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Song Of Solomon: A Bildungsroman Of Milkman

1089 words - 4 pages

It can be said that Song of Solomon is bildungsroman which is defined by The Encyclopedia Britannica as “a class of novel that deals with the [coming-of-age or] formative years of an individual”. Furthermore, in a bildungsroman, a main protagonist usually undergoes some transformation after seeking truth or philosophical enlightenment. In Morrison’s novel, the plot follows the main protagonist Milkman as he matures within his community while developing relationships with others and discovering his individual identity. In an essay titled Call and Response, Marilyn Sanders Mobley notes that “What Song of Solomon does ultimately is suggest that a viable sense of African American identity comes from responding to alternative constructions of self and community other that those received from mainstream American culture” (Smith 42). This viewpoint of discovering one’s identity in community is expressed in Song of Solomon and is expressed in other African-American literature including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Raisin in the Sun and The Tropics in New York. Milkman’s development of an individual identity which ultimately eschews mainstream American ideals of wealth, prosperity, and Western culture exemplifies a fundamental theme that is analogous to a predicament African-Americans encounter.
Understanding the concept of individual identity necessitates some comprehension of the motif of flight in Song of Solomon. Flight in the novel alludes to the African-American pursuit for an identity. Before Milkman is born, the novel introduces the scene of Robert Smith, an inconspicuous insurance agent who commits suicide by leaping off the cupola of Mercy Hospital – “flying off on his own wings.” Milkman’s search for an identity begins as an adolescent. Disputably, it can be stated that he begins the journey when he “discovered, at four, the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier—that only birds and airplanes could fly” (Morrison 9). Morrison writes that Milkman loses all interest in himself at that point. This incident is complementary to an episode in The Autobiography of Malcolm X when Mr. Ostrowski, a teacher of Malcolm X’s, tells Malcolm that becoming “a lawyer…is no realistic goal for a nigger” (X 41). In both cases, each individual thereafter tries to pursue a more mainstream view of self-identity. Further observation of the two men aligns closely with identities of American ideals of wealth, prosperity, and Western culture.
Initially, Milkman’s journey leads him down a path that resembles cultural influences of mainstream America. This is the same direction in which his father, Macon Dead, Jr. navigates his life—seeking wealth, prosperity, and likeness to White Americans while remaining undisturbed by the problems inherent to his community. Milkman tries to imitate this characteristic of his father’s until he grows older and realizes that one of his legs is shorter than the other which requires him to walk with a limp. At fourteen, “Milkman...

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