’s Song Of Solomon Essay, Research Paper
The idea of complete independence and indifference to the surrounding world, symbolized by flying, stands as a prominent concept throughout Toni Morrison’s emphatic novel Song of Solomon. However, the main character Milkman feels that this freedom lies beyond his reach; he cannot escape the demands of his family and feel fulfilled at the same time. As Milkman’s best friend Guitar says through the novel, “Everybody wants a black man’s life,” a statement Milkman easily relates to while seeking escape from his sheltered life at home. Although none of the characters in the story successfully take control of Milkman’s life and future, many make aggressive attempts to do so including his best friend Guitar who, ironically, sympathizes with Milkman’s situation, his frustrated cousin Hagar, and most markedly his father, Macon Dead.
Guitar Bains, Milkman’s best friend since childhood, serves as Milkman’s only outlet to life outside his secluded and reserved family. Guitar introduces Milkman to Pilate, Reba, and Hagar, as well as to normal townspeople such as those that meet in the barber shop, and the weekend party-goers Milkman and Guitar fraternize with regularly. However, despite their close friendship, the opportunity to gain a large amount of gold severs all their friendly ties. Guitar, suspecting Milkman took all the gold for himself, allows his greed and anger to dictate his actions and sets out on a manhunt, ready to take Milkman down wherever and whenever he could in order to retrieve the hoarded riches. Guitar’s first few sniper attempts to execute Milkman did fail; however, the ending of the novel leaves the reader with the imminent death of either Milkman or Guitar. Ironic that the reader never discovers whether Guitar, who coined the statement, “Everybody wants the life of a black man” (222), ever gets the life of Milkman. Even though the reader does not learn whether anyone ever does get Milkman’s life, rest assured that despite her efforts, Hagar did not.
At the beginning of the novel Milkman visits Pilate’s household on a regular basis. Seeing it a refuge from his exceedingly dull life, he involves himself in the lives of his relatives; especially in that of Hagar. Throughout his adolescence, Hagar brushes off Milkman’s lascivious glances and displays of affection; however, as he matures, Hagar takes interest in Milkman and falls in love with him as she fulfills his sexual desires. Once Milkman’s lust for Hagar abates, he chooses to unceremoniously dump her and seek others within his own social group to fill the void (or rather, for him to fill her void). Hagar, abashed, searches for Milkman’s reasons for the sudden, unexpected change, but when she sees him with another woman her fury unleashes and initiates a colossal cascade of emotion that results in Hagar’s monthly attempts to kill Milkman. Feeling that she deserves Milkman’s love and attention more so than other women, Hagar rationalizes her actions with a very simple attitude: Milkman will either love me and include me in his life, or have no one at all. Hagar’s need for Milkman’s death soon vanishes, she cannot bring herself to murder the one she loves; however, this does not impede her from seeking other paths to Milkman’s heart. Although Hagar’s raging emotions result in many extreme measures taken towards Milkman, no one wanted both Milkman’s dead life and living life more than his father, Macon Dead.
Upon Milkman’s conception, his father Macon, suspecting his sister Pilate becharmed him into having sexual relations with his wife Ruth, fervently calls for Ruth to abort the child. Macon forces Ruth to make several attempts on the unborn child’s life, including enemas and the insertion of knitting needles into the vagina; Macon even resorts to punching Ruth in the stomach in a feeble attempt toward miscarriage as well as a show of his loathing for Ruth for placing him in such a situation. The failure to terminate Ruth’s pregnancy filled Macon with dread. Macon resented the fact that he was not the only man of importance in Ruth’s life; the strong bonds that composed the relationship between Ruth and her father before his death dwarfed Macon and Ruth’s relationship as a married couple. The birth of another child, especially a boy, would divert Ruth’s attention and make Macon the second man in Ruth’s life once again. After Milkman’s birth, Macon resents the fact that Ruth finds her greatest pleasure in the time shared with her son. As Milkman matures into adolescence, Macon asserts himself as the breadwinner of the family and involves Milkman in his real estate business. Macon delights in the veracity that his son truly dedicates himself to his job, almost as much as he enjoys drawing Milkman away from Ruth and depriving her of her only pleasure. Macon wants control of his son’s life for the sole reason of spiting his wife; to show her she does not possesses or influence Milkman’s way of life. Milkman sees this spitefulness emerges as the large barrier between Macon and Ruth, most evil, most dooming force within the novel.
Although seen as the main character in Song of Solomon, Milkman makes very few significant decisions of his own. All of Milkman’s choices and actions directly result from the emotions and activities of those around him. The barriers of jealousy and spite between his parents reach far into the lives of the Dead family members; Milkman, unable to live any longer in an environment composed of animosity, drives him to leave his home and search for “his people.” Serendipitously, although no single individual gains control of either Milkman’s living or dead life, Milkman’s need to escape from his collective family and surroundings unwittingly captures him and the life he so fervently aims to keep from the control of others.