Song of Solomon


Song of Soloman: A Search for a Beginning
O Sugarman done fly away
Sugarman done gone
Sugarman cut across the sky
Sugarman gone home? (6)1
Milkman was born to fly. Perhaps not! Maybe, he was just doomed to a life of flight. Toni Morrison seemingly presents her readers a choice. Milkman is born under a paradoxical cloud. His life seems to be destined for controversy. Toni Morrison eventually leaves the reader with a "choose your own ending" configuration. As in Beloved, Morrison's unique style of ending a novel with no finalization, only enhances the content and tickles the imagination. Evidence of the influence of Zora Neale Hurston is sprinkled liberally throughout the story. In addition to folklore and mythology, Song of Solomon is also rife with the cold, hard facts of reality. Did Milkman actually become airborne or was he merely a man, consistently trying to escape reality?
Toni Morrison's, Song of Solomon, was inspired in part, by All God's Chillun Had Wings (Andrews et al 103). According to this folk tale, at one time all Africans could fly. Through transgressions, they lost the ability of flight. On occasion, someone would shake off the weight of their burdens and be able to fly. Only a select few held onto remnants of the memory of flight. According to a legend in Hurston, the transgression, was eating salt. The Africans brought to Jamaica could all fly. They had never eaten salt. Those who ate salt after they arrived, stayed and became slaves because salt made them too heavy to fly. Those who did not partake, flew back to Africa. (Hurston 315). Whether Africans really fly or just escape a monumental burden, perhaps only through death, is a decision Toni Morrison has apparently left to her readers. Never the less, no matter what you believe, within Song of Solomon, the suggestion is, that in order to "fly" you must go back to the beginning, back to your roots. You must learn the "art" from the old messages.
Denise Heinz explains, what she calls the "Double Consciousness" of Toni Morrison, as an "endeavor to understand how self and identity are affected by society" (Heinze 14). Everyone appears to be searching for an identity in Song of Solomon. Identities seem to be very transient and change with the whims of society. No one is who they appear to be and nothing is as it seems. Some of the characters never grasp their elusive identity. But then, they are afraid to reach too far back. If they should, they might not like what they find. So, they are content to continue in their less interesting, less challenging, much less introspective world.
Song of Solomon is a scavenger hunt, with Milkman unearthing clues as he snatches up bits and pieces of wisdom that direct him to the treasure. Set deep within the black culture, the story begins in 1931 and moves quickly to the highly volatile sixties. In his quest for gold, Milkman uncovers the true treasure, his past. This knowledge unlocks the secret of his own identity. The ghosts of the past, explain the people of the present. In that instant, the secret of life becomes clear to him.
The circumstances encompassing Milkman's birth gave every evidence of the inner turmoil that was to follow him throughout his life and seems to cast a foreboding cloud on his future. Macon Dead III seems doomed as he is born into a family as scattered and artificial as the very rose petals his mother dropped with her first labor pain. As the velvet petals float to the ground, the insurance man spreads his wings and flies from Mercy. The flight is unsuccessful even though Pilate tries to "sing" him into the air. The death of Mr. Smith, and the confusion at Mercy (called No Mercy) Hospital allows Macon III to be the first black baby ever allowed to draw its first breath within those consecrated white halls.
Baby Macon is brought home to Not Doctor Street, which is really Mains Ave. He begins his life in the house of Dead. For all intents and purposes, this dysfunctional family may as well be dead, for none of them have a life. A total lack of communication has effectively closed all the doors in the home, as each member seems to live within their own, small room. The real world is securely locked outside.