Monday, December 14, 2015

The Style of Song of Solomon

Song of ­Solomon is an interesting novel, not only for its content, but also for the style in which it is written. This novel seems to be a combination of a coming of age story as well as an epic heroic quest-type story. Song of Solomon also contains some elements of a tragic love story like the one we saw in Wide Sargasso Sea.
I think the way Morrison crafts Song of Solomon as a coming of age story is very unique. For much of the novel and Milkman’s life, we see very little character development. Only now, in his thirties, do we see him breaking away from his family and hometown, and really becoming an independent adult. When I think of a coming of age story, I think of one in which the main character is a teenager or young adult, not in his thirties. Even though the age at which Milkman really finds out who he his is a little delayed, Song of Solomon still follows a typical coming of age story line where the main character goes on an adventure or blossoms under an extenuating and learns a lot about the world and themselves.
The adventure that Milkman goes on brings me to my next point, the sort of epic quest in Song of Solomon. Like we talked about in class today, Milkman’s journey/wild goose chase through the south for gold is reminiscent of other epic quest like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even though (as of yet) Milkman has not struck gold, he meets his relatives along the way and learns about his families past and in a sense, comes of age.
Throughout the course of this adventure and Milkman’s coming of age, made me develop a new opinion on many of the main characters in Song of Solomon. I like Milkman a lot more now that I see him being independent and also becoming a more empathetic person (e.g helping the man with the crate). Likewise, I no longer like Guitar and Hagar. Since Milkman has left (although even before for Hagar), they have changed for the worse. Guitar is trying to kill his best friend and Hagar completely defines herself by him. Where Milkman is trying to have his father dictate his actions less, Guitar and Hagar let Milkman solely define theirs.
I think that Song of Solomon could also be describes as a tragic love story. Hagar and Milkman’s relationship has deteriorated and Hagar is driven to insanity by Milkman’s lack of love for her. We see her as the “mad woman” trying to kill him every month, similar to how Antoinette was driven to madness by Rochester’s cruelty and tries to burn his house down once in England. Guitar and Milkman’s relationship at the end of the book is also pretty tragic. They used to be best friends and now Guitar is convinced Milkman is cheating him so he wants to kill him. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Guitar want’s to kill Milkman, but that fact is a lot sadder because Guitar seemed to be Milkman’s only friend not related to him by blood.


  1. It's interesting that you draw a parallel between Hagar's attempts to kill Milkman and Antoinette burning Rochester's house down in England. As you mentioned above, it's hard to like Hagar by the end of the book because of her seemingly insane actions. However when Antoinette is put in a similar spot, driven to insanity by a failing relationship, as a class we tended to sympathize with her. Perhaps this is because in Wide Sargasso Sea we were given Antoinette's background, as well as a clearer narrative of her struggles with Rochester, whereas in Song of Solomon Milkman doesn't really tell us much about Hagar, and we definitely don't get an in-depth narrative from her.

  2. I feel like perhaps Hagar and Guitar turned out the way they somewhat in reaction to milkman and things that would change with him. Milkman seemingly just left everything, and while that may cast him in a more favorable light when you are able to look at him isolated, we should not forget his past.

  3. It has occurred to me that I could teach _Song of Solomon_ in at least four different classes: 20th Century Novel, of course; African American Literature; the Coming-of-Age Novel; and The Hero's Journey. It represents important innovations in all these categories. And if I stretch it a little, I maybe also could shoehorn it into History as Fiction, with all the stuff about Milkman interpreting these stories, folk songs, and obviously "fictional" elements (ghosts, witches, flying men) as his personal/familial *history*.

    So, yeah, a pretty versatile book, interesting in a broad range of contexts.

  4. I think it would make an interesting book for Hero's Journey. It gives a totally different spin on the meaning of the word "hero". While Milkman's situation is like a quest and as the protagonist Milkman is the "hero", it just feels sort of wrong. Having a 30 year old boy as the hero doesn't feel right. But it would be interesting to compare Milkman to other heroes.