Song of Solomon Project Precis

Abandonment and Powerlessness of Women

Ruth and Hagar's Abandonment

In her nationally best-selling novel, Song of Solomon (1977), Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, continually illustrates the abandonment of women with her characters Ruth, Hagar, and Ryna by contrasting their deep love to a man unwilling to return their feeling. From the beginning, Morrison introduces us to the unrequited love of Ruth Dead since "the emotion [Macon] always felt when thinking of her [was] coated with disgust" (16), and because of his hatred for her, she believed she would "really die that way. With nobody touching [her]" (125) alone and unloved, and similarly, Hagar's pure love for Milkman, although an "anaconda love", was met with his contempt as he "willed her dead" where, she eventually did, -after he scorned her and left her- making her dying words, "He's never going to like my hair" (316). Along with Ruth and Hagar, Ryna's husband, Solomon, "done fly", "done gone" and "cut across the sky"(303), freeing himself from his life but leaving her abandoned with their twenty-one children; alone, afraid, and frenzied. Morrison uses these abandoned female characters in order to explain the role of women at the time, especially black women, and how many were "doormat women" (306), able to be pushed around and stepped on by men because of their hopeless devotion and submissive position in society, knowing, "Love shouldn't be like that" (306); They are "pressed small" (124) by the men in their life, eventually left powerless and abandoned. As a female, Morrison is able to sympathize with these women and directs her theme of women's abandonment in a sorrowful tone toward the women because they are able to sympathize with the characters, and even toward the men in order for them to understand the terrible effects they can have on women.

Lena's Stand Against Powerlessness

In her nationally best-selling novel, Song of Solomon (1977), Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, contrasts the idea of the power and powerlessness of women through the eyes of Magdalene called Lena as Lena confronts Milkman about how his overbearing power and greed are poisoning their family. Morrison describes her idea by allowing Lena to stand up to Milkman- she "drew one hand out of...her robe and smashed it across his mouth" (214)- and speak up about his oppression- how "[he's] been doing this to [them] all [his] life"- and how it has affected Corinthian's relationship by getting Macon involved: "He has forbidden her to leave the house, made her quit her job, evicted the man, garnished his wages, and it is all because of [Milkman]" (215). Morrison compares both the power and powerlessness of the daughters in order to remind the audience of the ultimate helplessness of women during the early to mid 1900's and how even though they were able to voice their beliefs, the men still had ultimate authority, just as Lena says about Milkman, "You've been laughing at us your entire life. Corinthians. Mama. Me. Using us, ordering us, and judging us..." (215). Morrison opens the scene in a diplomatic and almost cryptic tone, which, as the lecture continues, begins to evolve into an anxious and tense tone during Lena's castigation of Milkman to convey the seriousness and the extremity of Milkman's personality to the audience; this rebuking sets him up for a complete change in his character and allows Lena the freedom and power of speech, "you have pissed your last in this house" (216).