Essay PreviewMore ↓
Milkman's Search for Self in Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is the story of Milkman's search for self. Milkman appears destined for a life of isolation and self-alienation. The Deads exemplify the patriarchal, nuclear family that has been a stable and critical feature of American society. The family is the institution for producing children, maintaining them, and providing individuals with the means to understand their place in the world order. But this nuclear patriarchal family creates many of the problems it should be solving.
What represses the Deads is the father, Macon: his single-minded ambition, his unscrupulous greed, his materialism, and his lack of nurturing his family. Macon does not concentrate on being a loving and nurturing father; instead he concentrates on another aspect of paternity, the acquisition of property. Macon aspires to own property and other people too. His words to his son, "Let me tell you right now the one important thing that you'll ever need to know: Own things. And let the things you own own other things too. Then you'll own yourself and other people too". The owning of things as well as other people is a rather remarkable statement, coming from a descendant of slaves. Macon has not inherited this trait from his father, even though he mistakenly thinks so. His father had owned things that "grew" other things, not "owned" other things.
Pilate Dead, Macon's younger sister, is a marked contrast to her brother and his family. Macon has a love of property and money, and this determines the nature of his relationships with others. Pilate has a sheer disregard for status, occupation, hygiene, and manners, and has the capability to respect, love, and trust. Her self-sufficiency and isolation prevent her from being trapped or destroyed by the decaying values that threaten her brother's life.
The first part of the novel details the birth of Macon Dead III, the first black baby to ever be born at Mercy Hospital, which has been named by the African American community as No-Mercy Hospital. He acquires the name Milkman when people learn that his mother is still nursing him long after it is considered normal to do so. His father, Macon Dead, is a cold, insensitive man who places undue importance on material wealth and intimidates all he comes into contact with. Macon forbids Milkman to visit his Aunt Pilate because her eccentric ways, her unkempt appearance, and her stubborn insistence in making bootleg liquor embarrass him.
How to Cite this Page
"Free Song of Solomon Essays: Milkman's Search for Self." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Feb 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Milkman’s Search for Identity in Song of Solomon Song of Solomon tells the story of Dead's unwitting search for identity. Milkman appears to be destined for a life of self-alienation and isolation because of his commitment to the materialism and the linear conception of time that are part of the legacy he receives from his father, Macon Dead. However, during a trip to his ancestral home, “Milkman comes to understand his place in a cultural and familial community and to appreciate the value of conceiving of time as a cyclical process”(Smith 58).... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
664 words (1.9 pages)
- Search for Personal Freedom Song of Solomon Personal freedom is the ability to ignore societal and familial influences to find the true sense of self. Individuals are truly liberated when they are physically, mentally, and spiritually free. The search for personal freedom is exemplified in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. The main protagonist, Milkman achieves personal freedom through attainment of knowledge, by confronting his family, and by overcoming the prejudices of society. Knowledge is a primary factor in the attainment of personal freedom.... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
1618 words (4.6 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Literature]
1080 words (3.1 pages)
- Milkman's Transformation in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon Milkman experiences many changes in behavior throughout the novel Song of Solomon. Until his early thirties most would consider him self centered, or even self-loathing. Until his maturity he is spoiled by his mother Ruth and sisters Lena and Corinthian because he is a male. He is considered wealthy for the neighborhood he grew up in and he doesn't socialize because of this. As a result of his spoiled childhood Milkman takes women for granted.... [tags: Song Solomon Toni Morrison Essays Papers]
689 words (2 pages)
- The Character of Pilate in Song of Solomon The character Pilate in Song of Solomon is portrayed in the role of a teacher or "guide". She tends to be a spiritual leader as well as a spiritual guide for Milkman and the rest of the society. It could be argued that she is the main cause of Milkman's liberation and better being. She represents the motherly love and gives the spiritual education that Milkman needs, in order to go through the monomyth process. She teaches Milkman the necessities of life not with severity but rather by means of being her own self.... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
811 words (2.3 pages)
- Inclusive Spirituality in Song of Solomon When slaves were brought to America they were taken from all they had known and forced to live in a land of dark irony that, while promising life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, provided them with only misery. In a situation such as the one in which the slaves found themselves, many people would rely on their religion to help them survive. But would slaves be able to find spiritual comfort within the parameters of a religion that had been passed on to them from the slaveholders.... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
878 words (2.5 pages)
- In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, the relationships between whites and blacks are a main theme. Throughout the whole novel Morrison adds her own opinions toward the race problems that the characters of Not Doctor Street experience. Poverty is another big issue in the novel and many of the main characters struggle financially. Money becomes a means of escape for many of the characters, especially Milkman and Guitar. For both men their quests for gold leaves them empty handed, but their personalities changed.... [tags: Song of Solomon Toni Morrison]
2033 words (5.8 pages)
- The African American Dream in Song of Solomon Like most Americans, African Americans have developed variations of the American Dream. Many African Americans find that their dream differs from the traditional American dream in that there is no immediate success. Sometimes the dream consists of equality via liberty or literacy, while at other times it is a simple desire to know self through historical connection. In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Milkman was literate and had many options for further education, if so desired.... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
960 words (2.7 pages)
- The American Dream Revised in Song of Solomon America was founded on the belief that "all men are created equal." However, a question must be posed which asks who constitutes "men" and what is "equal"? Africans were taken from their country and enslaved in America. They had to fight to retain dignity and grace in circumstances that were deplorable. Even slaves who were well taken care of were not able to realize the dream of being free again. In her work, Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison relates a story of the dream of Milkman. Although he is not a slave, Milkman is enslaved by the fact that as a child, he was forced to participate in a shameful act that he wanted no part of.... [tags: Song Solomon essays]
1117 words (3.2 pages)
- Fight for Freedom in Toni Morrison's The Song of Solomon "The scream that boomed down the cave tunnel and woke the bats came just when Macon thought that he had taken his last living breath. The bleeding man turned toward the direction of the scream and looked at the colored girl long enough for Macon to pull out his knife and bring it down the old man's back. He crashed forward, then turned his head to look at them. His mouth moved and he mumbles something that sounds like 'What for?' Macon stabbed him again and again until he stopped moving his mouth, stop trying to talk and stopped jumping and twitching on the ground" (pg.... [tags: Song of Solomon Essays]
876 words (2.5 pages)
- Essay on Control in Song of Solomon
- Emmett Till and Song of Solomon
- Macon and the White Man in Song of Solomon
- Essay on Individual Verses Society in Song of Solomon
- Comparing Families in Song of Solomon, Push, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
- The African-American Nightmare Exposed in Black Literature
When Milkman lives at home in Michigan, he perceives the world in the same materialistic terms that are similar to his father's. In the second part of the novel, his search for gold leads him to Virginia. This is an indication that he wants to escape from his past and achieve a sense of identity only by finding material treasure. He assumes that his trip south holds the key to his liberation. But it is not the gold that saves him. Milkman's mental development rests partly on his understanding of the ways in which his life is connected to others' experiences, and partly on establishing an intimate connection with the land and life of his ancestors. These understandings lead to his greater achievement of learning to complete, understand, and sing the song that contains the history of his family.
The character of Milkman undergoes change over time. Initially, Milkman's treatment of his friends and relatives is appalling, and he hurts everyone around him. This is shown in detail through Milkman's treatment of Hagar. The sexual relationship between Milkman and his cousin Hagar is doomed at the start since it breaks this African cultural practice. Milkman loves Hagar at first sight and wants to get to know her better. After many years in which they have sex and are very close, Milkman then drops her and goes after younger girls. It seems as though his desire was not a fulfilling relationship and one that could stand the test of time. He was searching just for the physical pleasure that comes in a short-term relationship.
The Fisher King is a movie that questions the value of material possessions in many circumstances. Jack, a famous radio talk-show host, indulges in his fame and fortune. He is a character similar to that of Howard Stern, brash and rude to the point where some of his callers are hurt emotionally. Jack doesn't expect his listeners to take what he says to heart, but a man who received advice from him was involved in a murder.
Jack loved his celebrity status and could not see his life being any other way. He was not concerned whether his image was good or bad, just the fact that his image was well known was good enough for him. After the murder, he realized the affect his statements had on people and that they actually listened to his show for advice. He had all the material possessions he could possibly want, but the homicide hit a soft spot in his heart and he quit his job. How could he go on loving not giving a damn about what he was saying? He just couldn't, and his sorrow turned to depression, which led to an alcohol problem.
Jack's life was out of control and the downward spiral kept getting worse, until one day when he met a homeless man named Perry. Perry was the complete opposite of what Jack used to be, so unconcerned about luxuries or material possessions. He was happy and content with his life, except for the fact that he had lost his wife. This homeless man seemed like an outrageous and insane character, considering he desired the Holy Grail and always saw a red, monstrous creature. But, really all he wanted was love and happiness. He dreamed of meeting this one woman in hopes to find a more complete happiness. His guidance helped show Jack that money was not the ultimate prize. Money is just a luxury, but love and happiness with your self is most important. Jack begins to realize what Perry is saying and does not see him as a mad man anymore. He helps Perry get together with his dream girl, and thinks he is doing the right thing by helping other people, just like on his talk show. But, in reality, his motives are wrong and he is doing this for all the incorrect reasons. He is doing it for himself, to prove that he is not just one-dimensional. However, his heart is not set on Perry and what he actually wants. He is oblivious to the reasons behind others wants and desires, and only strives to accomplish something for himself.
The novel builds on contradictions of material pursuit and selflessness. Macon desires the money, the power, and the luxuries, much as does Jack. They want to own people and control them. They desire influence and are always concerned with their image. The caring and selflessness that Perry displays throughout the movie while helping Jack get back on his feet is similar to the characteristics of Milkman by the end of the story. He realizes that materials are not what is important. It's the people you know and your past that you should perceive as most important. Helping others and concern for the welfare of others is more beneficial to your complete sense of happiness and content.