Toni Morrison's World of Fiction

By Karen Carmean | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
Song of Solomon

When Milkman Dead hurls his body at his best friend and mortal enemy Guitar Bains at the end of Song of Solomon, he enters the free fall into experience Sula lives. Unlike her, however, Milkman no longer feels detached from himself and his community. Indeed, his risk is a qualitatively different kind of experience, a paradoxically grounded leap of faith, for Milkman gains what Sula never consciously misses: a rich personal sense of cultural history connecting him to places, people, values, and a past that give life meaning and depth. Easily Morrison's most accessible novel, Song of Solomon draws upon several classical western literary traditions, specifically the theme of education, journey structure, and flight imagery. But Morrison's third novel, though incidentally similar to such important books of black literature as Invisible Man, Manchild in the Promised Land, and The Cheneysville Incident, differs because of her individual mix of conventions with originality. In Song of Solomon, Morrison stirs together folk and fairy tales, magic and root medicine, history and imagination for a distinctive fictional concoction.

Song of Solomon may at first read like many other examples of the bildungsroman genre, centering as it does on the education of Macon Dead III, called Milkman, as he searches for his meaning (identity) through discovery of his familial heritage and recognition of his human responsibility. Divided into two parts, Song of Solomon first focuses on Milkman's urban life in Michigan between 1931 and 1963 before sending him to the rural South in the second part to search for a reputed fortune he believes will free him from his family. Like many classical heroes,

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