Absent Fathers, Mothers, and Children: Filling the Voids of Loss in Toni Morrison’s Jazz 11th Grade

In Jazz, Toni Morrison writes with a style both rhythmic and passionate that is strikingly similar to the music of her novel’s title. Set mainly during the Harlem Renaissance in New York in the late 1920s, Morrison essentially tells the story of a tragic love triangle between a middle-aged couple and a young girl. As the plot progresses, however, it becomes evident that the entire cast of complex characters is connected through the relationships they build with each other. As they lead their lives, one common thread in particular emerges: loss and, consequently, efforts to fill the voids left behind. Golden Gray, the biracial result of a forbidden affair, seeks answers to not only his missing father but also a missing sense of racial identity; Joe Trace, the man responsible for starting and ending the doomed love triangle, searches for his absent mother; and Violet Trace, the distraught wife of Joe, goes to great lengths to compensate for her lack of children.

Golden Gray is unique among the other characters in that he has a relatively happy and normal childhood in spite of his father’s absence. Raised by his white mother, Vera Louise, and her black slave, True Belle, Golden is pampered and loved. He presumes from his light...

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