Song Of Solomon By Toni Morrison

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Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison's third novel, Song of Solomon, established her as a major American writer. The story of a Black man's search for his identity through a discovery of his family history, it became a bestseller and drew praise from readers and critics when it was published in 1977. The novel has been especially admired for the beauty of its language and its grounding of universal themes in the particularity of the African-American experience, as well as for its use of folklore.

Song of Solomon is based on an African-American folktale about slaves who can fly back to Africa when they choose. Morrison fictionalizes this folktale through the character of Solomon, the great-grandfather of the story's protagonist, Milkman Dead.


In 1931, an insurance sales person, Robert Smith, dresses up in a blue superman outfit and stands on the roof of Mercy hospital from which he plans to fly from across the Great Lakes. Below him, a crowd gathers to watch. Among them is Ruth Foster, her two daughters Corinthians and Magdelena called Lena. Ruth is pregnant. She is carrying a basket full of red velvet roses which she and her daughters have cut out. She drops them and everyone runs to pick them up before they're ruined. Pilate Dead, Ruth's sister-in-law sings a song: "Sugarman don't fly off and leave me." Robert Smith jumps and dies and Ruth goes into labor. She gives birth to the first African-American child born in Mercy hospital. (Conner & Cameron 2000)

A few years later, Macon Dead, Ruth's husband, who is a landlord of poor houses, hears of one of his tenants, Porter, going crazy and holding a rifle out of his bedroom window calling for a woman to come up to him and have sex with him. He goes to the house and waits for Porter to pass out and then sends his man, Freddie, upstairs to collect the rent. Macon goes home that night by way of Darling Street where Pilate, his sister lives. He sneaks up to the window and enjoys hearing Pilate, her daughter, Reba, and her granddaughter Hagar, singing together. His son is named Macon too, but he has been renamed Milkman after Freddie caught Ruth nursing him when he was long past infancy. (Furman & Morrison 2003, 79)

In 1936, the Dead family takes their usual Sunday drive in the Packard. Milkman has to urinate, so Macon stops on the side of the road and sends Lena to take him up the hill to urinate. When they come back, Lena is angry because Milkman accidentally urinated on her dress. Years later, when Milkman is twelve years old, he and his best friend Guitar go to see Pilate, whose house has been off limits to Milkman by order of Macon who considers her a bad woman. Pilate tells Milkman the story of her father getting shot back in Pennsylvania when she was only twelve. She had stayed with Macon for days after the death and then they had hidden ...
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