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Masterpieces of Women's Literature Song of Solomon Analysis

In many of Morrison’s stories, seeking or denying one’s cultural roots is a major concern. Milkman Dead, the young man who is searching for independence in Song of Solomon, leaves his home to find gold. Instead, he discovers the intricacies of his family’s heritage, a discovery that connects him to life and, ironically, simultaneously frees him from life. Milkman begins to recognize the links between past experiences and present circumstances. Consequently, he develops an understanding of his mother’s abnormal sexual behaviors and his father’s obsession with owning things.

Ruth is dead inside, frightened of her husband and bored by her life. She searches for some sign of her own purpose and usefulness in life by creating elaborate arrangements to cover a watermark on her mahogany dining table. Much more alarming, she breast-feeds her son until he is old enough to walk and talk, a fact that is discovered by a town gossip who gives the boy the nickname “Milkman,” which stays with him for the rest of his life.

Macon’s obsession with gaining wealth and owning property is symbolized by his keys, which he counts constantly and fondles frequently in order to gain a sense of security. Macon believes that class elevation will protect him and his family from racism. He marries Ruth because she is a doctor’s daughter, not because he loves her. He parades his well-dressed daughters before his lower-class tenants but rushes to guard the girls when a tenant tries to touch them. Furthermore, when Macon collects rent from these tenants, he shows little compassion for the plight of those who have limited funds. Although Morrison does not focus primarily on the class/race relationship in this novel, this concern appears to be a major theme. Rather than seeking truth or taking flight, Macon decides to live by the standards set by his capitalistic society.

Pilate refuses to do the same thing. Her only participation in society is her business of selling homemade wine, the profits from which she, Reba, and Hagar either squander or give away. Milkman says that he cannot identify the source of comfort in her home, a home of so few material comforts. Pilate’s daughter, her granddaughter, her bag of bones, and her homemade earring, with which a bird flies away after she dies, seem to be her only treasures.

The flying motif of the story is based on the African myth of enslaved Africans flying back to the African continent. Whether Milkman’s great grandfather died, simply left, or actually flew away from the field is undetermined. Yet the empowerment of such a myth and the oppression it suggests—an oppression so strong that it engendered such wishes or such power—attest the Africans’ faith in their ability to transcend their subjugation.

The importance of ancestors and history is...

(The entire section is 708 words.)