Song of Solomon: A Bildungsroman of Milkman

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It can be said that Song of Solomon is bildungsroman which is defined by The Encyclopedia Britannica as “a class of novel that deals with the [coming-of-age or] formative years of an individual”. Furthermore, in a bildungsroman, a main protagonist usually undergoes some transformation after seeking truth or philosophical enlightenment. In Morrison’s novel, the plot follows the main protagonist Milkman as he matures within his community while developing relationships with others and discovering his individual identity. In an essay titled Call and Response, Marilyn Sanders Mobley notes that “What Song of Solomon does ultimately is suggest that a viable sense of African American identity comes from responding to alternative constructions of self and community other that those received from mainstream American culture” (Smith 42). This viewpoint of discovering one’s identity in community is expressed in Song of Solomon and is expressed in other African-American literature including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Raisin in the Sun and The Tropics in New York. Milkman’s development of an individual identity which ultimately eschews mainstream American ideals of wealth, prosperity, and Western culture exemplifies a fundamental theme that is analogous to a predicament African-Americans encounter. Understanding the concept of individual identity necessitates some comprehension of the motif of flight in Song of Solomon. Flight in the novel alludes to the African-American pursuit for an identity. Before Milkman is born, the novel introduces the scene of Robert Smith, an inconspicuous insurance agent who commits suicide by leaping off the cupola of Mercy Hospital – “flying off on his own wings.” Milkman’s search for an identity begins as ... ... middle of paper ... ...ongly of Murchison, she rejects him because of the pro-assimilation of American culture he represents. Benetha’s experience supports the claim made by Mobley earlier. In conclusion, the African-American identity, while bonded to a portion of lost ties to Africa, is not bonded to mainstream American ideals of wealth, prosperity, or Western culture. Works Cited Hansberry, Lorraine. "A Raisin in the Sun." Ed. Nellie Y. McKay. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Comp. Henry Louis. Gates. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2004. 1771-830. Print. Mobley, Marilyn Sanders. "Call and Response." New Essays on Song of Solomon. Ed. Valerie Smith. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge UP, 1995. 42-43. Print. Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Knopf, 1989. Print. X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine, 1999. Print.

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