Overtime, as literature changes and the purpose of it changes as well. Writers have transitioned from modern ideals to postmodern principles, infatuating life and the lessons seek to pass it on. Post-Modernist like to refer to other pieces of literature and either praise the work or challenge it. In Toni Morrison’s Jazz, not only do we get an unusual plot but we also get a strange analogy that refers and challenges the Bible in Genesis 1 & 2 and. While Morrison challenge this master narrative by making comparison of her characters and the character in Genesis, she also emphasizes the limitations of a book.
Throughout the novel, Morrison constantly reminds us that this is just a book and all the answers of life will not be found in a book. Morrison explains how we cannot force a book to mean anything and try to find a way to use that in your life because the story and characters and plot were never real. There are two versions of the creation of man, both from Christian book, The Bible. On the other hand, in Genesis 1, man and woman were created together, showing equality between the sexes. In Genesis 1, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).
In the second version of the creation of man, Genesis 2, we are told that woman was created from man, which is why most people belive that male is dominant. In the second version of creation of man in Genesis 2, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:21-24).
These two visions of creation contradict ach other due to the way man and women were created. In Jewish culture, there has been a legend of a woman named Lilith. In Jewish mythology, she was Adams first wife who had got into a dispute with him while having intercourse. She questioned why she was always the one to be below and he argued that’s how things were meant to be. After Lilith leaves, two angels ask her to come back and she neglects their offering. This woman is then described as being vicious and was said to strangle babies and women. Many people feared this demonic creature who was portrayed as this woman, for she was nothing but evil.
According to ancient rabbis, one of the versions of creations “actually referred to Adam’s first wife, a ‘first Eve. But Adam was displeased with her, so God replaced her with a ‘second Eve’ that met Adam’s needs” (Pelaia 2). To try to make sense of the two versions of creation, Lilith was named to be Adams first wife, which is presented in Genesis 1, which reinforces the idea that woman and man are equal partners. After things don’t go as well as they should’ve Adam is given a second wife, Eve, who was taken out of him, to assure him being dominate. Just recently did a group of feminist scholars reinterpret the legend of Lilith.
And declare her to be quite the opposite of what she is portrayed as. In Toni Morrison’s novel, Joes’ wife, Violet is used as a parallel of Lilith. Violet is described as being a strong independent woman, “She had been a snappy, determined girl and a hardworking young woman, with the snatch-gossip tongue of a beautician. She liked, and had, to get it her way” (Morrison 23). In “Lilith Question”, Aviva Cantor states, “For independence and freedom from her tyranny she is prepared to forsake the economic security of the Garden of Eden to accept loneliness and exclusion from society…
Lilith is a powerful female. She radiates strength, assertiveness; she refuses to cooperate in her own victimization” (Pelaia 3). You see how assertive Violet is when it came to Joe because she repeats how she had chose him and how he belonged to her and her only. Violet constantly reminds you how she had chose her partner and how she was the one who went up to him, “She had chosen Joe and refused to go back home once she’d seen him taking shape in early light” (Morrison 23). These prime factors that are used to describe Lilith are also present in Violet.
According to these young feminist scholars, “Instead of a demonic female they see a strong woman who not only sees herself as man’s equal but refuses to accept anything other than equality” (Pelaia 3). Not only was Violet extremely independent and saw herself as an equal to Joe, she also worked as hard as a man, “She had been working in the fields like everybody else, and stayed past picking time to live with a family twenty miles away from her own” (Morrison 30). The fact that she not only was independent but also fulfilled what one might consider the duties of the male This truly shows the correlation between the two characters.
Because Violet is such and independent character and has had to learn to play both roles, her new friend has to remind her that she is not male and in a way puts her in her place. While discussing the incident, Alice Manfred says, “I don’t understand women like you. Women with knives” (Morrison 85). In this content ‘knives’ can be interpreted as a male intention, male genitalia or ego. In response Violet says, “I wasn’t born with a knife” and to finish off the argument or finally make her point Alice says, “No, but you picked one up” (Morrison 85).
These few line is basically Alice telling Violet to play her role and nobody else’s. In Genesis 1, we see the relationship between man and women as one (man) being superior to the other (woman) because woman was taken out of man. We see this same relationship between Joe and his mistress, Dorcas. Joe asserts his power and this time he is the one to choose as oppose to his relationship with Violet, where she chose. Joe tells Dorcas, “I chose you. Nobody gave you to me. Nobody said that’s the one for you. I picked you out…
I saw you and made up my mind” (Morrison 135). This shows how Joe was the one to choose and how he has power over her. Dorcas was not the one to approach Joe and come off as being strong; she was in fact the victim. Not only can Dorcas be seen as Eve but also can be a metaphor for the apple, temptation. Dorcas is the reason why Violet and Joe come to a temporary end. She was Joe’s temptation, and was the fall of his relationship with Violet. Joe says, “I told you again you were the reason Adam ate the apple and its core. That when he left Eden, he left a rich man.
Not only did he have Eve, but he had the taste of the first apple in the world in his mouth for the rest of his life” (Morrison 133). Joe taking the bite of the first apple is him having authority or control over her and how she controlled him. Joe could not overcome his temptation like Adam could not reject the fruit, which he had been given. Joe like Adam felt like the richest man for having had a taste of his own temptation because it pleased him. As the Joe also claims to have taken the first bite of the apple, it wrecked him. Joe also states, “To bite it, bit down.
Hear the crunch and let the red peelings break his heart” (Morrison 133). This can be applied to how after Joe had Dorcas and she found interest in other people he felt emptiness or a broken heart. In the same way, after Adam was kicked out of Eden for his sin, God separated himself from the two and they also felt like a part of them was gone. Joe is a replica of Adam, for he was born twice, once in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. When Joe fell out that tree in Vesper County it almost seemed like fate, for Violet and Joe to end up together. “Violet claimed him. Hadn’t he fallen practically into her lap?
Hadn’t he stayed? (Morrison 105). When Joe met and fell in love with Violet he was that born. Joe tells Violet while she’s admiring him in the sun, “I’ll be back in our tree tonight. Where you be? ” (Morrison 105) This shows how at that moment they were so happy that they met each other that they had named the place theirs. This resembles to couples and how they mark up a tree with their initials to claim that tree and their love for one another.
This is an analogy of Adam and Lilith in Genesis 1. Joe is born again with Dorcas, when he meets her and falls in love with her. Joe tells Dorcas, “ Don’t tell me I fell or you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it” (Morrison 135). Joe and Dorcas have many intimate moments through out the book, both physically and mentally. With Dorcas he feels reborn because of everything he felt he lacked with Violet. Dorcas was seen as Joe’s aid and he took it. Morrison challenges the Bible and uses the Genesis stories as her way to explain to people that even what might be considered the book of truth can also be a bit false.
Morrison makes you question ‘If this Bible is supposed to be nothing but the truth, than why does it contradict itself? and you end up questioning the overall purpose of this book. We see how The Bible as well may be unreliable just as the novel Jazz. What she wants is for the reader to address how this is just text, just words, just paper and nothing but that. We have the tendency to look for all types of answers or force either ourselves or the book to correspond with each other when in fact they wont. The narrator (city, jazz, gossip, the book) in Jazz is purposely not made human to emphasize that even something that is everywhere will not be reliable.
In section 10 our narrator says, “I am uneasy now. Feeling a bit false… I thought I knew them and wasn’t worried that they didn’t really know about me” (Morrison 221). The narrator admits to losing track of her own story that it claims it made. Through this analogy, not only is the Bible challenged, but all books. Morrison teaches us not to force ourselves to relate to a book or force a book to relate to us. She emphasizes how unreliable or limited a book is by giving an unreliable narrator.