Jazz Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-10

Chapter Nine:


The narrator begins this chapter in the same mode that several other chapters have begun, describing the weather and scenery of the City. It is "the prettiest day of the year" and the weather is described as "Sweetheart weather." The characters on the street are slow in movement, among them, disabled veterans, wagons of food, Ford and Packard cars. On this day, Felice has decided to visit the Traces. She too, has heard Joe Trace sobbing in the windows and she decides to make an effort to cheer him up. Perhaps Joe is crying because Violet has returned the photograph of Dorcas to her aunt, Alice Manfred. Felice makes her visit to the Traces in the middle of her errands. When she enters their apartment, she is carrying the Okeh record and butcher's parcel of meat that her mother requested she bring when returning home.

After Felice enters the Trace's apartment, the story continues in her voice and she offers several details of her history before returning to the present scene. Her parents worked in a town called Tuxedo, far enough away that Felice lived with her grandmother. Felice's parents visit for two days, once every three weeks, and Felice admits that she is often disappointed when her parents come home because her mother is mainly interested in dancing and catching up on her friends' gossip. Felice's father asks that the newspapers are kept in a large stack for him to read whenever he comes home, and this occupies much of his time. Felice recalls the conversation when Dorcas told her that she was lucky because at least her parents were still alive, and she could always go to see them in the case of an emergency. Felice explains that Dorcas' parents "died in a very bad way" and all she has left is "a photograph of them sitting under a painted palm tree." While Dorcas' main thought was that her parents were both very good looking, Felice thinks that the two adults look very sad.

Felice remembers the many occasions when Dorcas was occupied in her "planning and plotting" to deceive her aunt. Dorcas always loved secret things and Felice says that Dorcas played the game of a secret affair unaware that everyone already knew about the relationship because two hairdressers spotted her with Joe at a nightclub called Mexico. Thinking about Dorcas' sneakiness reminds Felice of the weekend when her mother visited town and had to go to Tiffany's to collect something for her employers. Felice remembers that she had to be quiet in the store and that a guard conspicuously monitored their behavior because he was convinced that they were trying to steal a ring from the "velvet tray." When Felice's mother left, the next day, she gave Felice a ring, claiming that it was a gift from her boss. Felice knows that her mother stole the ring from Tiffany's and she appreciates the gesture because her mother is an extremely honest woman, and even though she took the ring after (and because) she was accused of stealing, it was a difficult thing for her to do.

Felice lent this ring to Dorcas, who wore it on the night that she was murdered and when Felice arrives at the Trace's residence, she hopes that Violet or Joe can offer a lead as to where the ring might be, especially because her mother has been asking about the ring. Felice evaluates the older couple and decides that they are good people, that Mrs. Trace is an honest woman and Mr. Trace is gentle, even if he is a murderer. Violet tells Felice that everyone has there only troubles to deal with and that she spent many years suffering, convinced of her ugliness because she had "stories about a little blond child" poisoning her mind. Felice recounts Dorcas' death scene and helps Joe by telling him that Dorcas let herself die; the bullet went into her shoulder and she refused to be taken downstairs and driven to the emergency ward. She simply waited to bleed to death. Later on, Felice visits again and Violet tells her that her ring was buried with Dorcas; she remembers seeing it when she stabbed her in the coffin.

As Violet is in the kitchen, preparing a catfish dinner for the three of them, Joe speaks expresses his gratitude to Felice and tells her that her visits and kind words are helping them get their lives back together. Felice confesses to Joe that there is more information that she has not given him, a message that Dorcas asked her to relay as she was dying. The message is: "There's only one apple. Just one. Tell Joe." Felice intends to cheer Joe up, telling him that he was the last thing on Dorcas' mind. Still, Joe is more sad than pleased. After the dinner, they hear music "floated inŠthrough the open window." The Traces start dancing, "funny, like old people do" and they invite Felice to join in, though she declines. Joe sits down when the music ends and says that the apartment needs some birds. Felice adds that a Victrola (record player) would be suitable as well and that she'll being some records to play for them. The chapter ends with Felice's thoughts about the ring. Even though she knows her mother is proud of stealing the opal to "to get back at the whiteman who thought she was stealing even when she wasn't," Felice decides that the right thing to do is to tell her mother that she knows it was stolen, that she has lost it and that she is grateful not for the ring, but for "what she did." Felice concludes that it is better for Dorcas to have the ring. Her thoughts turning to the approaching summer, Felice looks forward to seeing her parents soon and decides that she will continue to visit the Traces even though Violet puts too much hot pepper in her catfish batter.


The image of Felice, walking into the Trace's apartment with an "Okeh record" and "some stewmeat wrapped in butcher paper" comes from the beginning of the novel. The over-eager, zealous narrator indicates that "the scandalizing threesome" of Violet, Joe and Felice is just as doomed as the trio of Violet, Joe and Dorcas‹"what turned out different was who shot whom." Clearly, this has not happened and Felice as fulfilled all of the obligations that her "happy" name entails. Her entry into the apartment, reestablishes the presence of music. After her Okeh record, a Victrola, additional records and a bird follow. And just as Felice entered with a parcel of "stewmeat," her presence restores flesh and youth to the Traces. They are eating again, dancing, and Felice's bodily presence is able to do what Dorcas could not. For the Traces, Dorcas was ultimately a mere photograph and only "the space where the photo had been was real." Violet imagines Felice as "another true-as-life Dorcas" and she is finally able to fulfill her "mother-hunger" by cooking dinners for Felice and offering to do her hair.

In that Felice is also able to repel the falling "ash" and "sooty film" that is gathering around the windowpanes where Joe Trace has cried, she is almost too good to be true. While she has been separated from her parents for most of her childhood, she does not have the orphan trauma that we find in the other characters. She lives with her grandmother, but the grandmother's presence and the monthly parental visits create a nurturing environment for Felice. Like Dorcas, Felice does sojourn into the "nightlife" but unlike Dorcas, she has self-restrictions. She has only heard of the nightclub ("Mexico") where Dorcas was spotted with Joe. Her account is the only one where memory does not evoke pain, where both her two parents and a grandmother can be gathered in the same room. Dorcas, it seems, was doomed to the "trace" motif. Felice reveals that most of Dorcas' memories of her parents were sustained by a sad, faded photograph. Ironically, Felice's world view is so sheltered that she does not comprehend her father's anger because of "the everyday killings cops did of Negroes." She explains, simply, that Dorcas' parents "died in a very bad way' and had to be "fixed up" by the "funeral men" so that they could be presented. She rattles off the taunts that she and others suffer at school‹"hey, fly, where's buttermilk" or "hey, kinky, where's kind?"‹without revealing that she is fully aware of the implications.

It is from this sheltered position that Felice is able to thematically contribute to the novel and provide consolation for the Traces. Felice describes the "fruity smell" of Dorcas' breath and reveals her final word "sounded like Œapple'" and this resonates for for Joe (and the reader), in ways Felice does not realize. She compliments Joe's gentle pats on her shoulder and later gives him the precise details of how his bullet entered Dorcas' shoulder. Dorcas does not know of Joe's wild-woman mother, a woman who had a habit for gentle shoulder-tapping, a woman who tapped her own son's shoulder once and caused him to miss the target at which he aimed his hunting rifle. For Joe, Felice's casual and unknowingly ironic comments could easily tip the scales of memory's pain, repeating the failures of the novel's characters. This time of year, there are young men who scale apartment rooftops to be "holy" like angels, to play clarinet for the old men below and "join the light." They make the music that "penetrates Joe's sobs" and like them, Felice uses her presence to overcome memory's pain. As the previous chapter argued the connection between the body and memory's pain, this chapter proves that a living, present body serves memory far better than a photograph could.

Chapter Ten:


The narrator begins the final chapter with an introspective commentary. She sees that she has a "sweettooth" for pain; she is intrigued by how the characters are broken and mended again but in her story, she says, she too was distracted by the City. As if she were her own character, the City fooled her and she "missed the people altogether." She confides that "when I invented stories about themŠI was completely in their handsŠI thought I'd hidden myself so well." As it turns out, they were watching her all along, pitying her loneliness and her need to live vicariously. She admits her fault; she was sure that there was going to be a second murder, the "past was an abused record with no choice but to repeat itself." Instead, her characters fought to maintain their originality and were completely unpredictable. The trio of Felice, Joe and Violet seemed to be the "mirror image" of Dorcas, Joe and Violet but this is simply not the case. Struggling to dig deeper into their closed "heart-pockets," the narrator realizes that her characters aren't "like dangerous children," as she originally thought. Instead, they were "putting their lives together in ways [she] never dreamed of." The storyteller eventually confesses that she simply does not know what Joe's windowpane tears are for, but she does know that "they were for more than Dorcas." The narrator thought that Joe was tracking Dorcas down for five days, but "all the while he was running through the streets" he was looking for his mother. Joe simply stumbled upon Dorcas. The narrator thinks of "Wild's chamber of gold," the rocky burrow where the woman used to hide from civilization, and she thinks that like Joe, she too would like to visit this place. She hopes to find peace in this rock and Wild "hugs" her and "understands" her and "has given her hand." Having been touched by Wild, the narrator gains the knowledge to complete the story.

Alice Manfred departs for Springfield, thinking of curtains and "a good coat lining." In place of her tea-time conversations, Alice seeks "the cheerful company of someone who can provide the necessary things for the night." Felice remains in Harlem, buying Okeh records and lingering in the streets. This time, the narrator announces that she is not fooled by Felice's "slow" pace. For all of her lingering kindness, Felice will not be used because "she's nobody's alibi or hammer or toy." The Traces are still together and Joe now works at a night job at a speakeasy called Paydirt. While working at Paydirt, Joe watches the City's "unbelievable sky." He returns from work at sunrise, and sleeps through the morning. In the "afternoon daylight," he'll spend his hours with Violet. The have a routine of greeting each other when one of them enters the apartment, just to be sure that this person who has unlocked the door is a spouse and not "a presumptuous neighbor or a young ghost with bad skin."

The Traces have discontinued "night sleeping," and they spend the day taking naps or drinking vanilla malts at the drugstore. Sometimes, they walk the neighborhood streets and over the years, they have become a staple of the scenery, a fixture. Violet is still afraid of "deep holes" and Joe's eyes are still duo-toned and pitiable; needless to say, the Traces spend lots of time at home "figuring things out" and "telling each other those little personal stories." Violet purchased a half-dead and starving bird, whose dying resisted every remedy. "Persistent" as always, Violet finally decided (with Joe's assent) that music was the only thing "left to love or need." Sure enough, after they took the parrot to hear some music, the "bird was a pleasure to itself and to them." As for their friends, the Traces still spend time playing bid whist with Gistan and Stuck and Stuck's new wife, Faye. Joe and Violet sometimes babysit for younger neighbors and they still "let Malvonne in to gossip so she wouldn't feel bad about pretending loyalty and betraying them both." As the chapter ends, the pace quickens and the narrator slides back and forth to memories and recent occurrences that don't have specific dates. The Traces are described as a posing for a photograph, "not sepia, still, losing their edges." The conclusion of the novel completes the narrative introspection begun earlier in the chapter. The storyteller allows the Traces to fade away from her, separated by time and space. She thinks about her view of the world, of "flesh, pinioned by misery" and she says that simply does not believe this anymore. The Traces, in their "grown people" ecstasy, suggest that there is more to life than misery and escaping from it. She concludes with a final confession that she "envies" the "public love" of her characters. She has only known longing and only in secret and has been "waiting for this all [her] life," an unsaid thing that she "can't say aloud" even as her characters are "free to do it."


The final chapter is not as thematically burdened as the others; the story is largely complete and most of the loose ends have already been tied. In the "happily ever after" ending, the narrator does build upon some of the novel's motifs, describing "wells," "cages," "traces" and "birds," but this is done mostly to cement the ideas that have already been presented. The first nine chapters explored one of Toni Morrison's major themes‹the pain of memory, and the "ecstasy" of Joe and Violet, comes form the fact that they are "bound and joined" to one another through memory and are not "pinioned by misery." The central thematic concern of the tenth chapter has less to do with the Traces and more to do with the story, its telling and the storyteller. It is sometimes difficult to separate the novelist from the narrator, especially in a fictional work like Jazz. There are several "third-person" narrators who are contrasted with the "characters," and the relationship between the Narrator and the Character is blurred from the beginning. With writers like Morrison, held by literary critics to be an artist within the contemporary "Postmodern" movement, the questions of narration are critical and these philosophical dilemmas are often brought to life with the aid of the "unreliable narrator."

Morrison's narrator is especially unreliable because there are several and while the opening chapters suggest that the main narrator is a neighbor of the Traces, presumably Malvonne or even Alice Manfred, later chapters delve deep into Virginia memories that this narrator would not know. The first chapters begin with a tabloid-like zest; there has already been one passionate murder and we are told that there is going to be another. Just when things begin to look this way, the narrator veers into the story of Golden Gray, and is increasingly self-conscious. After chapter six, the narrator regularly refers to her emotions in regards to the characters: pity and anger for Golden Gray, distrust for Joe Trace. She begins to voice her questions in the narration, asking what was on True Belle's mind or how was Joe Trace educated to hunt. Unsurprisingly, the narrative responds to the narrator's questions with answers and by the eighth chapter, the narrator is as much of a character as the Traces.

Chapter Nine is especially damning because there has been no second murder, and Felice's few words repudiate most of what the novel has had to say about Dorcas. At the end of chapter six, the narrator says "it infuriates me to discover (again) how unreliable I am" and she joins Golden Gray to make the "we" that approaches the well. She wants to give him "language" and "love" and for this transaction, the narrator must descend into Rose Dear's well. This confusion is finally explained in the tenth chapter. The narrator, again frustrated, initially defies her characters and argues "it's my storm, isn't it? I break lives to prove I can mend them back again." We are struck with the idea that the "razor blade" love, expressed in Golden's surgery, is simply the narrator's display of her power. She has veered the story into Vienna because she could, sliced the young man to make him whole. As she reflects, the narrator feels that she has been trapped by her own possessiveness. Her characters are so vivid that they have truly made her life a vicarious one, the fiction that she calls "my storm." She notes that she "got so aroused while meddling" and now that she realizes that her characters have been watching her watching them all along, "just think about their pity" makes her say "I want to die."

Toni Morrison, makes her final argument for cultural memory's restorative ability is by taking the unreliable narrator who has wished to die and narrating "Wild's chamber of gold." The memory of Wild, of her solitude, becomes a safe place to which the narrator goes for knowledge and peace, blatantly blurring the lines between the story, the narration and the novel. If the narrator can conjure Wild's memory to sustain herself, the novelist can conjure a novel to provide a cultural "memory" of places and people for whom there are few extant historical artifacts, genealogies and documents. The novel ends with the narrator envying her characters for the world she has created for them, and she orders them: "Say make me, remake me." They can create the memory she has "been waiting forŠall her life" and the union that she makes with her characters is confirmed in her final lines: "Look where your hands are. Now."