Told in a musical style, Jazz is the story of a love triangle between three people living in Harlem during the Jazz Age. Although the events in the book are not given in chronological order, flattened out, the plot goes something like this:
Joe and Violet trace meet and get married in rural Virginia. In 1901 they are evicted from their land. In 1906 Joe and Violet ride the train into New York City and begin a new life there, Joe as a door-to-door beauty product salesman, Violet as a hairdresser. They don't have children, a decision which Violet later regrets painfully.
In 1917 Dorcas Manfred's parents are murdered in East St. Louis during the riots. Dorcas is taken in by Alice Manfred and moves to New York where, at the age of eighteen, she meets Joe. The two carry on a brief love affair behind Violet's back, until, in an episode of complex anger and love, Joe shoots and kills Dorcas at a party. Violet finds out about what her husband has done and shows up at Dorcas' funeral and tries to mutilate her corpse with a knife. After Dorcas' death, Joe and Violet continue to live together.
This report prepared by Matthew Christensen