Eternal Identity

877 Words4 Pages
In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, the transformation Milkman undergoes when he visits Shalimar to learn about his family history is a critical part of the book which I found difficult to understand and relate to at first. Milkman, the main character, is superficially very different from me, being from a different age group, a different ethnicity, and a different time period. Yet, Milkman’s unspoken quest of self-identity is not one foreign to me. When I lived with my grandparents in China, my grandfather’s devotion to science help me find my own identity and my own goals in life. When I realized that Milkman sees in his family history a sense of identity, I understood why he makes such effort to learn his family’s past and Morrison’s reasoning behind leaving the novel’s ending open to the reader. On my first reading, I saw only the plot points of the novel. At age 31, Milkman ventures into a cave in search of the lost gold of an old man whom his father killed, motivated by the greed that characterizes his personality. However, when the gold is nowhere to be found, Milkman’s greed seems to have suddenly vanishes and he embarks on a strenuous journey to find out his family history. Milkman’s character seemed fake to me. He makes such an effort to discover his past, which his distant and cold personality has no reason to value. This personality is exemplified when Milkman chooses to focus on his own problems rather than the dangers of racism after the lynching of Emmett Till. During Milkman’s stay in Shalimar, Morrison includes in the plot multiple minor events seemingly unrelated to the ending, including the introduction of the character Sweet, a prostitute who Milkman befriends. Aside from providing Milkman with clues regarding... ... middle of paper ... ...ircles overhead and picks up her snuff box, showing that her identity will live on even after her death. Milkman takes his leap and the rest is left open to the reader, because Morrison intended to show that it doesn’t matter who dies next. Milkman has already found his sense of self which is far more important than being alive. Even if he dies, his identity will live on like Pilate’s. Identity is what defines a life and what inspires pride in a person. It is what provides purpose for being alive; what drives a person to live on. For me, the book sent one key message: one’s identity is eternal. In searching for my own identity, I found my purpose in life. I want to devote myself to science to help society. If one has changed the world, one’s identity will be eternal. To quote from Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
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