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Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Song of Solomon Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although not intended for a young adult audience, Song of Solomon does have several themes useful for mature teenage readers. Most important for this audience is Milkman’s coming-of-age as he learns to understand his sexuality, his relationship to his parents and family, his role in society, and his position on important social issues.

Incest is a prominent theme in the book and greatly affects Milkman’s sexual identity. Readers learn that his mother and her father had an intimate sexual relationship. Milkman received his nickname because someone saw his mother breast-feeding him during his late preschool years. His first sexual experience is with his cousin Hagar, and their relationship lasts for several years until he breaks it off and she becomes violent toward him and herself. Evidence also suggests improprieties between Macon II and Pilate: He cared for her as an infant, and his intimate knowledge of her body holds a permanent place in his imagination.

The strained relationship between Milkman and his parents provides a related theme. As a child and young man, he worships his mother and cannot understand his father’s seemingly cruel treatment of her. When his father tells him about her incestuous relationship with her father, Macon remembers the breast-feeding incident and comes to reject both of his parents—his father for telling the truth, and his mother for her role in the truth. Milkman seeks surrogate parent figures: As a paternal confidant, he turns to his friend Guitar, and, as a mother figure, he relies on Pilate. Milkman must also learn his role in his sisters’ lives by recognizing that they are women with human desires and that he has no right to hinder their relationships with men.

While many of Milkman’s family issues are settled during the novel, he never fully understands his position in society. At the age of thirty-one, he works only sporadically for his father and spends most of his time loitering with Guitar. Milkman does not know what it means to be a mature, responsible adult. Morrison suggests reasons for this failure in themes relating to race and class. The most prominent of these is black exploitation...

(The entire section is 554 words.)