The novel begins with the account of Robert Smith, an insurance agent who had promised to “take off…and fly away on [his] own wings” (Morrison 3). Standing on the roof of Mercy Hospital wearing “blue silk wings,” Smith proclaims to a growing crowd that he will fly (Morrison 5). Unfortunately, he is ultimately unable to take flight and falls to his death among the crowd. This is the first image of attempted flight in the novel and the first glimpse of flight being viewed as both possible and natural. Those who had gathered to view Smith’s flight did not “cry out to [him]” or attempt to prevent his leap, but instead encouraged him, implying that t...
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...ers to and rides the air, and whether he reenacts the suicide of Robert Smith or delivers himself into “the killing arms of his brother,” Milkman escapes through flight (Morrison 337).
During the long period of time in which Milkman doubts human flight, he is essentially shunned from his community. However, by accepting human flight as both a natural and possible occurrence, Milkman achieves acceptance. In actuality, flight as a means of escape is conveyed as a selfish act, harming all those left behind. Furthermore, in reference to Robert Smith and Milkman, death, not flight, was what caused them to essentially escape. In Song of Solomon, flight comes across as an act of desperation, in which those involved would risk anything to escape their troubled lives. Only when you “surrendered [yourself] to the air” could you truly escape and find freedom (Morrison 337).
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