a father who was absent from her life for several months at a time. Similarly, Joe was abandoned by his...

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