Trumpet is a novel which explores the nuances of identity and love. The characters are effected by the death of Joss Moody and subsequent revelation that he was born a girl, this forces them to examine their own sense of self. Kay’s reflection on the construction of individual, cultural and social selves and the impact of being a person drifting in the boundary spaces is a complex examination of the sum of a person’s parts, how they are defined and effected by changes in the way they are perceived by others and the way they perceive themselves. Kay composed the structure of Trumpet to be ‘very close to Jazz’ using two central melodies surrounded by syncopating rhythms and harmonies. Millie and Colman are two counterpointing voices telling the same story of grief but with different emotional rhythms.1 Kay’s poetic background radiates through her figurative language which serves to intensify the emotional impact of the novel. Kay alters between first and third person narrative voice giving the reader a multidimensional perspective of the Moodys and enabling her to build complex characters. Kay presents Colman Moody as the figure of a man torn by the conflict between his grief at the loss of his father, the distortion of his memories of his past, and his anger at his parents and himself. Colman’s notion of his father suffers a disconnect after Joss dies, he tells the funeral director ‘I won’t believe he’s dead you know, until I see him in the flesh’ (p. 114).2 The body that Colman is presented with, however, is not that of his father but instead it is Joss and Josephine in the same flesh. With Colman unable to reconcile the body on the table with that of his dead father, his grieving process is arrested. Colman is a character who has built his sense of self around the image of his father this is evident when he says; ‘I fucking worshipped him’ (p. 49), both he and Joss inhabit the boundary spaces between the concepts of ethnicity and nationality as they are both of mixed race and Scotsmen living in England. Since Joss also straddles the boundaries of gender, Colman is forced to question his understanding of his own gender identity, and to what degree gender definitions dictate his idea of being a man. Once he meets Edith he is able to make a connection between his father manhood and his father’s girlhood; ’now that he’s seen the little girl, he can see something feminine in his memory of his father’s face that must have been there all along’ (p. 241). Colman’s maternal characteristics are revealed as he performs the traditionally feminine act of tucking the picture of Josephine into her ‘brown sleeping bag’. Colman is finally able to see Josephine reveal herself in his father face, this scene is a key point in the development in the character as he is finally able to permit a degree of femininity, Josephine, into his definition of masculinity, Joss, and begin to resolve his inner turmoil between the binary notions. Kay uses both first and third person, extra and intra diegetic narration to show how the characters process the public revelation of Joss’s assigned gender. In the chapters presented in a first person voice the reader is bound to the speaker’s subjective perspective and limited to the thoughts and feeling that they are able to articulate. In the chapters presented in the third person voice, Kay offers a more tempered regard to the action but preserves the intimacy of the characters present through free indirect discourse; The phone rings. He jumps. Is it cowardice that is making him worry? Is it the fact that he knows he is weak? The worst kind of coward. A coward that wants to be paid for being a coward. That must be it. Answer the phone, Colman. Tell her to go and raffle herself. (p. 243) The omniscient narrator perspective in the present tense creates a sense of immediacy, ‘he jumps’, the reader feels as if they are observing a scene as it unfolds and not the reporting of a past event. It also provides the...
Bibliography: Kay, Jackie, Trumpet (London: Picador, 1998)
Randomhouse.com, 'Bold Type: Interview With Jackie Kay ', 1999 [accessed 4 December 2014]
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