Multigenre: Journey Toward Home
Abandoned Women Flight v Flightlessness Maya Thomas
Ch. 5 Ruth physically in the present, but lives in the past.
In chapter 5 of the vastly praised novel Song of Solomon (1997). Noble Prize author Toni Morrison implies that Ruth, the lonely mother finds comfort in living in the past with her memories, her son “joined in despising her”(Morrison 120) which made her believe that she is worthless to her family in the present. Ruth’s character is a juxtaposition to her family, she can connect more with her son Milkman with his always facing backwards even when he is moving forward, but in all reality she is alone and finds satisfaction with visiting her father’s grave religiously, which Milkman follows her one night and spies on her from behind a tree. Living in the past is vital to Ruth, in order to get over the lack of love from her husband, her kids ignoring her and milkman no longer needing to be breastfed, she feels “small”(124), this visitation allows her to talk to “the only person who ever really cared whether I lived or died”(124). Morrison’s hopeless tone verified as Ruth explains her actions to her son help the reader to understand that Ruth is starving for attention and only being able to live in her memories of when her life was better.
Ruth’s character lives in isolation, aware of her lack of love she find’s comfort in her father who has passed away. Ruth’s husband is able to grow and live his life, while she remains in the past. The men in Toni Morrison’s novel are depicted as independent and the women are often left to take care of themselves along with any children they have. Women, like Ruth carry a burden on their shoulders while men are able to fly away from their problems, living carefree.
Corinthians, Milkman’s sister is also confined by the strict rules of her father. She is a prime example of an educated woman who is held to a lower standard of those around her, especially men. Corinthians has to sneak around to have a job working for Michael-Mary Graham in order to have a little independence. When she realizes that she must take control of her life she leaps on top of Porter’s car with her arms stretched out signifying her new found independence.
This Quality Personified titled “Vengeance” embodies what the women in Song of Solomon wish to do. They want to break free out of their dungeons and enjoy life on their own, instead they carry burdens of children, lost love, and loneliness.
Literary Analysis Response
In her much acclaimed novel Song of Solomon, a coming of age story (1977) Toni Morrison utilizes literary devices such as Juxtaposition, Symbolisms, and First Person Narrative to create this coming of age story for the protagonist Milkman allowing him to become a complete opposite from his mother, and the other women in the novel. He, like the other men in the novel learn that he can fly. While this is a bildungsroman novel for Milkman women like Ruth, Corinthians, and Hagar are abandoned, lonely, and unable to grow, and thrive in their communities. They are left behind to fend for themselves.
The novel opens up with Juxtaposition showing the death of Robert Smith, a former Seven Days member who has jumped off of a hospital to end his suffering of constant violence. One woman who witnessed the tragic death was Ruth, who soon give birth to her son Milkman. Ruth and her husband Macon fought for the love of their son, Macon slowly won this battle as Milkman got older. Believing that he could teach Milkman everything he needed to know as a man he over powered his wife’s authority. Macon prevented Ruth from having a close relationship with her son, stopping her from letting him sit on her lap in the car and tending to him like a mother should. Milkman, thirty years old, has learned from his father to despise his mother just as much as he does. This allowed him to keep Ruth alienated from her son and give him total control. Ruth visits her father’s grave religiously, this is the only time she can communicate with someone who cares about whether she is alive or dead. Her visitations to the grave represent how lonely and abandoned she feels and the only satisfaction she gains is from the graveyard.
As Milkman embarks on his journey he has multiple baptisms which symbolizes his change in personality to come. While he is able to change we see women like his sister Corinthians having to hide her longing for a job and independence. Corinthians wears high heels to her job as a maid symbolizing her “high class”, afraid to tell anyone where she goes during the day. Even if this job offers her independence it is way below her standards. She has traveled the world and has educated herself, but feels the need to hide with the fear of her father’s judgment.
First person is used in this novel not only because it is Milkman’s coming of age story, but because it shows how he is more concerned for his wellbeing before anyone else’s. He doesn’t bother with asking about the feelings of his sisters, mother or the women around him. Milkman lives a very self-absorbed life and has no concern of hurting those around him. Pilate jumpstarts Milkman’s curiosity to find his roots, she acts as a mentor teaching him the importance of flight and becoming one with his hearth. Hagar, Pilate’s granddaughter was Milkman’s lover before he left and completely devastated wants to fix herself to make her more desirable to Milkman. Their relationship wasn’t based off of love according to Milkman, he used her for his own selfish desires and when he was done he tossed her aside. After his baptism Milkman became a giver instead of a taker. He learned to love others and the importance of relationships. This was too late for Hagar, she died because she couldn’t handle being emotionally torn from Milkman. In Chapter eleven Milkman spends the night at sweets house after his revelation. Morrison used the first person narrative to allow the reader to see the changes in Milkman’s personality.
Toni Morrison’s use of Juxtaposition with Life and Death, Symbolism with high heels, and First Person Narrative to create a bildungsroman for the protagonist Milkman. His story is contradictory of the women around him who are suppressed and forced to play the role of a “doll”. Milkman learns to fly while the women remain flightless.
Flight v Flighlessness
Toni Morrison utilizes the theme of Flight to emphasize the struggles of women and how easily they are abandoned. Multiple women in Song of Solomon are left to deal with the obstacles handed down to them. The men in this novel are capable of flight while the women are forced to live a lonely life. Ryna, Ruth, and Hagar are women who are left by their loved ones and are incapable of continuing with their lives. Ryna after years of slavery was left by her husband Solomon, who is continually praised in their town for leaving and returning back to his roots. He leaves behind his wife Ryna and their twenty-one children. Milkman’s mother Ruth is emotionally and physically detached from her husband, who believes that running a business is the best way to live a prosperous. Although Ruth is the mother figure she is over looked because she is a woman. Women in this novel are represented as “dolls” that are only good for children and keeping the house clean. Hagar who is Pilate’s granddaughter and Milkman’s lover is used only for her affection. She is also left by Milkman when he embarks on his journey to discover his true identity. Hagar tried to live up to Milkman’s standards to what a woman should look like. She got her hair done, new clothing, and a new attitude. Her look fell to pieces in the rain later that day because she wanted to hide behind material things to please someone who didn’t care whether she was alive or dead. Women in Song of Solomon live in a world of double standards. They are constantly forgotten and left to take care of themselves while the men in their lives leave only with their well-being in mind. This novel underlines the dichotomy between men and women in this novel while allowing the protagonist to find his true identity.
Behind your shadow I feel small,
losing every chance to call.
I tried to yell but you wouldn’t listen,
a small voice pleading for redemption.
No one to call my own, and no one to claim me,
Powerless, I stand and fall alone.
Without a crowd to cheer me on,
I shine in the shadow of your pride.
A smile to hide the ocean of tears,
Where are you going, please don’t leave.
I beg and plead, it is never enough,
Women in Toni Morrison’s Novel Song of Solomon are almost invisible to their loved ones. Ruth is voiceless when it comes to her Husband Macon. They live an estranged life, under the same roof. She has no authority and constantly fights for the love of her children, but mostly from her youngest “Milkman”. This poem mostly connects to Ryna because her husband left her with all of her children. No matter how long she screamed for him to come back he didn’t, he flew away while she was flightless.
Ruth’s dramatic monologue is her plead of giving up. She realizes that her life will never change and she will remain alone and only observe the life around her. Her days of importance are over and she can’t fly and gain independence from her husband. Ruth must live in this life that makes her “small” forever.
Recipe for Vacant Cake
1 dash of tears
2 pinches of depression
⅔ of rejection
4 scoops of loneliness
3 grown children
1 emotionally detached husband
1 deceased father with occasional visits
2 scoops of optimism
Servings: To the women of Song of Solomon, all except Pilate
Preheat oven 400 degrees F (200 Degrees C.)
In a 13x9 inch dish, combine the tears (or water), depression, rejection and loneliness. Mix thoroughly and let sit for 30 minutes.
Add 3 grown children, one husband , a deceased father into another pan.
Bake both dishes in the oven for one hour.
- After both cakes have browned separate them from their dishes and stack them on top of each other, coating them with optimism flavored icing.
This recipe for vacant cake embodies the emotions within Ruth of Song of Solomon. She is emotionally detached from her husband and children, which is why she visits her deceased father. Ruth has been in this relationship for years and it has just become her life. She portrays a helpless woman longing for a place to belong.