Milkman as Our Hamlet

Critical Analysis of Toni Morrison's Character

Milkman "Hamlet" Dead: A Reincarnate Personage

Toni Morrison implies that Milkman Dead III, the center of her eccentric novel Song of Solomon (1977), exhibits a Hamlet-like persona through his "fear of and eagerness for death" (Morrison 120) and with a "mood of lazy righteousness" (120). Amid the incestuous relationships, Milkman feels a "responsibility to that knowledge" (120) of his mother's choices as he endeavors, with his loyal friend, to usurp his "father" -- though both Shakespeare and Morrison distort the connotation of the status -- after believing Macon Dead II "was the biggest thing in the world" (50) until he, much like Hamlet, overcomes the psychological barrier between father figure and son. Morrison paints Milkman in the image of Hamlet in order to accentuate his wallowing and "softened" (50) conviction in the pursuit of his dreams and goals -- or lack thereof. Morrison's relaxed tone and choice of colloquial diction emphasizes Milkman as a part of his stagnant surroundings, just as Hamlet stands "like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of [his] cause" (Shakespeare II.ii. 540).

Age is Just a Number (Ch. 9 Précis)

Corinthians and her Journey to Adulthood

At the debut of Morrison's heartfelt bildungsroman Song of Solomon (1977), First Corinthians remains in a fetus-like state of being -- unsatisfied, lacking confidence, unwanted, constantly controlled by her father's wishes -- until she takes action for herself, when her life begins to flourish and take on meaning, and Morrison uses her journey of self to suggest that life is not fully utilized until one acts independently. Since Corinthian's status and education already lifted her above the masses, all eyes expected her life to "[culminate] in something more elegant than two uniforms that hung on Miss Graham's basement door," (Morrison 188) but she quickly realizes that something always stands as an obstacle to the coveted future, whether that she "lacked drive" (188) or "might not have the proper attitude," (189) and then when Henry Porter came along, stealing her away for midnight rendez-vous, she "felt a self-esteem that was quite new" (201) and didn't even stop to fix her hair on the way up the front porch steps. Morrison pens Corinthian's transformation into herself not only to set the stage for Milkman's change, but also to support her idea that life starts when one establishes it for themselves. Using a shift from to a comfortable tone, as well as stream of consciousness to convey Corinthian's metamorphosis.

Where Am I? (Ch. 11 Précis)

Shalimar as Limbo

As Milkman travels south to Shalimar in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (1977), nobody knows anything about the obscure town about which he inquires -- even the maps don't seem to offer any location identification -- and this implies that the little town of Shalimar is Milkman's limbo (not purgatory, as purgatory exists as the site for those who knew of, but did not repent sins; limbo is similar to purgatory for infants, and Milkman just recently realizes that his life needs restructuring). Struggling to find his destination, Milkman asks residents of multiple cities about a town named Charlemagne, but no one can provide any clues as to its whereabouts or existence (although he remains upbeat because of "their attraction to him, their generosity" (Morrison 260) not unlike that of the host and inhabitants of the afterlife) until the AAA office identifies its actual name and points him in the right direction in beat-up transportation (like the body after some years) through countryside so indistinguishable that "he wouldn't have known he had arrived if the fan belt hadn't broken" (260) (the car dies, like himself as he's in limbo) in the town for which he was searching. This sets up Shalimar as his own limbo, thus foreshadowing his future and giving the little town another, hellish dimension. Morrison uses a positive, though befuddled tone to depict Milkman's effortless movement into his greatest struggles, where he will answer for his sins.

What's in a Name? (Ch. 15 Précis)

Name and Identity as a Source of Life

Throughout Toni Morrison's acclaimed novel, Song of Solomon (1977), names play an important role in defining a person and their characteristics or experiences, but within the last chapter, names, from places to people, become a life-giving and liberating force. Milkman contemplates the meanings and histories behind the names of the same places (previously perceived as unfeatured) he passes on the way to Shalimar, imagining "How many dead lives and fading memories were buried in and beneath the names of the places" (Morrison 329) that he misses, lists all the black men with names based on their "yearnings, gestures, flaws, events, mistakes, weaknesses," (330) -- all definitions and markings of life -- and then, when Pilate buries her father Jake, she refuses a headstone or cross (basically, renouncing religion and worldly recognition) in preference to the only written accomplishment he could claim: her name (with which a bird then flies away from Pilate's death). Establishing names as the important factor of identification supports her lesson of individuality creating the self because it relies on personal choices, characteristics, or experiences. Morrison's relaxed tone, supported by fragmented sentences and listing, creates a sense of straightforwardness and importance to Milkman's thoughts.


Name - Goo Goo Dolls by ourlifetrakz