Song of Solomon Precis
Ruth Foster Dead
Ruth Foster Dead
In Song of Solomon (1977), Toni Morrison asserts that the character of Ruth Foster Dead lives her life depending on male characters in her life- her father, her husband, and her son- to ward off solitude and find happiness; through showcasing the unhappiness and loneliness Ruth suffers after her loss of relationship with these male characters in her life, Morrison implies that women should rely on themselves, not the men in their lives, to find happiness and build a sense of self. Morrison displays Ruth's unhappiness and loneliness, which is so intense that Ruth is driven to have one-sided conversations with her father's grave, after developing and then destroying her relationships with male characters in her life- her father marries her off his hands, who "...had begun to chafe under her devotion" (23), and dies of a horrible, wasting terminal illness; her husband, who had enjoyed a satisfactory physical relationship with Ruth, came to feel towards her only emotions "...coated with disgust" (16) after seeing her sucking on her dead father's fingers; and her son, whom she breastfed far after his infanthood, blatantly states that he has no respect for his mother as a person. Using such dysfunctional and failed relationships between Ruth and the men in her life, Morrison paints a picture of an unhappy, lonely, and emotionally immature woman in order to display the dangers of attempting to find happiness through relationships with others. Morrison speaks this message most directly to her audience of female readers, discouraging them to depend on the men in their lives for happiness; she uses a frank and direct tone by delivering this message through the emotionally mature and strong character of Pilate, who breaks up a fight between Hagar and Ruth by stating the dislike Milkman possesses for both women- "And he [Milkman] wouldn't give a pile of swan shit for either one of you" (137)."
In chapter nine of Song of Solomon (1977), Toni Morrison claims that men oppose women delegating them to roles with little power in society, thus forcing them to depend on men and male-imposed societal worms and explorations, harming both men's and women's freedoms and mental and emotional development. Morrison utilizes the mental and emotional immaturity and societal entrapment of characters of Milkman and Corinthians to showcase the negative effects of oppression of women- Corinthians, forty-four years old, lives with her parents, unable to marry because "They [male suitors] wanted their wives to like the climbing, the acquiring, and the work it took to maintain status once it was achieved "(188); Milkman, at thirty-two, relies on his father and aunt to bail him out of jail, feeling "Shame at needing his father and aunt to get him off "(209). Morrison showcases this stagnation of development in Milkman and Corinthians in order to describe the effects of trapping women in roles, forcing them to rely on their husbands or fathers, like Michael-Mary Graham- "Every woman she [Corinthians] knew was a doll baby" (196); in other words, women are not allowed to take responsibility of their own and grow as people, and their opposers, as exemplified by Milkman, gradually adopt similar roles, depending on elders- their "men" in life- for survival. Morrisontargets her male readers, the ones involved with subjecting women to submissive roles in society, with this message; through the character of Lena, she uses an angry and forward tone in order to convey her ideas- "[Milkman]...you have pissed your last in the house" (216).
In chapter eleven of Song of Solomon (1977), Toni Morrison implies that Milkman's physical surroundings serves as a catalyst for Milkman's emotional growth by initiating the process of death of Milkman's old personality. Morrison starts extensively developing the disintegration of Milkman's old personality after the break down of his car strands him in Shalimar, his ancestral countryside town, next to Solomon's General Store- after unwittingly insulting the poor town men through the over-display of his wealth and being stabbed in a knife fight, Milkman is invited to a hunting trip in the wild mountains by the town by the local men; there, Milkman experiences separation from others ("The distance between him [Milkman] and Calvin's lamp was getting wider and wider." (Morrison, 274)), forcing him to fend for himself ("...he [Milkman] had to push the branches away from his face himself." (Morrison, 275)), and, through the remoteness he experiences from the civilized world, realize the lack of his spiritual wealth and emotional maturity- "His [Milkman's] watch and his two hundred dollars would be of no help out here, where all a man had was what he was born with, or had learned to use" (Morrison, 277). By using images of nature, the primal and base environment for all humans, to describe the death of the old Milkman, Morrison sets the stage for the rebirth of Milkman under the sweet gum tree after Guitar's failed attempt to kill him in order to 'resurrect' him, free from interacting with others as only a parasite, whose message in life was summed up by his reflections under the sweet gum tree- "...I am not responsible for your pain; share your happiness with me but not your unhappiness" (Morrison, 277). Morrison, through the rebirth of Milkman, spreads the message of dying and being reborn as a better, new, kinder, and stronger person through a confident and direct tone, as she describes Milman's style of walking after his rebirth- "Walking it like he belonged on it; like his legs were stalks, tree trunks, a part of his body that extended down down down into the rocks and soil, and were comfortable there- on the earth and on the place where he walked. And he did not limp" (Morrison, 281).