Study Guide

Jazz Contrasting Regions

By Toni Morrison

Contrasting Regions

You know the cute story about the city mouse and the country mouse? How the city mouse swears the city is just swell, so the country mouse visits, but isn't completely blown away? And then the city mouse goes to the country and is acting snooty, but ultimately comes to the conclusion that the country is way cooler than the city? Yeah, Jazz takes the opposite approach.

In Jazz the country is the past, and the past means enslavement, back-breaking labor, and super-evil racism. The City—a.k.a. New York—by comparison, offers money, dancing, and freedom from the kind of racism that existed south of the Mason-Dixon line at the turn of the century. The City also offers vice of all kinds, much to the horror of characters like Alice.

Questions About Contrasting Regions

  1. How do the portrayals of the City and the country differ in Jazz?
  2. What do people miss about the country once they move to the City?
  3. How does the City change the characters in Jazz?
  4. How does the language used to describe the City differ from the language used to describe the country?

Chew on This

In Jazz, the City is a character in its own right, along with Violet, Joe, and other humans.

In Jazz the City represents the future while the country represents the past.

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