Study Guide

Jazz Versions of Reality

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Versions of Reality

What's more unreliable than a second grader claiming the dog ate her homework? All of the characters in Jazz.

It's no secret that everyone's reality is a little different from everyone else's. Ask ten artists to draw you a tree, after all, and you'll find yourself staring at ten different trees in no time.

But the characters in Jazz take this whole multitudinous realities business into the stratosphere. They're not only unreliable, but some of them have a very different idea of what reality is than others. Violet is kind of a weirdo, and Joe is not the most stable fellow on the block, but in the context of Jazz, it makes sense.

Not only is jazz music (you know, the inspiration for this novel) notoriously unpredictable and, at times, crazy-sounding as it builds its sonic reality, but all of the characters in Jazz have been through things that would make anyone's reality seem askew. In other words, if we're only as sane as the world we live in, then the thoughts and actions of the characters in Jazz make perfect sense.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. What are the "cracks" in Violet's reality?
  2. How do the realities of the characters differ from one another?
  3. How does Wild's insanity manifest itself?
  4. How are the "craziness" of jazz music and the "craziness" of Jazz similar?

Chew on This

Wild's actions, given her biographical and historical context, are sane.

Violet isn't crazy; she just articulates thoughts that most people keep hidden.

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