Song of Solomon Critical Overview - Essay

Toni Morrison

Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Song of Solomon, the first of Toni Morrison's works to become a best-seller, also established her as a major American writer. As Carol Iannone wrote in Commentary, "[i]n Song of Solomon Miss Morrison at last permits herself to work her material through." The novel won Morrison the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and though most critics found flaws in the book, on the whole they praised Morrison's blend of fantasy and reality and her use of myths and folktales to portray Black life. In an early review, Anne Tyler commented, "I would call the book poetry, but that would seem to be denying its considerable power as a story. Whatever name you give it, it's full of magnificent people, each of them complex and multi-layered, even the narrowest of them narrow in extravagant ways." Other critics have also praised the power of her language; Vivian Garnick, in The Village Voice, wrote that "[t]he world she creates is thick with an atmosphere through which her characters move slowly, in pain, ignorance and hunger. And to a very large degree Morrison has the compelling ability to make one believe that all of us … are penetrating that dark and hurtful terrain—the feel of a human life—simultaneously." New York Times Book Review contributor Reynolds Price praised the novel's "negotiations with fantasy, fable, song and allegory" as "organic, continuous and unpredictable," while Maureen Howard noted in The Hudson Review that Song of Solomon is both "rich in its use of common speech" and "sophisticated in its use of literary traditions and language."

Song of Solomon was the first of Morrison's books to have a male hero, but some critics, including Vivian Garnick, have written that Milkman never really comes to life as a character. Some scholars, including Reynolds Price and Bill Moyers, have also wondered at Morrison's exclusion of white characters,...

(The entire section is 784 words.)