Study Guide

Jazz Memory and The Past

By Toni Morrison

Memory and The Past

In a novel with two fifty-year-olds as main characters, it's no surprise that memory is a big dealio in Jazz. And in a novel as historic as Jazz, it's no surprise that memory is a huge theme. And since Jazz is super preoccupied with family, no one is shocked that memory comes up a ton.

Basically, the only thing shocking about the theme of memory and the past in Jazz is the weird, reality-morphing way that memory plays into the plot. Kill an ex-girlfriend so you can preserve her memory? Sure, why not? Lie in bed and remember things you didn't do with your husband? Totally fair game in this book. The sky's the limit when it comes to the way that memory is played with in Jazz—and like the sky, memory is ever-present.

Questions About Memory and The Past

  1. Which memories are based in reality for the characters in Jazz, and which are made up?
  2. How does someone's death preserve their memory for others in Jazz?
  3. How do the characters in Jazz's relationships to the past differ?
  4. What, if anything, is best left forgotten for the characters in Jazz?

Chew on This

The past is more important than the future for the characters in Jazz.

The characters in Jazz are unreliable because of their relationships to their past.

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