Dysfunctional Families in Song of Solomon
The African American families in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon present abnormality and dysfunction. Normalcy, seen in common nuclear families, is absent. The protagonist, Milkman, is shaped by his dysfunctional relationships with parental figures.
The abnormality of the mother and child relationship is apparent in Song of Solomon. The mother figure seems to have misguided hopes. Toni Morrison, presents an image of an unnatural, extended time of maternal bonding. The character, Ruth, breastfeeds her son, Milkman, until he is four or five years of age. Ruth breastfeeds Milkman for this unnaturally lengthy amount of time because it makes her feel like her son is a part of her. Breastfeeding him gives her immense pleasure and satisfaction. However, she hides her indulgence from the rest of the family until Freddie the janitor catches her. She knows it is wrong, but it makes her daily life bearable.
The children display a mild amount of disrespect leading to severe denial of motherly compassion. We see this in a passage from Song of Solomon.
"He had never loved his mother, but had always known that she loved him. And that had always seemed right to him, the way it should be. Her confirmed, eternal love of him, love that he didn't even have to earn or deserve, seemed to him natural(79)."
Milkman has a peculiar view of his mother. He did not think of his mother "as a person, a separate individual, with a life apart from allowing or interfering with his own(75)." Milkman does not think of his mother as an individual who needs his love or as a woman. To him it her duty in life to love him. He sees her as a frail creature that needs protection from his father.
The normalcy in the father and child relationship of the African American families is not apparent. In Song of Solomon, the father provokes fear in his children. Oddly, Milkman's sisters seem to look forward to the anger and tension of their father. Morrison writes, "The way he mangled their grace, wit, and self-esteem was the single excitement of their days...Without the tension and drama he(the father) ignited, they might not have known what to do with themselves" ,and the sisters "waited eagerly for any hint of him.(11)" Rather than expressing love for their...