The African American families in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon present abnormality and dysfunction. Normalcy, seen in common nuclear families, is absent. The protagonist, Milkman, is shaped by his dysfunctional relationships with parental figures.
The abnormality of the mother and child relationship is apparent in Song of Solomon. The mother figure seems to have misguided hopes. Toni Morrison, presents an image of an unnatural, extended time of maternal bonding. The character, Ruth, breastfeeds her son, Milkman, until he is four or five years of age. Ruth breastfeeds Milkman for this unnaturally lengthy amount of time because it makes her feel like her son is a part of her. Breastfeeding him gives her immense pleasure and satisfaction. However, she hides her indulgence from the rest of the family until Freddie the janitor catches her. She knows it is wrong, but it makes her daily life bearable.
The children display a mild amount of disrespect leading to severe denial of motherly compassion. We see this in a passage from Song of Solomon.
"He had never loved his mother, but had always known that she loved him. And that had always seemed right to him, the way it should be. Her confirmed, eternal love of him, love that he didn't even have to earn or deserve, seemed to him natural(79)."
Milkman has a peculiar view of his mother. He did not think of his mother "as a person, a separate individual, with a life apart from allowing or interfering with his own(75)." Milkman does not think of his mother as an individual who needs his love or as a woman. To him it her duty in life to love him. He sees her as a frail creature that needs protection f...
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...is son has struck him. Yet, he feels pride in his son for standing up to him.
Song of Solomon, joined by the dysfunction in the families, present an insightful image of the individual and the family of African Americans. Milkman, gained strength and courage through the trials of abnormal, sometimes abusive upbringings. Each scar, whether it was mental or physical, was a lesson learned.
Byerman, Keith. "Songs of the Ancestors: Family in Song of Solomon." Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Toni Morrison. Ed. Nellie McKay. New York: MLA, 1997.
Middleton, David. Toni Morrison's Fiction: Contemporary Criticism. New York: Garland, 1997.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: The Penguin Group, 1977.
Storhoff, Gary. "'Anaconda Love': Parental Enmeshment in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon." Style 31.2 (1997): 290-309.
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