Study Guide

Jazz Innocence

By Toni Morrison

Innocence

And by innocence, we mean total lack of innocence. The Jazz Age was notorious for being a period when innocence was lost, specifically the presumed innocence of women. Behavior that was truly scandalous in the 1910s—drinking, smoking, showing your knees, wearing makeup, having sex—became much more acceptable in the 1920s, especially for the ladies.

All the characters in Jazz have an idea of what constitutes innocence and who should be innocent. A whole lot of these ideas about innocence are heaped on Dorcas: She should be innocent, but instead she's unwholesome, she's being manipulated, and she's too knowing. One of the huge conspiracy theories concerning innocence in Jazz is that jazz music, and the influence of Big Bad New York City, corrupts the young girls of 1926. So sit back, and watch Dorcas swoon.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Who is the most innocent character in Jazz?
  2. What are some of the opinions concerning Dorcas's innocence? Does Dorcas have an opinion about innocence?
  3. What are some of the ways that jazz music is supposed to act as a corrupting force in Jazz?
  4. Do any of the characters in Jazz lose their innocence in the course of the novel? How do they deal with this loss of innocence?

Chew on This

Golden Gray is the only character in Jazz that experiences a loss of innocence.

In Jazz, a loss of innocence is a good thing: It means that the character is able to be fully present in the world.

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