Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"When the bottle was empty..."

I was really interested with how Wright describes Jake’s foray into Rose’s establishment, specifically his depiction of music and dancing in the dark, sweaty environment of the club. Jake and his friends seek out Rose’s place for an evening of amusement, indulgence, and particularly, escape. Spending the money he had to beg for earlier in the day, the reader understands that Jake will go to great lengths to distract himself from the misery and burdens that await him outside of the haze of the nightclub. In an attempt to forget about the reality of debts, the constant threat of unemployment, and Lil’s illness, Jake tries to lose himself in alcohol, women, and music. Dancing with Blanche, Jake begins to listen to the music and notices, “ The music caroled its promise of an unattainable satisfaction…Each time it reached a higher pitch of intensity he verged on the limits of physical feeling, as though beyond this was nothing but sleep, death; ” (203). Jake describes music as a diversion which offers a physical release and an initial rush of pleasure, but ultimately only reminds him that this form of escape remains fleeting and temporary. This “unattainable satisfaction” that hints at “nothing but sleep, death” after it eventually comes to an end suggests to Jake that these pleasurable diversions can not stave off the encroaching threat of his real life and perhaps, only serve to exacerbate his rage when he eventually has to leave behind these entertainments and return to his desperate circumstances.

Even though the music offers a momentary form of escape, Wright indicates that the dancers despairing state seeps through into their movements and behavior. He depicts the dance of a “stout, black woman” who passionately sways to the music. He writes, “She seemed absorbed in an intense feeling burning in her stomach and she clawed her fingers hungrily in the air […] The music changed […] a thin black woman grabbed her boyfriend and bit his ear till blood came” (205). Wright shows that the violence and aggression exhibited by Jake and his friends extends to encompass the masses who remain locked in the same hopeless condition and reveals itself in all aspects of life, even in moments geared towards diversionary pleasures.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

I find that scene fascinating as well. It is such a multi-faceted release for the people gathered in that room. Emotional, physical, mental--and the music allows them to indulge in wild, erratic, even violent movements that express the excesses of feeling that are repressed and denied them during the day, on the street, in the world. It may be the most hopeful part of the novel. As close as anyone gets to freedom, anyway.