A Jazzman’s Blues is a tragedy of the Deep South, between two souls trapped in an impossible situation who just want to be together.
Bayou, the main protagonist, is an ISFJ caught between what he knows to be prudent (to be aware of the risks involved in being a young black man in the south during the 1950s) and the desires of his heart. He meets and falls in love with Leanne, a neighbor girl, despite the persecution and abuse he suffers at the hands of his father and older brother, but they get torn apart by circumstances and later reunite—he discovers that Leanne is now passing for a white girl and has married a deeply bigoted, abusive prospective politician. Bayou both wants to save her from this life and not to die doing it, but is wracked with guilt over abandoning his family and leaving others to suffer the consequences of his actions. He many times references his need to take care of his family, and provide for his mother—something ISFJs care about very much, because they understand that a family unit is how people survive. ISFJs are also very loyal to their loved ones, sometimes whether or not the other person deserves their concern and care, and we see this play out in Bayou’s relationship with his older brother, a drug-addict trombone player. Bayou’s sweet personality and ease at charming people makes others instantly like him and that, combined with is talented singing voice, earns him a coveted position as a nightclub entertainer—much to his ESTP brother’s resentment. A vivid contrast is drawn between their two styles—Bayou’s more serious, purposeful, and cautious approach to life, compared with Willie’s orientation to the present.
As an unhealthy ESTP, Willie cares about nothing except this moment, and his desperate need to prove himself to his father, earn his approval and love, and get the attention he craves from the outside world. He sinks deeper and deeper into his addictions, while resenting his brother for being more successful than he is, and refusing to admit that his lifestyle choices are part of the problem. SPs in general can get caught up in self-destructive behaviors revolving around living life to the fullest—drinking, promiscuity, or drugs, in his case, the latter. “If it feels good, I do it” is a snare they fall into, because they are not thinking about tomorrow, next week, or six months from now. That’s their blind spot—seeing how “now” is going to affect “later.” Willie sabotages himself and others through is persistently reckless behavior, motivated by his own immature feelings. He often did things just to please his father in his youth, including bullying his little brother, and fails to understand that he cares about Bayou until it’s too late, and he has done something he can never take back. This kind of short-sighted thinking is a blight upon his life, as it can often be in unhealthy ESPs who react too quickly to things.
Leanne, an INFP, stands in stark contrast to all of the other characters, in her me-centric emotions and in her naïve idealism. INFPs can sometimes seriously misevaluate situations, and want things to be how they see them, rather than accepting them as they are. INFPs often try to life in a particular direction, willfully ignoring the reality in favor of a dream, and that’s what she winds up doing with Bayou. Her decisions, in the eyes of the other sensor characters, are blind to how dangerous her predicament is. She threatens to tell her husband the truth about being black, insisting to her mother that he will “let us go, because of his pride.” To which her mother retorts that he will not; he will kill them both for pretending to be white! Leanne has grown up in a violent, abusive culture where racism rules and still, she idealizes the future she wants for herself, and doesn’t realize how dangerous it is to be with Bayou until her husband threatens to drown her if she tries to leave their marriage. Several times, she gets Bayou to sneak off and meet her, once making love to him in a car, without considering what might happen as a result. IFPs want to live according to their feelings and to act on them quickly; she loves him, she wants to be with him, and everything else is seen as an obstacle in her way. If not for her refusal to deal with the current situation, she would seem ISFP-ish in her need to leap at things, but ISFPs are more accurate judges of situations than she manages to be. She gets so wrapped up in her own feelings, others lash out at her for not being more considerate; Bayou’s mother, Hattie May, accuses her of being “selfish.” And when she gets jealous of Bayou’s affectionate relationship with her servant, she demands she scrub a nonexistent spot off the kitchen floor (in her nice dress) and then slaps her across the face. The woman cannot understand why she is doing this, but it’s coming from a place of jealousy and resentment for her situation. Bayou stresses to her several times how dangerous her situation is, but she never really understands it until she’s in trouble somehow (like getting caught by her brother-in-law driving around the “wrong” side of town, in other words, where the black folks live). She is also more concerned with being with Bayou, whereas Bayou is thinking about his obligations to everyone else, not just her, showing the IFP’s ability to prioritize their feelings above arbitrary social rules.
Bayou is an interesting character study, because at first his type was not clear to me, until I thought about how much emphasis he places on doing the right thing, on the “purity” of his romance with Leanne (in his letters, he talks about how wonderfully innocent those times were, as if he cherishes the purity of them not consummating their love), and how wracked he is with guilt about doing anything he deems “cowardly.” Much like another fictional 1, Atticus Finch, Bayou refuses to back down from a mob—and because he is black and has no recourse or rights, he winds up being killed because of it. His need to do the right thing drives him home to help his mama boost her failing business, he refuses to listen to the 6ish cautions of his manager not to stick around, and he winds up paying for his need to do the right thing with his life, a true martyr for a “cause.” His 2 wing is obvious in how he frames himself in being needed; he’s wracked with guilt at leaving his mama without his help, so he sends her what he can out of his paycheck. He needs to ‘save’ Leanne, and wishes he had mustered the courage to confront her grandfather. 1s can be notoriously stubborn once they make up their minds, and he refuses to listen to anyone who tells him, “No, this is a bad idea.” He even insists on going back to get Leanne himself, instead of sending his manager (which would have been the safer option). I see both the social and self-preservation instincts in him, but his focus is more on his family than on his own needs, and he willingly gives up his life more readily than someone to whom survival is the ultimate goal.
Leanne is a 9. She struggles with passivity, going along with other people’s agendas to keep the peace, and becomes dependent on Bayou to play the role of her “rescuer” rather than being motivated to change her fate herself. It’s only after she sees him again that she thinks about leaving her marriage and running away, because she knows he will be there for her and she sees him as a way out, so she doesn’t have to do it alone. We never find out how she wound up married to a man she does not even like, but the fact that it happened suggests she could not defy her mother, and despite her “sensitivity toward Negroes,” her son grows up a racist like his (fake) father. Her refusal to admit to the seriousness of her situation is a 9’s refusal to face the unpleasant side of life, although she does show her line to 6—becoming anxious about Bayou’s safety (after the fact; she is not cautious enough for a 6) and worried for her own after her husband threatens to hurt her if she leaves him (he tells her that he will take her out on the river, and claim it an accident). She tries to use fears about her son’s skin getting darker as an excuse to run away from her problems. 9s can be full of anger about their situation, but see it all as hopeless and give up on it, which is Leanne seems to have done after Bayou’s death. But she also shows spunk on a regular basis, by drawing strong boundaries—a 9 can only do this if they are 8 winged. She lays down the law about not being called Bucket immediately. She defies her grandfather by sneaking out at night, even though he won’t let her see young men. Once she decides she wants Bayou, she insists on going to him. She tries several times to run away, even if she always winds up staying. She is much freer of “should” super-ego thinking than he is, as well. Leanne appears to be a sexual subtype. She doesn’t let anything stand in the way of her being with Bayou, and is blinded toward the risks involved—for him as well as herself, but not completely oblivious to them, so I see her as an sx/sp who just wants to be with him.
Willie shows all the unhealthy attributes of a 3—arrogant, self-confident, and full of bravado, but also desperate to win praise and approval. He can’t stand it when Bayou is more famous than he is, and has the spotlight, because that’s all he has ever wanted in life, to earn a position in this club and be a headline musician. But in a high Se way, he often sabotages himself—he’s so indignant that his manager didn’t get him a “sure thing,” he storms out of the building rather than wait for his audition or take the chance, and then is angry that Bayou stuck around and impressed the club owner. He tries hard to steal attention away from him, but his drug addiction and drinking problem causes him to humiliate himself in public, after which he takes refuge in shooting up/self-numbing. His sense of persecution and how cruelly he exposes the truth about Bayou’s illegitimacy, suggests a 4 wing tendency to overreact and lash out at people. He is not social blind, but he could be self-preservation blind.
Bayou: ISFJ 1w2 so/sp
Leanne: INFP 9w8 sx/sp
Willie: ESTP 3w4 so/sx or so/sp