Theme Of Style Parody In Alice Mansfield's Jazz

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It sounds like something out of a bizarre “Jekyll-and-Hyde” style parody: Alice Mansfield is a calm, respectable Christian woman, but when she hears the rowdy beats of jazz rising up through the window, her mind threatens to snap; “It made her hold her hand in the pocket of her apron to keep from smashing it through the glass pane,” (59).Without ever using the word “repression,” Toni Morrison uses Alice Mansfield, a secondary character in her novel Jazz, to exemplify this theme. The complicated relationship Alice Mansfield has with jazz music can be extrapolated to analyze what Morrison perceives about the relationship Americans have with black art as a whole. The Fifth Avenue scene where Alice is overwhelmed by watching a black protest is one of the key instances where Morrison most effectively expands Alice’s personal grievances with jazz music to investigate the role of black art in American culture.…show more content…
The slow tap-tap, tap-tap that synchronized the Fifth Avenue March steadied Alice Mansfield “like a rope cast for rescue” (58), a safe sound to shield her from what jazz music’s rapid, shifting, brassy melodies make her aware of: everything she’s repressed. A widely noted aspect of jazz music is the way it articulates traditionally shameful parts of human nature, such as violence and sexuality – which makes Alice squirm. But this popular conception of jazz misconstrues the genre by leaving out its racial historical context, one of its crucial themes. In the Fifth Avenue scene, Morrison describes how jazz illuminates another source of pain and discomfort that Alice – and all of American culture – has a tendency to repress: knowledge of racism of the past and

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