Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

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Last updated: April 24, 2019

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is a story about home.  The expressions used in the tale to explore this concept are not only found in the dialogue between the characters but in the setting of the scene Morrison uses a mix of folklore and blues in her description about place, and characters.

  In Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, he similarly uses the concept of home in his vagrant characters who share tales, and create adventures.  In both works, this paper will discuss the nature of humans to find their place in the world through travel, and both works also emphasize the concept of the American Dream which will also be alluded to in the essay.Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road is a novel that laid much emphasis on the fact that the one reading has the eagerness to go out there and make the best of the day under the gloomy cover of the bright morning sun.  Once upon a time, Kerouac also summarized all his notions and system of beliefs as since “I am poor, everything belongs to me”.  Young and vibrant visionaries in the days of old especially in the 1960’s took upon themselves to live autonomous lives out there: that is the road.  These young vibrant youth also took upon themselves to opt out in the struggle for the American Dream, as part of that dream there is an involvement of identity.

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  This identity is needed in order to find a home, and a background and association with one’s culture, as Patterson states, “In ancient Native American cultures there was a person designated to tell the stories of his people: what they have been through, what they believe in, and how they have changed. Many of those people have since died off, and with them their stories–their identity” (Patterson paragraph one).  Thus, does Sal try to recapture his identity through his journey to find Dean’s father and both of their places in America.As a young, vibrant and talented writer, Kerouac presents himself here as a vibrant youth around the days of old who took life as a bed of roses moving around the streets of America, testing and experiencing the American Dream.

Yes, indeed the excavating or the journeys embarked on consists of sight seeing and other scenery including the infrastructure along the streets, scattered small houses in the township, societies, fine bushes and rough roads all linked along the streets. The strong heart beating generation of this time also had the inner desire to overcome its boundaries through the freedom of stronger ideas and beliefs.In fact from all the various sections of the main body of the novel, Kerouac also stressed that these young vibrant people of that generation focused more attention on how to make real good use of this life. It must therefore be said that these were “real gangsters in their own paradise” who deep within their hearts new the rudiments of good will but decided to stay off from unity in the struggle of the American Dream and its ideologies.  These so called “gangs” rod in vehicles plying the streets of America making all the fun they could get from this life. Kerouac also mentioned in his novel describing how nature was able to accommodate the rudiments of this life.

That is he personified the sun in its own context.  The high energy filled gangs were so desperate in everyday affairs. But amidst all these, their main concern was to make a lot of luxury in this life and focus on irrelevant patterns of life and its components.

The young vibrant youth were desperate and eager, but the lack of realization of their dreams made them feel that “the only opportunity was to move” out and find great pleasure in scandalous life styles like sex, drugs and spending time in the jazz and discotheques.  From all indications “the energetic vibrant youth” had only a single and one important notion and that was life. As the adage goes, “Every minute of life is very vital for the survival of man”. This explains why some people out of their own perspective; seem to be engaged with everything. They partake in all sorts of activities to way off time and make a good use of it.  The spirits of the gangsters kept burning as revealed in their visions just as they were been pursued.

Kerouac also emphasized that the gang were possessed with the spirit of vengeance in expressing their dreams only to realize that it was a nine day wonder.From every perspective, can it be said that the energetic vibrant youth were full of wisdom and enlightenment? Could it be then said also that the greatest worry of every living being is that death may come too soon at a time of no expectancy? Is this not always true? It could be adjudicated that these times are mostly true. Though death was like a “terror beating in the hearts and minds of these gangsters, they gathered all efforts and strengths to welcome the sweetness of life in its full momentum. Psychologically, they had this system of belief “better enjoy before your expiry date”. The gangs were too wise in their own way to conform to the idealistic of the American Dreams. They would spent time in experiencing life in its fullness rather than struggle in the fight of the American Dream just to be buried and rot at the end of the day in a wayward cemetery.

From the forgoing, Kerouac realized this and presents the “vibrant energetic youth” as a result of the fact that the “vibrant generation” was liberated from the atrocities of ambition, physical possession and ideas, and was consistently looking into the good knowledge book that life would be.  On the Road from all perspective, highlights on all sorts of stories in terms of madness played by all sorts of strange but wonderful characters.  The most interesting part of the whole novel is the characters refusal to miss out on life, and their determination to get most of their desires out of this life.  On the summary, Kerouac raised some salient issues with regards to the novel. He stated emphatically that the struggle for the American Dream lied in the power of the youth who were vibrant at that time.

However these vibrant energetic youth were got up amidst all sorts of negative attitudes and character which were not good. Kerouac also in his novel raised various versions in his writ up that were pleasing to the understanding of the ordinary man.The novel of the young talented chap needs much to be desired.  He has placed himself in this entire generation of old and has emphasized the various life styles which were exhibited by these vibrant youth. In this respect, he also compared the “holy behavior” vis-à-vis with that of the vibrant generation or gangsters of old in order to enable the American Dreams to come into realization. On the Road as a novel contains various literature phrases, sounds and fictions mentioned in order to make the whole story look interesting and appetizing to the reader.

The various sections in the novel where especially Kerouac mentioned the attitudes of the characters as unscrupulous and appalling need much to be desired.  The young vibrant energetic youth were entirely tired of the struggle in the American Dream. In view of this down in spirit, they sought to take up habitual attitudes which were not pleasing at all.In view of the forgoing and analyzing the novel as a whole, Kerouac can be described as a skeptical writer who was much interested in the demeanor of the strong heart beating generation. He also presents himself to be in their shoes and acts in a way on how to recover the goodness of patriotism.

He also stressed on the fact that in order for one to become successful, he needs to spend every little bit of his entire time.By contrast to the beatnik lives of Kerouac’s characters, Morrison presents her readers to the world of Macon Dead, Jr.  or Milkman, as he was known having been suckled by his momma’s teet for too long after he was supposed to be weaned, as Carr writes of Morrison’s Milkman, “The novel’s power lies not only in its recovery and representation of African American experience in the midtwentieth century but also in Morrison’s insistence on the necessity of healing her broken, alienated protagonist, Milkman Dead”  (Carr, paragraph 1).   With this initial introduction to the character, the reader is equipped with a sense of growth, or at least of wanting to grow, just as Kerouac’s characters yearned for travel, and were insatiable in their quest.  Milkman is the son of a very well-to-do family.  Milkman’s story is fantastical from the beginning of Morrison’s book including the fact that Milkman was the first black baby to be allowed to be born at Mercy hospital.  The true birth of Milkman however may best be seen with his introduction to Aunt Pilate.

  The enchantment which Morrison weaves through the story involves a list of characters including Milkman’s cousin Hagar, whom he loves, to his best friend, Guitar.Morrison’s book is about a journey.  Milkman, exhausted by the wealth and upkeep of his family strikes out alone, to the South.  Interesting however is the fact that Milkman travels to the place of his father’s birth, where he hopes to find gold.  In Kerouac’s novel, the concept of father is also instigating in the travels of Sal Paradise, and Dean Moriarty.  With the idea of father, there is a sense of home in either story, even though there is a definite Diaspora involved with both Kerouac’s and Morrison’s characters, their drive, their essence of finding themselves leads them to first find out about their fathers.

With this concept of home looming over the fates of the characters in either novel, there is sense of a desire to embrace the estranged memories of either character’s father in order to better know themselves.  It is interesting to note then that Dean Moriarty and Sal did not find Dean’s dad and the adventure which Milkman leads is riddled with the intricate and disparaging life of his father which makes him question his own value system, and which in the end of the novel allows Milkman to utterly embrace life.The development of Milkman as a character grows, as this paper has stated, the further his journey takes him:  in the end, the journey is an inner quest made to better understand his family, especially his father, as Bryant states,  “The desire to “make sense of [our] span” is one of many possible primordial sources of the human imagination. Human beings find the “fictive concords” that will suffice to make living meaningful by connecting seemingly random moments in life to a seamless geometry of beginnings, middles, and ends. Closure in life, then, as in closural strategy in fiction” (Bryant paragraph two).  The life which Milkman grew up knowing was one of high privilege, and this effects his character in a way that makes him very much a narcissistic man.  In Milkman’s character he harbors no compassion, and is full of a self-pitying sense of the world.  This is very different from Kerouac’s alter-ego, Sal Paradise, whose adventures, although focused on the self, stop to include other characters and their opinions.

  While Paradise looks at life to find answers and to instigate answers, Milkman uses what other people know, instead of finding the answers himself.  It is interesting to note however that although Milkman feeds off of others it is only when he discovers his family’s past does his life gain purpose.Naomi Van Tol suggests that Song of Solomon bears witness to familial ties where the “fathers soared and the mothers told stories so that the children would know their names” (Van Tol 62).  For Morrison’s character Milkman this means that an understanding of birth, and the place where a father’s or mother’s heritage was born allows for a greater understanding of self, and thus a connection to the community.

  Thus, Van Tol suggests in the African American belief of singing and telling folktales it allows for a community to have gathering time and to relate to one another and to share in their common memory and struggle.  Although Kerouac’s book does this to some extent in his telling stories to each of friends, and sharing in the adventures of Dean, it is with Morrison’s novel that home is found as Van Tol suggests of memory, “exists as a communal property of friends, of family, of a people. .

. .[and] is the basis for constructing relationships with the other who also remembers” (64).In fact, Milkman’s story is similar to other Morrison books, as it involves the plight and final embracing of a characters sense of home.  Milkman is oppressed by his lifestyle and the past generations of suppression which were endured by his forefathers.  As Milkman travels South he discovers that his past is haunted by death.   His grandfather Macon was murdered for protecting his land, and Milkman’s father and his aunt witness the murder, and by this event they become alienated from each other.  This may surmise the feeling of being a pariah which haunts Milkman.

  This split in the family that occurred before Milkman was born causes his father to be a miser, and his aunt to be poor, but a strong woman with a healthy family, especially her granddaughter Hagar whom Milkman is infatuated.In Milkman’s journey to find gold, he attempts to rob his aunt Pilate due to a story Macon Jr. told his son about her having gold wrapped in a green tarp.

  When Milkman arrives to steal the gold he discovers that Pilate has a few rocks and a skeleton who turns out to be Milkman’s grandfather.  In a twist to the story the gold which Macon Jr. speaks of is in fact a family treasure, as the bones of an ancestor are indeed wealth.

The conclusion of the book comes full circle in Milkman’s life.  At the age of four, Milkman had become disenchanted with life because he found out that humans indeed cannot fly.  It was initially this fact which drove him to his remarkable despondency.  In his grandfather’s home town of Shalimar, Milkman discovers that his great-grandfather was the famous flying African Solomon who escaped a life of bondage in slavery and flew back to Africa.  With this information Milkman becomes a person devoid of those lackluster traits which were the forefront of his character when first the reader delved into Morrison’s story.  Milkman feels that he needs to restore balance to his family which has been estranged from its heritage since Solomon flew to Africa without his wife, or children.

  In similar fashion, Kerouac is seeking to restore hope to Dean through Sal joining him on his quest to find his hobo father.Either story indulges the reader into an array of finding oneself by finding one’s heritage.  It is culture which pervades the stories of each author’s book, it is the finding of oneself in relation to community which spurns the characters on in trying to discover what that self means, or needs, as Van Tol states,  “This visionary approach is apparent in all of Morrison’s literary works, which demonstrate a deep concern for validating and enriching an African American culture that has long been under attack by both external and internal forces. Arising out of both the blues tradition and a magical African folktale, Morrison’s Song of Solomon illustrates with particular clarity this obligation to bear active witness to the past in order to feed the hearts of a people” (64).

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