How does "to be a whole man, you have to deal with the whole truth," apply in Song of Solomon?

Quick answer:

The expression is generally true, but it doesn't sound right coming from Macon Dead. He says these words to his son Milkman had assaulted him for hitting Milkman's mother. The implication is that Milkman didn't know the full story. But Milkman didn't really need to know everything going on between his parents to intervene and protect his mother from domestic abuse.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The above quotation from Morrison's Song of Solomon comes from Milkman Dead's father Macon. He says these words not long after being physically assaulted by Milkman, who attacked him for hitting his mother. Macon was so shocked at being hit by his own son that he was unable to speak. He comes from a world where sons don't dare strike their fathers, so he's completely unprepared for such an attack.

Later on, however, Macon is finally able to speak to Milkman, and what he says is important:

You're a big man now, but big ain't nearly enough. You have to be a whole man. And if you want to be a whole man, you have to deal with the whole truth.

Coming from someone else, this would be perfectly true. But it doesn't quite sound right coming from Macon. One could argue that Macon isn't really the best person to be giving lectures on what it means to be a whole man given that he refuses to face up to the grim realities of domestic violence. And besides, Milkman didn't really need to know everything that went on between his parents in order to intervene and protect his mother from physical abuse.

Macon may have an elaborate story to tell Milkman about why he did what he did, but in the end, it's not really relevant to his actions. Macon didn't need to hit his wife, and so he must heed his own device and learn to deal with the truth of his situation. Then, and only then, will he be a whole man.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial