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Song of Solomon | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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In Chapter 10 of Song of Solomon how does Morrison use the symbol of flight in relation to Milkman?

Morrison uses the symbol of flight to set the stage for Milkman's journey to Danville. During Milkman's airplane ride, the author describes Milkman as feeling invulnerable. Previously Morrison has shown flight as a basic urge of black men to escape their problems. As Milkman starts his trip, he allows this urge to be expressed. Up above the clouds Milkman feels as if he's made no mistakes and is free from his family's burdens. However, the author also stresses that this feeling at this point is illusionary or momentary. Milkman will return to the ground, where he will continue to face obstacles.

In Song of Solomon how does the sawmill accident that killed Guitar's father have symbolic resonance for Guitar's character?

The sawmill accident cuts Guitar's father physically in half. As a result the two halves are placed in the coffin with "each eye looking deep into its mate." This accident and the way the sawmill owner placated his mother sows the seeds of hatred in Guitar toward the white race. This hatred eventually cuts Guitar's soul in half. Part of him becomes an avenging machine motivated by hatred. The other half is a loving person who has a close relationship with his friends, including Milkman. Morrison clearly shows this division in Guitar at the end of the novel. Guitar tries to kill Milkman and, a few moments later, calls to his friend in an affectionate way.

In Chapter 10 of Song of Solomon how does Morrison show the significance of oral tradition for Milkman?

Morrison uses oral tradition in several ways in Chapter 10. First of all oral tradition serves as the method by which Milkman finds out information about his ancestors. Reverend Cooper and his friends regale Milkman with stories about his grandfather Jake (Macon Dead I). And Circe relates information about Jake's wife, Jake's corpse being put in the cave, and Pilate's birth. Oral tradition acts as a connection between Milkman and his ancestors. It's as if the spirit of Jake has been kept alive by his friends through oral tradition and then instilled in Milkman as he listens to the stories about his grandfather. Morrison uses oral tradition to inspire Milkman; he realizes that his grandfather was greatly admired, and as a result Milkman begins to feel pride about his family heritage.

In Chapter 11 of Song of Solomon how and for what reason do the local men demonstrate their dislike of Milkman?

The local men dislike Milkman because they think Milkman sees himself as being superior to them. All of the ways they are insulted by him are based on this dynamic. For instance, they hate Milkman for saying he could buy a car like "a bottle of whiskey" and thereby show them up. Milkman fails to introduce himself and ask what the men's names are, indicating he sees himself as above them. And he locked his car, suggesting he didn't trust the men. Even the way Milkman dresses highlights the fact that he has money and they don't, which places him above them. The narrator states, "His manner, his clothes were reminders that they had no crops ... and no land."

In Chapter 11 of Song of Solomon what are three ways Milkman moves from passiveness to aggressiveness?

Milkman moves from passiveness to aggressiveness by fighting the young man in Shalimar. He could have tried to avoid the fight and apologize. Instead, Milkman returned the young man's insults with insults of his own, thereby escalating the situation. By doing this Milkman shows that he will not be pushed around. Milkman takes part in the hunting expedition. For all Milkman knows, the local men might want to harm or kill him during the hunt. The narrator states that during the hunt Milkman wants to "shoot whatever the game was ... look out for an attempt ... on his life." So he throws caution aside and aggressively joins the hunters, which ends up being a life-altering experience. Milkman uses his newly developed sixth sense to realize that someone is about to attack him. As a result Milkman is able to defend himself from Guitar's attempt to take his life. Back in the city, Milkman would not have the keenness of mind to take such an assertive action.

In Chapter 11 of Song of Solomon what three reasons cause Milkman to reflect on his life while watching the hunters carve up the bobcat?

The hunters carving up the bobcat emphasize Milkman's newfound connection with his rural roots. Milkman has been accepted into this rural community and so reflects upon his life while watching the local men cut up the animal. The carving of the bobcat symbolizes Milkman's dissection of his own life. As the hunters meticulously cut up the animal, Milkman inspects parts of his life. The hunters have just taken the life of the bobcat because they want to use the animal for food. As Milkman watches the carving, he reflects on people wanting a black man's life. Milkman thinks, "Not his dead life; I mean his living life." So in a way Milkman identifies with the bobcat and how the hunters are cutting away and using various parts of it. Likewise people have been using parts of his life.

In Chapter 12 of Song of Solomon how does Morrison convey the theme of racism through Milkman's talk with Susan and Grace?

Morrison conveys the theme of racism by focusing on skin color. Susan and Grace both appear to be concerned about this, especially about black people with light skin passing themselves off as white. Because of racism, black people have suffered in a society dominated by whites. Some blacks of light complexion pretended to be white because they would be treated with more respect and have more advantages. Other African Americans with light skin viewed themselves as superior to other blacks. Dr. Foster is an example of this, and Susan seems to have adopted this attitude. When she first met Milkman, Susan was a little put off because of his dark skin.

In Song of Solomon how is Milkman's dream in Chapter 12 similar to and different from Milkman's experience in a plane in Chapter 10?

Milkman's dream and his experience flying in a plane both deal with Milkman feeling empowered by flight. However, his plane flight has caused an illusionary empowerment. He soon loses this sense as he faces problems in Danville and Shalimar. But Milkman's dream of flying seems more authentic and goes deeper. The sense of empowerment that the dream gives him stays with him. He couldn't get rid of the "sense of lightness and power that flying had given him." Also the dream connects with Milkman's ancestors. It is similar to the story of Solomon flying away. In both cases the person flying does not seem like Superman but rather is just lifted in the air. In other words the flying does not happen because of one's own strength but instead because the person relaxes.

In Chapter 12 of Song of Solomon why might Morrison use a children's rhyme to provide a key to Milkman's true identity?

Morrison uses the children's rhyme because it combines the symbols of singing, flight, and names, and it draws on oral tradition. Like other singing in the novel, the children singing the rhyme provides a connection to Milkman's ancestors. Also the rhyme emphasizes how the ability to fly is important to these ancestors, thereby reaffirming Milkman's urge to fly. The rhyme shows how names provide meaning to a family's history. When Milkman infers who these names refer to, he begins to understand more fully his past and himself. Finally the rhyme is a form of oral tradition. All of the information Milkman has gathered about his family has come from oral tradition, including this song.

In Chapter 13 of Song of Solomon how does the theme of racism relate to the theme of the abandonment of women?

Milkman's urge to escape or avoid his problems causes him to abandon Hagar. However, this abandonment takes place in the context of a history of racism. Because of racism, Milkman has grown up cut off from his identity as a black man and the vitality this identity provides. As a result he becomes bored with his life and disconnected from others. He harshly rejects Hagar. Also racism influences Hagar's insecurity about her identity. She senses that Milkman prefers silky hair like a white woman's and so doubts her attractiveness, directly linking her fears of abandonment to Milkman's desire to look good in the eyes of the white community. Her doubts cause her to cling to Milkman more and eventually leads her to despair.

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