Song of Soloman



The novel, Song of Solomon (1977), written by the acclaimed Toni Morrison, explores the obscure and intriguing character of Pilate and how she disperses her role as a "moral compass" throughout the lives of Ruth and Macon. Morrison develops this role through these characters when Ruth says "Pilate came into this city like she owned it" (125) and how she "couldn't have been strong enough without her" (125) and when Macon retells the story of him, Pilate, and her decision to leave the gold that never belonged to them; the decision that catalyzed their estranged relationship that presently exists. Morrison uses the predicaments of other characters (Ruth's struggle to survive under Macon's patriarchal household, Macon's hatred toward Pilate due to childhood disagreements), in order to display Pilate as an omniscient character; one who seems present without physically standing in a room and one who easily guides those around her. Morrison's utilizes an inspirational and admiring through the voice of Ruth when she says Pilate "saved her life" (126) and tells Milkman "she saved yours too" while adopting a vengeful tone full of hatred through Macon when he goes to the extent of refusing to acknowledge her as his sister, ultimately setting Pilate up as one of the most misunderstood characters and perhaps the only source of morality.

Women's Role in Society

Song of Solomon (1977), written by Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner Toni Morrison, strongly indicates the oppression of women during the time period, suggesting they merely exist as doll-like accessories to men and devote their education to learning "how to be an enlightened mother and wife" (188). Morrison delves into this idea as Corinthians "had a hard time finding employment befitting her degree" (187) and "was a little too elegant" (188), demonstrating how society outcasts knowledgeable women due to their failure to fit the mold of an obedient housewife and because "if the man was a teacher, he steered clear of a woman who had a better education than he did" (189). Morrison utilizes Corinthians's inability to find an example of a "grown-up women" (198) because "every women she knew was a doll baby" (198) in order to exemplify the widespread succumbing of women to the iron hand of male dominated society. The discouraged yet familiar and unfazed tone coneys a sense of helplessness as women give up the fight against fitting into the picture society has already created for them because they undoubtedly know, in the end, the ability to speak three languages or recall the greatest pieces of literature will never make them appealing or heighten their sense of purpose, as they are meant to be wives, and men want wives "who would sacrifice themselves and appreciate the sacrifice and hard work of their husbands" (188).

Milkman Under the Tree

In chapter 11 of the renowned novel, Song of Solomon (1977), Nobel Prize winning author, Toni Morrison portrays Milkman in a state of reflection and resurrection as he finally relinquishes his self-absorbed mindset and begins to understand the effects of his entitled attitude, careless lifestyle, and constant self-pity. Morrison places Milkman "in the middle of a woods in Blue Ridge country" (275), completely foreign and out of his privileged element causing him to question what exactly brought him there, leading him to blame his "ignorance" and "vanity" (276) which catalyzes his self-reflection. Using his new found hatred and rejection of the "old, tired and beaten to death" word "deserve" (276) and the loss of all his material belongings, Milkman starts to slowly strip himself of his past "his self- the cocoon that was 'personality' - gave way" (277) in order to fully let go, discover life, and finally accept his faults in completely solitude "unobstructed by other people, by things, and even by the sight of himself" (277). Morrison utilizes a calm, pensive tone signifying Milkman's complete resurrection as he becomes "only his breath" and "his thoughts" (277) and finally starts to see the detail in the things around him instead of himself and realizes that in order to live, he must let go of every selfish thought and action that ultimately prevents the ability to fly.

Milkman Finally Flies

The final chapter of Song of Solomon (1977), written by the noted author, Toni Morrison, presents the reader with the full image of the new, revitalized Milkman who now embodies the idea of "flying" after discovering the true meaning of this concept through inspiration from his great-grandfather. Milkman's new found excitement and eagerness to step out of his clothes and surround himself with water truly conveys his transformation as he encourages Sweet to forget about things that don't matter like "water moccasins" and "her hair getting wet" (328) and just enjoy the freedom of flying. His great-grandfather's flight "back to Africa" (328) fuels him with an overwhelming readiness to go home with his new life full of purpose, to finally see the importance of all the names that never once occupied his thoughts before, and to become an adult who accepts responsibility for attitude towards Ruth and Pilate who "had fought for his life, and he had never so much as made either of them a cup of tea" (331). Morrison uses an overly enthusiastic tone that posses a sense of child-like happiness to display Milkman's awakening and full transformation into a man who, in the end, willingly surrenders his life because material thoughts and possessions no longer trap him and because he knows, once you learn to fly, you can never fall.

Possessive Love

In Song of Solomon (1977), acclaimed author Toni Morrison, utilizes Hagar's overwhelming passion for Milkman to portray the concept of women altering every inch of themselves in order to transform into men's idea of perfection. Hagar allows the words "I look awful" (308) to slowly consume her mind and, physically forcing herself to become the woman she thinks Milkman wants as she "sucks in her stomach and pulls the fabric as far as possible" (310), ultimately renouncing all of her pride as a woman in order to please men. She repeatedly mentions the "silky hair" (315) Milkman loves as she loathes the kinky curls growing out of her own scalp, mirroring the majority of African American women today who chemically straighten natural hair for the sole purpose of making it more appealing for the "silky hair" loving men. The desperate, helpless, and defeated tone fully embodies the struggle of women in society who, like Hagar, fill their heads with a false sense of happiness as they criticize and alter their natural features to fit into men's picture of perfection, all in hopes of being loved.