Flight is a major theme in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. “Flight echoes throughout the story as a reward, as a hoped-for skill, as an escape, and as proof of intrinsic worth; however, by the end this is not so clear a proposition”(Lubiano 96). Song of Solomon ends with ‘flight’ but in such a way that the act allows for multiple interpretations: suicide; "real" flight and then a wheeling attack on his "brother"; or "real" flight and then some kind of encounter with the (possibly) killing arms of his brother.
That Guitar places his rifle on the ground does not make him any less deadly - his smile and the dropping of the gun both precede the language of "killing arms" - and his "my man - my main man" is an echo of the same irony that allowed Guitar to call Milkman his friend even after his prior attempt at killing him (Middleton 298). And Guitar's arms are killing, not just because they want to answer the challenge posed by Milkman's move toward him, but because they are the arms that have killed, that killed white people, that can kill anyone who isn't black, or anyone Guitar can convince himself isn't black: like Pilate. In other words, Guitar can make an "other" of anyone who crosses the boundaries of the definitions he constructs for the group that he purports to love: black people. What Guitar has constructed in his life is a category of political ciphers that does not allow for the existence of the idiosyncratic Pilate or for the existence of the individualistically apolitical Milkman. Milkman's journey forward to flight is a journey into his past; his future is behind him. The text's refutation of the idea of a whole untroubled self is thus crystallized in the ...
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... it is Pilate who represents not only embodied history but the praxis that comes with recognizing history's effects, the willingness to theorize about possibilities in the face of history, and the ability to make concrete alternatives to personal and public inequities. Remaining on the ground of history, then, is a labor of love.
Middleton, David. Toni Morrison's Fiction: Contemporary Criticism. New York: Garland, 1997.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
Lubiano, Wahneema. "The Postmodernist Rag: Political Identity and the Vernacular in Song of Solomon," in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon," in New Essays on Song of Solomon, ed. Valerie Smith, Cambridge University Press 1995, 93-116, 111-113:
Peterson, Nancy J. Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.
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