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Toni Morrison's work Song of Solomon describes the realities of African-Americans in the United States. It delves into the lives of four generations. The story focuses on slaves who fled to Africa from the United States as a consequence of discrimination, racism, and violations of human rights. The Song of Solomon goes on to discuss the enormous exodus of African-Americans who lived in the southern region of the United States. This movement occurred during the civil war in the 1960s. (Houghton par 1,2) To just give an overview of the novel, it explains the story of Macon “Milkman”, a young man who has been separated from his family, community and culture. The young man feels that he lacks something very essential. His auntie Pilate and friend Guitar Bains enabled Macon to re-unite with his family, culture and personality. This novel can be entirely divided into two parts. First part is covered in chapters 1-9 which is in a setting of Detroit city. These chapters basically explore Milkman’s life as a young man and it is evident that he lacked clear parental guidance. Sometimes later Milkman’s father, Macon and his sister Pilate ran away from home after an occurrence of their father’s murder. The duo later parted ways after a disagreement but surprisingly, they met in the city of Michigan. Macon perceives Pilate as a betrayer. First section ends with Milkman making a decision to leave Michigan so as to search for his lost inheritance. (Houghton par 1,2)
In the second part which is covered in chapters 10-15, Milkman arrives in Danville, where his grandfather resided before his murder. Unfortunately, Milkman s unable to trace his inheritance. He carries out an adventure on his ancestral background and luckily, he is able discover that people of their lineage reside in the town of Shalimar. Successfully, Milkman is able to re-unite with family members of his father. It is as a result of this interaction that the spiritual meaning of Milkman’s inheritance is unfolded to him. (Houghton par 1,2)
In this article, the theme of Identity and Self-Definition in the novel song of Solomon will be explored. It can be confidently pointed out that this novel is centered on the search of identity and self-definition. Various characters in the novel want their personality to be identified and this is revealed through their actions. Actions undertaken by various characters in the story such as Milkman helps the reader to develop a sense of self-definition about the characters involved. Specifically, this theme is clearly revealed when Morrison describes to the reader Milkman’s journey to southern part of the United States where he is on a mission to trace the residence place of his ancestor. Analyzing Milkman’s journey literally means that he is seeking to restore identity and self-definition with his ancestors. (Morrison 1)
Just to make a flashback, it has to be recalled that Milkman had never had a personal interaction with his ancestors because his father had already escaped heir place of residence due to threats which had lead to murder of Milkman’s grandfather. Milkman therefore felt a strong urge to restore the ancestral bond which had been lost as a result of the escape. He embarks on a journey even without any assurance whether he will be able to meet the ancestors because he is quite uncertain of their place of residence. This young man undertakes such a tiresome and geographical journey so that he can re-unite with his ancestors and develop not only a sense of cultural understanding but also personal understanding. (Morrison 2).
The theme of identity starts to be revealed in the first line of the novel which stipulates that the agent of North California Mutual Life Insurance had promised to fly from Mercy to other side of lake superior at three o’clock. The novel begins in an unfamiliar manner whereby a formal introduction is done to a man who is identified by his occupation. This aspect of the theme of identity has been manifested in the whole novel where individuals are not identified by their character but by the impersonality of their work. (Morrison 8).
There is a difference between siblings which can be comprehensively explained under the theme of identity. These differences bring a close relationship which exists between identity, self-definition and geography. For example, there is a phrase which stipulates that Pilate lives a wanderer’s lifestyle and her identity is associated with the locality where she has been living. (Janquera 60). In short, different opening phrases in this novel reveal that there is a close relationship which exists between the past, identity and self-identification. In the above mentioned phrase in page six for example, the personnel of Pilate is associated with the locality where she had been living.
Milkman embarks on a journey so that he can reconnect with his ancestors. In order to further emphasize on the urge for reconnection, the author explains that Milkman abandoned the plane and travelled by bus further southwards. This is another fact which reveals that Milkman is in
much need of having a self-identification and cultural identity because he was determined to use the uncomfortable means of transport so that he could reconnect with his ancestors. The bus means of transport enables Milkman to easily identify himself with the nature and surroundings of local people. Something that would not have ever happened if he had comfortably stayed at Detroit. The author further explains that at some instances, Milkman had to travel by foot which offers a wonderful opportunity for him to understand nature and places. In other terms, he is able to identify himself with these places and cultures of his ancestors. Precisely, the identification process continues to be revealed in Danville where he develops a clear understanding on their place of origin, people and culture. (Junquera 66)
Stylistic device of a song has been used to bring out the theme of identity and self-identification in various generations. Singing is used as a means of recall the past, and bring people closer. Pilate who is a key character in the novel sings constantly. When Macon is separated from his family and black culture, he seeks identification from songs sung by Pilate and soon he remembers his childhood nostalgia and soon he gains self-identification to Pilate, his father and his culture. It is clear that songs bring identity through shared life experiences. There is also a song sung by children of Shalimar about the flight of Solomon. This song deeply explains the manner in which Milkman effortlessly reconnects with his ancestors and past experience. Milkman admirers the ocean as he yearns to baptize himself with its waters. This baptism resembles that he had experienced in the forest stream. In other words, baptism in this context is about Milkman’s shared identity. (Smith & Valerie 53)
The theme of identity and self-identification is revealed throughout the novel. Milkman seek personal identification with his culture and ancestors. Characters who disconnected from their cultures and society seek to create strong bonds once again. The novel is centered on Milkman’s journey from personal discrimination to his establishment of his ancestral
identification and cultural identity.
Houghton Mifflin. Song of Solomon Book Summary. Retrieved from http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/s/song-of-solomon/book-summary. 2013. web
Junquera, Carmen Flys. “Time as Georaphy in Song of Solomon”.
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