Song of Solomon
The first black boy ever born in Mercy Hospital in a town in Michigan comes into the world the day after an insurance agent named Robert Smith kills himself by trying to “fly” from the roof of the hospital across Lake Superior. The boy's mother, Ruth, nurses him until he is eight or nine years old, thus earning him the ridiculous nickname Milkman.
Milkman befriends an older boy named Guitar, visits his Aunt Pilate, and falls in love with Pilate’s granddaughter Hagar. Milkman also lives in fear of his father, the methodical businessman Macon Dead. When Macon discovers that Milkman has been visiting Pilate's house, he makes the boy come to work for him to diminish his free time. Milkman is given the job of collecting the rents from the poor tenants whose houses his father, one of the wealthiest black men in the town, owns.
Milkman grows up working for and fearing his father, hanging out with Guitar, and spending any free time with Pilate and Hagar.
Eventually he begins an affair with Hagar; around the same time he also stands up to his father by knocking him into a radiator after Macon slaps Milkman’s mother. In response, Macon confides in Milkman that he believes Ruth to have had a seeming sexual affair with her own father, the prominent citizen Doctor Foster. When he confronts his mother, extremely agitated, she tells him that Macon Dead killed Doctor Foster by taking away medicine Doctor Foster needed to have to live.
When Milkman is in his thirties, he loses interest in Hagar and breaks off their affair. Hagar loses her mind and begins trying to murder Milkman, ritualistically, every month. Finally Milkman confronts her, but she is unable to kill him.
Guitar, meanwhile, has grown increasingly edgy and increasingly obsessed with the idea of Milkman's pampered position within the local black hierarchy; at last he divulges to Milkman that he is in a group called the Seven Days, which kills a white person for every black person murdered by a white. Each person has a different day; Guitar's day is Sunday; whenever a black person is murdered on a Sunday, Guitar murders a white person in the same fashion.
Milkman also learns that his sister, First Corinthians, is having an affair with another member of the group, Porter.
Troubled and increasingly preoccupied with the question of his family's hazy ...
... middle of paper ...
... South, the center of history for her family's experience in America
money and respectability--attributes associated throughout the book with whiteness
unrecorded African-American history radiates from particular centers; in Michigan, history is confusing and twisted while the trip south allows the history to get clearer and clearer
As Milkman travels into the South, his experiences become even more lyrically expressive, and less concretely tied to reality the song he hears the children singing, which contains his family history, is the same as the song Pilate sang when Robert Smith leapt to his death the day before Milkman was born
Guitar's obsession with the gold heightens dramatically just as Milkman's obsession with his history does
The legend of the flying slave Solomon, the central myth of the novel and the source of its title (which also, of course, echoes the Biblical song of love), is completed, giving Milkman a fully fledged family history, even if his history is a legend.
Morrison, Toni. www.oprahbookclub.com/morrison. Date visited: Jan 2nd 2001.
Morrison, Toni. World Book Encyclopedia. Toronto, 1994
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