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Song of Solomon | Quotes

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1.

The ... Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The first sentence of the novel shows the central importance of a black man believing in the possibility of being able to fly. This desire is so strong that it drives a man to jump off a hospital roof. This sentence establishes the symbol of flight, which the author uses throughout the novel.

2.

The ... boy discovered ... that only birds and airplanes could fly—he lost ... interest in himself.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The passage shows how vitally important it is to Milkman to have faith in the ability to fly. After he loses this faith, he becomes disillusioned. This disillusionment strongly affects Milkman as he grows up, causing him to become a passive, bored young man.

3.

But it lacked coherence, a coming together of the features into a total self.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Milkman grows up not having a strong sense of his identity. As a result when he looks at himself in the mirror, he fails to get a sense of his whole self. Disconnected from his ancestral past, Milkman is an incomplete person.

4.

Then she tackled ... how she wanted to live and what was valuable to her.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 5

In contrast to Milkman, Pilate is a person who forges her own identity. The quote says she "tackled," emphasizing how Pilate assertively chose the path of her life. Pilate's connection with her ancestors helps give her the strength to carve her own unique place in the world.

5.

No. White people are unnatural. As a race they are unnatural.


Guitar, Part 1, Chapter 6

This passage emphasizes how white racism has caused Guitar to view the entire white race as "unnatural" or inferior. Guitar's hatred of white racists has caused him to adopt a racist perspective.

6.

It's not about you living longer. It's about how you live and why.


Guitar, Part 1, Chapter 6

Guitar stresses to Milkman that living a long, comfortable life is not important. Instead the quality of a person's life and what a person lives for is important. Guitar is trying to shake Milkman out of his malaise, which involves coasting through life being committed to nothing or no one.

7.

I said she killed herself rather than do the work I'd been doing all my life!


Circe, Part 2, Chapter 10

Circe emphasizes the racism of her former employer, Miss Butler. This woman's sense of superiority is so extreme that she would rather die than stoop to do the work of her maid. Also Miss Butler's attitude motivates Circe to keep on living. Circe's hatred of the racist Butler family is so strong that she wants to make sure the entire Butler house falls into ruins before she dies.

8.

You can't own a human being. You can't lose what you don't own.


Guitar, Part 2, Chapter 13

Guitar emphasizes to Hagar the futility of her obsession, and in so doing reminds readers of the heritage of racism and slavery. The passage stresses how anyone who finds self-worth in another person, whether as a woman invested in a man or a black man invested in white men, is doomed to failure.

9.

They say she screamed and screamed, lost her mind completely.


Susan, Part 2, Chapter 14

This passage describes the severe consequences of Solomon's flight. When he took off, Solomon left behind his wife, Ryna, and children to fend for themselves. Ryna could not deal with the loss and went insane. It is another example of an abandoned woman, but also a sign of how deeply fearful all people are of seeing a black man assert his independence.

10.

He just took off; got fed up ... No more cotton! ... No more orders!


Milkman Dead, Part 2, Chapter 15

In contrast to Ryna, Solomon's flight has an energizing, empowering effect on Milkman. He realizes that he has much more potential than he knew. When Milkman learns of Solomon's flight, he not only admires his great-grandfather but also embraces his family heritage as something important to his life.

11.

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 15

The last sentence of the novel emphasizes the result of Milkman's connection with his ancestral past. By establishing this link, he also taps into his own potential as a black man. Milkman realizes he has the ability to transcend life's problems.

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