Essay One – Prompt 10
Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, is a coming of age story, with the main component of a characters identities being connected to their name. Names reflect a character’s personality, and are what influences a characters life. In Milkman’s case, searching for his story is equivalent to searching out his name. With each story he hears about his ancestors, he moves closer to reclaiming the identity of his forefathers. Compelled to find both his individual and collective identity, he wrestles with the beliefs of the black community and the emptiness that haunts him. Milkman, along with the reader, comes to understands that all names have a story to them, and each story plays a pivotal role in the ancestry of his family.
The epigraph to Song of Solomon introduces the reader to one of the novels most predominant themes: Names. “The fathers may soar/ and the children may know their names”(epigraph). With these words, even before the novel starts, Morrison is able to connect stories to the names. The stories, presented through the past, present, and future, come to dictate the novels progression through time.
The first chapter of the novel serves as a perfect example of how a name – and in some cases the name refers to a location rather than a character – is able to present a story in a subtle but distinct manner. The novel starts with Mr. Smith, the depressed insurance agent who is getting ready to jump from the top of Mercy Hospital. Smiths name speaks to the role of his character. He is given such a common name that he is almost disseminated into insignificance, there seems to be nothing great about his character. He lives a mundane life. This man is on the edge of a building about to ...
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... understanding and acceptance of the song, Milkman takes pride in his family history. The re¬assembly of all the Dead’s in Shalimar (the place named after their ancestors) gives off a feeling of togetherness. The understanding of the name and the story it symbolizes is what can bring the Dead family back together. The phrase “Song of Solomon” takes on more than one meaning, as the song matches the story of Milkman’s great¬ grandfather and the eponymous Bible story. Yet it serves as a reminder. Just like with so many things in the novel, Morrison shows us that there are many stories and meanings to names. Whether it is used as a street, city, or character, every name has a story. Just as the names of the characters foreshadow what their life is to become, so does Morrison in naming the novel, as the name of it predicts it’s ending, as if done by destiny.