Of the various manifestations of voice that participate in the interplay of voices in Song of Solomon, I would like to name three - the narrative voice, the signifying voice, and the responsive voice - each of which is dialogized within itself and in relation to the others.
In the opening scene of the novel, the third-person omniscient narrative voice [emphasis added] informs us that at the time of day that Mr. Smith plans to fly from the roof of Mercy Hospital, "word-of-mouth news just lumbered along" (3). This phrase not only encodes the black vernacular but also immediately directs the reader's attention to the cultural, communicative process by which the community structures itself. Interestingly, the phrase appears in the second sentence after Mr. Smith's note about his planned flight appears in the text. Thus, it abruptly shifts the reader's attention from the spectacle of Mr. Smith to the linguistic community of which he is a part. For this community, word of mouth is both a mode of communication and a category of knowledge upon which its members depend. The phrase also stands in contrast to the written word of Mr. Smith's note and therefore, paradoxically, points to his announcement as a suspension of the normative, just as the description of the community that follows the phrase suspends the reader, along with the curious crowd of onlookers. On the one hand, the narrative voice contextualizes the act of an individual with the attendant communal response; on the other hand, it concurrently informs the reader and abdicates any totalizing ability to do so. Perhaps more importantly, however, in the litany of information about how the bl...
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...significance to the listener.
By paying attention to how identity is constructed dialogically rather than monologically, the reader hears and celebrates the voices that Toni Morrison both directly and indirectly enacts in the text. But this process also enables the reader to critique those cultural hegemonic forces that have silenced some voices in the first place. A dialogic reading not only encourages the reader to relinquish interpretations which reduce the African American community to a monologic, manageable entity but discourages the reader from coming to closure too easily.
Marilyn Sanders Mobley, "Call and Response: Voice, Community and Dialogic Structures in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon," in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon," in New Essays on Song of Solomon, ed. Valerie Smith, Cambridge University Press 1995, 41-68.
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