The novel, Song of Solomon, is quite a conflicting yet compelling story. Written in 1977 by the Nobel Prize for Literature winner Toni Morrison, the book is quite famous for its author. She was the first African-American woman to earn a Nobel Prize, instantly leading to the novel’s widespread fame. However, elements of the story become much more interesting beneath the surface. It circles around a family known as the Deads, living in chaotic yet transformative times.
The story’s protagonist is Milkman, solely for still being breastfed at the age of four. The story’s cultural, racial, political, and economic dynamics make it a bewildering journey. This article explores the themes and their complexities, highlighting the power of family, greed, racism, and human vulnerability.
The Theme of Faith & Freedom
Faith and freedom are often used in an intertwining manner throughout the book. The opening chapter presents a man attempting to fly off a hospital’s roof. He inevitably falls to his death, with a crowd of predominantly African-American individuals at the bottom. To fully comprehend this, check out the Song of Solomon summary, providing a more extensive insight. However, the most exciting aspect of the man who leaped off the building is that Milkman’s mother was in labor in the same hospital.
Nevertheless, the entirety of the book circles around leaps of faith and acts aimed at accomplishing freedom. The author manages to use such events throughout the novel in both a metaphorical and literal manner. Hence, the whole story tends to err on the side of magical realism. Moreover, we witness Milkman constantly in conflict within himself. However, he is only truly liberated once he believes in the power of flight, which puts an end to his feelings of alienation from family and society.
The Theme of Abandonment in Song of Solomon
We stumble upon numerous instances throughout the novel that emphasizes abandonment. This occurs in multiple different manners, mainly reflected in the abandonment of women and the effects of racism on society.
The Theme of Women’s Abandonment
Unlike the 21t century, women’s rights were not quite in motion around the time this story was written. Hence, one can witness numerous incidents throughout the book that exemplify the power dynamic between men and women. Even Morrison, the author, admits to it in a 1977 interview. She mentions why her novel circulates about men’s concept of freedom rather than women’s. Marrison said, “when I thought of that idea, I couldn’t use women characters to explicate that idea.”
There are two main scenes where this is emphasized. Firstly, when the story of Solomon breaking free from slavery and flying off as a symbol of freedom. However, that leaves his wife all alone. It also forces her to take care of her family without the aid of her husband. Moreover, one witnesses the ruthless breakup between Milkman and Hagar, leading Hagar to spiral into insanity over time. The main idea is that over-reliance on men leads women to suffer more drastic consequences upon abandonment.
The Theme of Social Detachment Due to Racism
While not a novel concept, racism in this book illustrates the devastating consequences once suffering due to trauma. It portrays the generational effects faced as a result of alienation from society. They are all due to the racism in the community. Numerous stories are illustrated in the book that circulates around the murder and violent acts committed against African-Americans.
However, it does not revolve around being victimized only; instead, it focuses on how such trauma leaves victims ruthless and vengeful. It even involves a secret society known as “The Seven Days,” in which revenge is sought after by murdering innocent white individuals.
Song of Solomon Theme of Living and Dead
While quite an eccentric take, the relationship between those alive and those who have passed away is a major one. For example, Milkman’s aunt, Pilate, is portrayed as a strong and successful woman. However, her relationship with her dead father is as tangible as anything else surrounding her. This simply represents how ancestors’ trauma and existence have the potential to leave long-lasting effects on the living.
Bottom Line: Themes Discussed in Song of Solomon
To conclude, the novel is a dynamic one. It involves numerous symbolism and metaphors. However, the main story revolves around racism and liberation from constraints. It also emphasizes ancestors’ role, illustrating their impact on people living now.
Moreover, the thrilling part of the story includes the dynamic between the living and the dead. Furthermore, it portrays the traumatic events that one faces that inevitably shape the way one lives their life. Regardless, Morrison was aware of her intense focus on men throughout the story. That was mainly due to her societal expectations when the novel was written.