Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon captures the reader with its first sentence. While a beautifully written story, it is one with which the reader must be prepared to invest some time. Morrison makes her reader dig past the literal meaning to find the figurative because the novel is about much more than what the surface shows. Her prose contains layered meanings that at times can be difficult to grasp due to Morrison’s intricate phrasing. Song of Solomon, written in 1977, depicts a divided African American family living in northern Michigan during the 1930’s. As with many of her novels, Song of Solomon hits at heavy themes. Within the novel Morrison touches on issues including race, gender, geography, age, the importance of family origins, and the value of human life. With this novel Morrison’s aim was to make the reader think about the value and worth of another person’s life.
The novel begins outside of a residential hospital, with a man preparing to jump off the building, and women struggling to give birth on the steps below. “The next day a colored baby was born inside Mercy for the first time” (9), this colored child is the main character Macon Dead, nicknamed Milkman. Next, the reader meets the other characters in the novel, including Milkman’s mother, father, sisters, aunt, and his close friend Guitar. Milkman’s relationship with each of this character is essential to shaping the novel’s themes. Although the novel is centered on Milkman, his story is created by the lives of those around him. Through out the novel Milkman struggles to find meaning in his life. He says, “Everybody wants something from me, you know what I mean?…Something they think I got. I don’t know what it is-I mean what it is they really want” (222).
In college it is easy to stray away from the main purpose, which is having a higher education. College years are supposed to include fun but not too much fun. There are many ideals to consider when trying achieving success in school. They way students manage their time and consume energy has an effect on the outcome of their success. Relaxation also plays a significant role in the turn out of ...
Milkman’s effort to find that `something’ takes him in many directions, the most important of these being a journey, in an effort to prove himself in the eyes of his friend and father, in search of stolen gold. What began as lust for money and power turns into something much more for Milkman. On this particular journey he is forced to re-evaluate his life, “They were troublesome thoughts, but they wouldn’t go away…his self–the cocoon that was “personality”-gave way…so the thoughts came, unobstructed” (277).
The end of this journey brings understanding, and change not only to Milkman, but to all those connected to him. The story is a skillful blend of characters and plot developments that form a complex tale of human discovery which takes the reader from birth to death, from north to south, and from emptiness to fulfillment.
The beauty and power of Morrison’s writing is what makes this novel so effective. Morrison’s descriptive words create vivid imagery and strong themes; the most prevalent of these is the importance of family, and the value of life. Morrison presents these themes amidst a setting displayed in colorful and descriptive language. Scenes such as the first, impact the reader because of the intensity of the words. Instead of using simple sentences such as “the women dropped her basket and spilled the contents,” Morrison uses phrases such as “she dropped her covered peck basket, spilling red velvet rose petals. The wind blew them about, up down and into small mounds of snow.” The wording is so detailed that the reader can picture vibrant red roses swirling in the air, drifting on to the pristine snow. The difference is the effect of the language; Morrison’s vivid prose makes the story come alive inside the reader’s mind.
According to Henry James, characters are only as interesting as their responses to particular situations. The character s response in the two short stories I have chosen is the reason I chose them. In Jack London s To Build A Fire and Edgar Allen Poe s The Tell-Tale Heart the character s reaction to each situation leads the reader to read more to find out what happens next. It is interesting to ...
The themes of this novel are brought out before the story even begins. On the two pages prior to Part One of the novel, Morrison has her dedication. On one page, it simply reads “Daddy,” on the other it reads, “The fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names.” These two pages show the set up for the importance of kin and connections. Milkman’s search for meaning in his life leads him to his family roots, to “his people.” His ability to find worth in himself comes from this comprehension that his father, and his father’s father, all that came before him had worth, had importance in their lives. This knowledge helps him understand and respect not only those around him, but ultimately himself. The characters that Morrison created affect the reader because they are realistic. They love, they hate, they hurt, and most importantly, they have flaws. The humanity of the characters is shown in characters such as Pilate, when she lies dying and says, “I wish I’d a knowed more people. I would have loved all. If I’d a knowed more, I would a loved more” (336).
Morrison’s characters force a reader to look at the strength and fragilities of human nature that is inherent in everyone, regardless of race, gender, or age.
Although a challenging read Song of Solomon is a novel that I would recommend to anyone willing to invest the time. A surface read will not suffice for the complexity of Morrison’s prose. The thematic goal of this novel is achieved because of Morrison’s intricate style. Her language throughout the novel forces a reader to take an active role in fully understanding the significance of her words. However, because of this the novel is more rewarding for the reader. Toni Morrison’s writing is layered with meaning, and exceptional in its ability to cause emotions in the reader. The truthfulness of the characters, and the beauty and depth of the story, makes it one well worth the read.