Study Guide

Jazz Chapter 2

By Toni Morrison

Chapter 2

  • Sometimes it's hard to sleep. Insomnia is the worst. You can cure it with strenuous exercise or drinking a lot of alcohol—or routine. To each his own.
  • Joe used to fall asleep thinking about Dorcas. Now he thinks about thinking about Dorcas in order to fall asleep: He remembers his memories.
  • Joe met Dorcas in October, when he was delivering Cleopatra cosmetics. He hit on her, which was a departure for Joe.
  • Apparently young Joe was the hit-upon, not the one who hit on people. Lucky Joe?
  • Or not. He really cherishes the fact that he made the first move with Dorcas.
  • Flashback: Joe and Violet met in Virginia under a tree. Romantic, but mainly they were just thrown together by circumstance. They worked together and knew all the same people.
  • They left Virginia by train in 1906 and went to New York City; they've been New Yorkers for 20 years now.
  • It sounds like a fun trip. They were laughing, dancing, and as they moved north the train cars went from segregated to un-segregated.
  • History info: We find out that Joe and Violet came at the tail end of what is known as the Great Migration, when black people moved from the South to the North by the thousands. Uh, maybe those segregated dining cars had something to do with that? Just a thought?
  • Let's take a quick second to shake our heads at racism. Boo. Just boo.
  • When newbies come to New York City, they fall in love with it. The lights, the glamour, the possibility, the sexiness—the City is said to "pump desire." Dang.
  • People move to the City and forget their past, especially if their past was in the country. Nature can't compare to big-city excitement.
  • Also, the City has some really nice evening skies. Light pollution does marvelous things.
  • Weird flashback time: Joe remembers a time, or times, when he begged a woman hidden in the bushes in Virginia to show him her hand.
  • Sounds like this hidden woman must have been his mother. Weirdness.
  • He didn't tell anyone about this show-me-your-hand-Mommy episode until 1925 when he was canoodling with Dorcas.
  • Aw, it actually sounds like Dorcas and Joe had a bond—they cuddled and talked about their moms.
  • Dorcas's mom died in a fire.
  • Also, they had a smoking-hot sex life. They have a hard time keeping the volume down.
  • Dorcas wants Joe to take her out to nightclubs, and who is he to deny her anything?
  • They're carrying on this tryst in the apartment of Joe's neighbor, Malvonne. She works nights, so Joe and Dorcas have ample time to fool around.
  • Ah, new character. Malvonne is an interesting woman. She collects newspapers and she reads the letters that her nephew Sweetness stole out of mailboxes when he was looking for money.
  • PSA: Stealing mail is super illegal. Just say no to felonies.
  • Joe (whose last name is Trace, btw) knocked on Malvonne's door when she was reading these letters and offered to pay her two dollars a month to use her nephew's room a couple times a week for his and Dorcas's sexytimes.
  • They have a talk about this, and Malvonne ends up agreeing. This is probably due to the fact that this is Joe's first time dogging around behind Violet's back, and Joe is upset about Violet being mute and kind of unhinged.
  • The narrator talks a bit about how Joe became a Thursday man, which is shorthand in this instance for satisfied man. The narrator thinks that Thursday is the most satisfying day of the week. Sounds about right to us.

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