AP Lit Precis Writing

Jena Kelly

The white peacock symbolizes the allure of greed and wealth in American society

In the novel Song of Solomon (1977), Toni Morrison, feminist and winner of The Nobel Prize in literature, employs that the peacock is a fitting symbol of American society, completely enthralled by a want for greed, "Life, safety, and luxury fanned out before him like the tail-spread of a peacock" (170) and by doing so links the peacock with Milkman as both are unable to fly, "Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down" (179). Morrison illustrates the symbolic peacock in Chapter 7 with Macon stumbling upon the gold and imagining a life of luxury, at the beginning of Chapter 8 with the peacock, although stripped of its colors, maintains its vanity, suggests that the white peacock is a fitting symbol for American society marked by arrogance and greed, and later on in Chapter 8 with the peacock's heavy tail hindering its ability to fly just as Milkman is unable to free himself of "the shit that weighs [him] down" (179). Specifically incorporating the peacock in settings of impending harm or wrongdoing, Morrison effectively adds to overall 'allure of greed' theme in order to slyly insert her own opinion on American society; the problem she pronounces is the chase for greed "Let's catch it. Come on, Milk" (178) and her solution "Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down" (179) or else you will end up achieving nothing of true value and solely fantasizing, "Instead of continuing the argument about how they would cop, they began to fantasize about what the gold could buy" (179). Morrison reveals this advice in a depressed and hopeless tone as she has almost every main character including Milkman, Ruth, Macon, Guitar, and even Hagar unknowingly entrapped by something; from love to money, making this novel enticing for all who beguile a beautifully and craftily written novel that takes storytelling to a whole new level.

Lena and Corinthians are ARTIFICIAL ROSES!!!

Jena Kelly

Portrayed beautifully in her award winning novel Song of Solomon (1977), feminist Toni Morrison asserts that the artificial rose (the velvet rose) symbolizes the stifling life of the upper class and the oppression of women- "she saw her ripeness mellowing and rotting before a heap of red velvet scraps on a round oak table" (197); seen with Lena and Corinthians making the roses that do not actually produce any profit but not the contrary, simply provide a mindless distraction from the boredom "It kept me…quiet. That's why they make those people in the asylum weave baskets and make rag rugs…if they didn't have the baskets they might find out what's really wrong and… do something" (213). Morrison elucidates the rose by having it be ironic, for in most literary works, living roses symbolize love "I am the rose of Sharon and lily of the valleys" (Solomon 2:1) whereas these artificial roses symbolize the absence of love in Macon's patriarchal household and unlike living plants, the artificial flowers convey only the depression of their makers "Corinthians continued to make roses, but she hated that stupid hobby…they spoke to her of death" (198). Using roses, Morrison associates the suffocated, sheltered, stagnant lives to which Lena and Corinthians are assigned, seen in Chapter 9 "The flowers I'd stuck in the ground, the ones you peed on- well, they died" (214) in order to highlight the lack of purpose and responsibility upper class women in the 1960's and thus doomed to a life of creating velvet replicas of nature within the tomblike walls of their home(the Dead family). In a hopeful tone, Morrison addresses the audience with a call-to-action that we are not confined to society's gender walls through the character of Corinthians, as she bangs on Porter's door we see through her eyes, the crippling images of Mr. Smith's "doll-broken body" (198) and of Ruth's pregnant body confined to a wheelchair which gives Corinthians the strength to break free from her suffocating lifestyle and "escape the velvet" (198) once and for all.

Milkman is the BOBCAT

Jena Kelly

Written magnificently in her Nobel winning novel Song of Solomon (1977), American author Toni Morrison creatively intertwines the life of a black man (specifically Milkman’s) to the life of a hunted animal- a bobcat; as she has their death’s occur almost simultaneously- “he knew he had just drawn the last sweet air left for him in the world” (279). Morrison fabricates this connection by having Milkman realize that the same way the men are all eagerly skinning and ripping away at the bobcat is identical to the way people in his life have been treating him; Hagar, Ruth, Macon, and even his best friend, Guitar- “Everybody wants a black man’s life” (281). Morrison establishes this symbolism in order to further enhance the fact that Milkman has previously been a prey, and all of his ‘predators’ have been eagerly trying to reap the benefits of him- seen as he is attacked by his best friend Guitar, inevitably causing Milkman to feel as if his own heart ‘metaphorically’ ripped from him just as the bobcat’s heart truly was- “Milkman plunged both hands into the rib cage…the heart fell away from the chest as easily as yolk slips out of its shell” (282). In a peaceful and accepting tone, Morrison eludes to the fact that Milkman has transformed; giving up his previous life of materialism in order to find his identity and happiness “But it was a living breath this time, not a dying one” (279) which we can assume means that Milkman will finally leave his former prey self (seen through the bobcat) behind and start his real journey, not to find gold, but find himself.

the lovely color green

Jena Kelly

In the Nobel Prize winning novel, Song of Solomon (1977), feminist Toni Morrison keeps readers hanging out to her every word as she amplifies nearly every page of her closing chapter with Milkman's ultimate transformation and ties all of his final four quests together through implications of the color green. Morrison associates the new Milkman with the color green by tying the usage of the color into the final 4 parts of his transformation; starting with the third baptism into not just a "tight little porcelain box" (326), but "the whole ***damn sea" (327)- or in his case, a river in the "wide and green valley" (327) where Milkman finally let's go off all "the shit that weighs him down" (179) connecting him to his great grandpa Solomon, next Morrison's intricate use of green is seen with Pilate's wine bottles which concedes Milkman to realize that his freedom came at a cost to others (Hagar in particular) and it takes a knock on the head to finally understand- "She came and broke a wet green bottle over his head" (331), shortly after, Milkman understands the truth behind Pilate's green tarp of bones which renders Milkman to realize the severity of one's actions- "You can't just fly off and leave a body" (332), and lastly Milkman comes to terms and accepts ownership of Hagar's death as well as fully embraces his Black heritage examined through the "green and white shoe box" (334) filled with Hagar's hair. Using green in these four different scenes, Morrison helps establish and reinforce a strong connection between the symbolic color green and the journey in order to amplify Milkman's growth by linking it to the Bible where green is often a reference to vitality and growth "How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is green" (Song of Solomon 1:16). The incredible journey of Milkman is not in any way simple, and neither is Morrison's language intertwined with intricate descriptions of scenes using the symbolic color green enhancing the novel with an earnest sentimental tone which causes the audience to look inward and ask themselves "Where are we on our own journey through life…are we still stuck on the ground or finally taking flight?"