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Morrison's Narrative Revolution In Postmodernism Essay

1692 words - 7 pages

Challenging existing perceptions of narrative authority is a common writing practice amongst authors. While Morrison works to reassess the role of the narrative voice, she does so in an unconventional manner. In her novel Jazz, Morrison draws attention to the unreliability of the narrator through her1 inconsistency and bias. Morrison's flawed narrator helps connect her book to postmodernist African-American themes. By restructuring the narrative role within the book, Morrison makes her book Jazz a postmodernist text.
Morrison initially creates an unreliable narrator through the inconsistency of the narrative voice. Because Morrison does not reveal the identity of the narrator until the end of the novel, everything known about her prior is revealed through her “personality” that comes through in the telling of the story. The acquainting process is complicated by the continual shift in the narrative personality. Frequently, the narrator speaks from the perspective of a communal voice, but also shifts into a more personal register. In one of her rare breaks into a more personal tone, the narrator explains “People say I should come out more”, but this one of the few times she speaks about any sort of relationship to other people ( Morrison 7). Usually, the narrator adopts an omnipresent, removed persona. The breaking of this persona throughout the novel contributes to an unpredictable way that the narrator has of presenting herself in relationship to the text. There are other variances in the narrative personality outside of persona changes. Much like the inconsistency of the narrative style in the story, the narrator frequently changes mood and the way she relates to the characters. Because of the discordant attitudes of the narrator, her credibility is weakened.
While Morrison subtly undermines the narrator through her capricious behavior, the narrator also undermines herself. The narrator is privy to information about the background story of each character and even their inner thoughts, despite her unclear relationship to them or any rationalization as to why she would know all of this information. When introducing Violet's character, she speculates “Maybe that is why Violet is a hairdresser-all those years of listening to her rescuing grandmother, True Belle, tell Baltimore stories” (Morrison 17). The usage of the word “maybe” implies that the narrator is not certain about her assertion, but feels it is necessary to include in order to explain how she sees Violet's character. Speculations influence the portrayal of both the characters and their relationship to the past, a bold narrative step. The narrator herself admits doubt in her narration, saying “I am uneasy now. Feeling a bit false.” when self-reflecting on the story (Morrison 219 ). Morrison shows that the narrator continually makes up back stories and doubts her own authenticity as a storyteller. By making the narrator unreliable, Morrison forms a narrator that can neither be...

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