Tony Morrison really likes to open a novel in an oddly way; as in Beloved, so is in Song of Solomon. It is opened with a suicide letter from an insurance agent, who announced that he will fly from the hospital top on certain date and hour. ‘Why?’ I instantly asked myself. And my question remained unanswered through almost the whole story. The insurance agent turns out not to be the main character either. He only serves as a symbol. The center of the story is about Macon ‘Milkman’ Dead and his people.
It was on the day of the insurance agent’s suicide, that Milkman was born. He was born in the richest black family in the town; his father was in property business, while his mother was a daughter of a respectable doctor. While he was growing up, little by little the dark secrets of the family were revealed. The ugly truths disturbed Milkman; he felt that he did not have freedom. His father—who wanted to kill him before he was born—now wanted him to help him in business. His mother has used him as a boy to amuse herself. Hagar wanted to have his life because she could not get his love. Even his name he got from someone else’s faults. He felt that everything is a mess, no one lived normally within his family and his people. He was weary of all that and wanted to leave everything behind but had no power to do that as he did not have money.
While Milkman was searching the value of his life, Guitar—his best friend since childhood—was getting weird. He became too serious and was obsessed with racial issues. Milkman found out later that he has joined a society called Seven Days, whose aim was to kill white people as many as they have killed the blacks. Guitar believed that by holding up the population of the whites, they would have less power to oppress the blacks. So, both Milkman and Guitar were finding their own way to escape the crushed world they were now living.
Since Milkman has been living quite comfortably, he did not get as desperate as Guitar. His father asked him to trace the sack of gold of his, which he suspected has been stolen by his sister Pilate. This mission finally led Milkman not to the gold, but to the true history of his ancestors. From a children’s song he learned the story of Solomon, his great grandfather, a great Negro who was praised by his people because he managed to ‘fly’. And so Milkman was inspired by Solomon; if his great grandfather could ‘fly’, so could he.
It was only when I was in the last chapter, that I realized what Morrison has been fussing about the ‘fly’. First the fly of the insurance agent in the opening, then Solomon’s fly. And people here don’t feel it strange that a human can fly; instead, they praised Solomon for succeeding in flying, although by doing that he ought to leave his wife grieving. Milkman too was overjoyed of his great grandfather’s achievement. And so I began to think that the ‘fly’ here might means the efforts to leave their present depressing situation to a brighter future. Morrison encourages us that to keep hoping and thinking positively, that someday you might see the chance to fly away.
This is my second Toni Morrison, and I still enjoyed it. Unlike Beloved that is quite shocking, Song of Solomon feels like reading an adventure novel. The plot flows nicely, although Morrison keeps starting chapters from the middle of an event, and while we are asking what it is all about, she throws the clues here and there, until at one point the whole event is revealed.
Four stars for Song of Solomon, and I think I might read Morrison other novels in the future.
*I read Signet edition*
*This book is counted as:*
22nd book for What's In a Name Reading Challenge 2013
11th book for Back To The Classics 2013
62nd book for The Classics Club Project