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Song Of Solomon Character Analysis Essay

World renowned author, Toni Morrison, is known for her mystical references and interpretations. This is seen constantly in her 1977 novel, Song of Solomon. It is an eccentric story, one like no other, and any reader will see that from the first few pages. Morrison depicts eccentric characters and an African folktale to challenge readers into understanding the story’s deeper meaning. Song of Solomon focuses on the life of the protagonist Milkman Dead and his lifelong quest dedicated to discovering both his roots and purpose in life.

Milkman has always been dependent and influenced by others; not once did he ever have to rely on himself for anything and being raised by his protective mother and sisters did little to help that. He has survived an unusual life, constantly having to endure strange and conflicting relationships between either his family, his best friend, or his lover. Everyone in the story contributes immensely to Milkman’s flight. Some help Milkman realize who he truly is and others help him see who they truly are. Milkman’s real name is Macon Dead III.

Ruth, Milkman’s mother, had a guilty pleasure of breastfeeding her son when he is beyond the accepted age. She is seen through the window by the local janitor, Freddie, when she is breastfeeding Macon. Because Macon is suckling vigorously on his mother’s nipples, he is nicknamed Milkman. Milkman’s parents Ruth and Macon Dead are not the most loving couple. Macon patronizes and bullies Ruth to the point where she finds love in other things instead of herself. Ruth’s love is mostly shown through her protectiveness of Milkman. For years Ruth has dealt with Macon’s abuse and disdain behavior.

When Macon was young he proposed to Ruth, but Ruth’s father, the only black doctor in town, did not want her marrying a low status citizen like Macon. This began Macon’s need for power and money. Macon decided to please Ruth’s father by becoming a landlord and owning property. Eventually he was allowed to marry Ruth, but even with owning buildings Ruth’s father did not respect Macon. For several years Ruth’s father belittled and constantly disrespected Macon. Macon grew angry and spiteful at Ruth and her father, especially when he saw that their actions were too intimate for a father and daughter relationship.

When Ruth’s father became ill and passed Macon reciprocated the same behavior shown to him by Ruth’s father onto Ruth and her children. Macon’s anger and greed caused his family to both hate and fear him. Ruth and Macon’s relationship ultimately fails because of their lack of growth, trust, and commitment. Both Ruth and Macon show no effort in love at all; their behavior is later shown in their children and explains why they are called the “Deads”. This is also why every relationship Milkman is ever in either fails or fluctuates; until Pilate comes along and shows him he can change.

Growing up seeing relationships fail, took a toll on Milkman’s love life. Watching his parents argue and fight everyday affected Milkman’s judgment on love. This made it easier for him to hurt others. When Milkman was young he had an intimate relationship with his cousin Hagar. Hagar cared endlessly for Milkman, but Milkman hardly felt the same way. Milkman broke up with Hagar by the message of a Christmas letter. When Hagar read the letter her anger and sadness erupted and was left both heartbroken and confused. The following week Hagar spotted Milkman on a date with another girl.

This enraged Hagar causing her to go into a crazed rage and decide that if she cannot have Milkman no one else will either. Now on the 30th of every month Hagar tries to kill Milkman, but whenever gets a chance she never goes through with the murder or Milkman flees before she can do anything. Hagar’s craziness showed readers how selfish and inconsiderate Milkman is. All the love that Hagar ever had for Milkman turned into hatred. The pain and loss of Milkman was too much for Hagar to bear and she later died of a broken heart.

Pilate Dead, sister of Macon Dead II and the grandmother of Hagar, is a very unconventional person and is unlike any other character in the story. Throughout her life, Pilate is judged and teased for many things whether it is her name, appearance, or personality. Although people judge her, Pilate remains compassionate and loving. Pilate assisted Milkman in finding himself and understanding more about his roots. She helped him appreciate his name and understand where he came from. Pilate is one of the main reasons why Milkman evolved as a person.

If it was not for Pilate Milkman would have grown up to be like his father, bitter and greedy. Milkman’s biggest influence and greatest rival is his best friend Guitar. Although they were from two totally different worlds Milkman enjoyed spending time with him. Guitar is both a friend of Milkman and tenant of Macon, and has been even before Milkman was born. Guitar grew up a poor and rebellious child who fights for what he believes in and protects those who can not help themselves. The older he got the angrier he became; most of that anger directed towards white people.

He believed in nothing but the enrichment of the black society and would do anything in his power to see them rise. He later accomplished this goal when he joined a local extremist group called the Seven Days. The Seven Days is a group consisting of seven black men who believe in protecting the black race no matter what. Their main purpose is to, “keep the ratio the same” (Morrison 260). For every black person killed due to racism the Seven Days kills a white person. One thing they are forbidden to do is kill another black man. Each of the Seven Days have a task and are assigned days on which that task should be completed.

Guitar’s day is Sunday and his task is to replicate the deaths of the 4 young black girls that were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing to 4 white girls. Guitar needed money to act out his plan and when he heard that Milkman was helping Pilate look for gold he asked Milkman to give him half. Milkman agreed to the deal and went on a trip to both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Guitar’s greed and beliefs blinded his judgment and provoked him to believe that Milkman was hiding the gold. His greed drove him to succeed in killing both Milkman and Pilate. Everyone in the story contributes immensely to Milkman’s flight.

Some help Milkman realize who he truly is and others help him see who they truly are. All throughout his life Milkman is dependent upon others being able to do what he wants to do and only knowing what he has been told. Milkman’s urge for flight comes from his need to be independent and free. Throughout his journey Milkman searches for something that will give him happiness and comfort. He encounters different experiences and goes through several changes. Morrison uses various symbols, characters, and themes to characterize the struggles of obtaining freedom, love, and happiness.

An examination of Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon reveals that flying is a symbol significant to character evolution, plot development, and theme. Character Evolution and Flight One symbol seen constantly throughout the story is the idea of flight. The idea of flight symbolizes people letting go of their restraints and being free. Ever since he was a young boy Milkman had always wanted to fly. He did not know where or how to start flying, he just had an urge to do so. Only until he is four years old did Milkman realize that he could not fly; that lying is something only animals and machines could do (Morrisson 29) .

“To have to live without that single gift saddened him and left his imagination so bereft that he appeared dull… ” (Morrison 29). This quote shows that before he ever knew what it meant flying has always been an important goal for Milkman. This also shows why Milkman acts the way he does within his relationships with people; if he knows he will not be able to escape he will not pursue it any further. This along with his father teaching him to, “ Own things. And let the things you own own other things.

Then you’ll own yourself and other people too”, caused Milkman to grow up selfish and oblivious (Morrison 102). Milkman understands and enjoys the feelings of freedom at a young age, and that is why the thought of flying enthused him so much. When he grew around the age of fourteen Macon had Milkman assisting him in his office. Macon had Milkman running errands and showing him the make up and basics of the family business. At first Milkman liked it because it opened up a new life for him and introduced him to newer things. But after twenty years of the same position and his life going nowhere Milkman grew tired.

Just like a bird trying to leave its nest and fly, Milkman consistently attempts to leave his home. During his journey Milkman discovered places and people that he would later learn change him for the better. Milkman’s flight and evolution is greatly explained through a quote in Folklore and Community in Song of Solomon when Ms. Blake explains “As he travels back from North to South, from his father’s home to his great-grandfather’s, Milkman progresses from his father’s values to Pilate’s.

He sets out seeking gold, his father’s concern, but ends up seeking family, Pilate’s concern” (Blake 78). This one time he wanted to go solo. In the air, away from real life, he felt free, but on the ground, when he talked to Guitar just before he left, the wings of all those other people’s nightmares flapped in his face and constrained him” (Morrison 360) . These quotes both show how much Milkman was being held back and how much he wanted to be free. His change in character shows anyone can change depending on their environment. It also brings light to Guitar’s quote when he says, “If you wanna fly you have to give up the shit that weighs you down” (Morrison 247).

Flight also shows that it can affect other people’s emotions as well as Milkman’s. When Milkman left he affected himself and other characters. His absence caused Hagar to die, caused Pilate to die, and also caused Guitar to turn into his enemy. The Connection between Flight Symbolism and Plot Development When Macon and Pilate were younger and their father died they were looking for somewhere to live. When they thought all hope was gone their mother’s midwife, Circe, kindly took them in. After a few months at the house Macon and Pilate got bored and ran away to the only shelter they could find which was a nearby cave.

While they were resting Macon saw something walk up towards him in the dark, he got scared so he stabbed the figure a few times. The figure turned out to be an old white man. Next to the old man’s body was a green bag, and in that bag to their surprise was a lot of gold nuggets and bricks. Pilate told Macon not to take the bag because if he did they would be in trouble and probably killed. The next morning Macon woke up and saw that Pilate and the bag were both gone. This whole backstory is one of the reasons why Macon hates Pilate and is also the reason why Milkman went on his journey.

From the beginning to the end of the story flight plays an important role. The belief of flight allowed Milkman to change drastically. It gave him the strength and confidence to finally let go of the things that were weighing him down. His flight is only truly accomplished when he went to go look for the gold that Pilate assumably hid in a cave in Pennsylvania a long time ago. Milkman finds out that there is no gold and Pilate only sent him on the trip to find both family and happiness. One of Pilate’s teachings towards Milkman was to not end up like Macon.

Flight develops the plot by setting constant twists and turns. Guitar’s greed and anger caught up with him leading him to kill both Pilate and Milkman. Hagar’s love for Milkman leads to her death. Milkman’s discovery of his ancestors showed him to fully evolve as a person; so much that it fooled Guitar into thinking Milkman was a liar and a thief. How Flight Plays as a Theme Flight sets the theme for escape and Milkman’s journey away from home. His exploration of his family heritage and past shows how he is willing to take both a risk and willing to be free from his father’s control.

Flight is the first scene in the beginning of the book. In the beginning of the story, North Carolina Mutual Life insurance agent, Mr. Smith, is wearing blue wings standing on the top of Mercy Hospital preparing to fly. Before he jumps Mr. Smith tells the crowd, “I will take off from Mercy and fly away on my own. Please Forgive me. I love you all” (Morrison 19). Mr. Smith jumps, believing he is actually going to fly; suicide is the last thing on his mind. This event set the stage for the story, because the day after Mr. Smith jumped, Milkman, the main character, is born.

Toni Morrison uses flight in the book to represent one’s attainment of freedom and one’s ability to take risks. Within the very beginning of the book, in Toni Morrison’s prologue, she says, “The fathers may soar And the children may know their names” (Morrison 10). Her reference to flight in the beginning indicates its importance as a symbol within the storyline. This quote becomes evident when Milkman finds out about his ancestor, Solomon. When Milkman goes to Shalimar, Pennsylvania and Danville, Virginia he realizes several truths.

According to Dorothy Lee Milkman’s flight, “initiated [him] into a real black community, he abandons false pride and atones for his errors in suffering” (70). This shows flight as a symbol both literally and figuratively. In reality flight is usually done by animals and machines, but once a human breaks that barrier anything is possible. Once someone realizes that their dreams are possible and everything requires commitment then their life will change. Conclusion Milkman, who was born the day after a man who thought he could fly killed himself, eventually flies both literally and metaphorically.

Milkman grew up never learning how to commit or build any relationship at all. This absence of knowledge showed Milkman that the only way of relieving pain is to run away from it. This belief goes back to Solomon and how he flew back to Africa abandoning his family leaving them with no role model or support. As Milkman searches for himself he continues to learn several truths about his ancestry and family. Throughout his journey Milkman slowly discovers a community in which he learns to respect and trust. A community that changes him for the better.

Song of Solomon shows readers that people can change for the better and for the worse. It shows readers how everything and everyone has the ability to love and hate. Milkman was born a selfish and privileged child and learned that through knowledge and love both flight and happiness can be gained. Leslie Harris says that “[Guitar] is not as much Milkman’s opposite as his double, an extension of the very negations Milkman has practiced ” (74). Milkman and Guitar who grew up like brothers quickly turn enemies over greed. Song of Solomon overall shows that change is capable and not everyone can fly and be free from their constraints.

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