History and Narrative in Jazz

InĀ Jazz, Toni Morrison ends the novel by asking the reader to “remake” the narrator (229). They directly address the reader, and by doing so aid us to the recognition of a codependence between recorded history and narrative fiction. Through the use of fiction, the reader is engaged with characters and their stories and given insight into the world that shapes them. This adds a new dimension to history, giving personality and humanity to people that would otherwise be seen as statistics by most. Morrison recognizes that a key element in the collective perception of an era is heavily based on story rather than fact, as well as the narrators role in shaping the stories that are seen in the end as being as important as data and numbers.

There are numerous points in the novel in which the narrator ‘breaks out’ of her role, becoming less of a passive omniscient force and more of a creator; they become a storyteller rather than one who regurgitates, weaving the tale as the story progresses, improvising. The narrator is portrayed as an artist them self, and therefore is recognized as a subjective storyteller, one who is not entirely reliable. This allows the reader to recognize that history is not only shaped by fact, but by those who recall the stories, the humanity of events. Due to the unreliability of the human mind, we cannot trust any narrative as entirely objective.

The novel ends with the narrator revealing that they have never had love like that which was described. They ask the reader to “make me, remake me”, then forcing them to recognize the placement of their hands directly on the book. The reader is shown that the novel is in fact a story, historical yes but a work of fiction nonetheless. We can change these people, reinvent them for the sake of anything. They are fluid, just as history is. The storyteller possesses the ability to change recorded history and the responsibility to do so.

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