Human beings have always found the idea of flight fascinating. Flying as a bird can bring a sense of freedom and power over one’s own life but can also leave those that are left behind in dismay. Flying can either be seen as a sense of abandonment or just a valiant way to accomplish one’s needs. In Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the theme of flight is exemplified. Morrison’s extensive use of flying is one that represents both a negative and positive view in the character’s lives. Morrison uses the idea of flight to depict the journey of Milkman’s life, abandonment of women, and a means to escape life’s realities.
Flight represents freedom for Milkman. His desire to fly starts as a young child. At around four years old, knowing that “only birds and airplanes can fly –he lost all interest in himself” (Morrison, 9). His whole life in the novel is an internal search for his own flight. When Milkman and Guitar see the white peacock Milkman asks, “How come it can’t fly no better than a chicken?” Guitar answers, “Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs him down. Like vanity. You can’t fly with all that sh*t….it weighs you down.” (Morrison, 179). The white peacock that Milkman and his friend Guitar see in the park introduces an important part of the image of flight. The peacock is able to strut and has a beautiful tail, but is unable to fly. Comparatively, Milkman is seen as person who is not free, attached to those who give him economic security. According to Guitar, all that Milkman has to do to become free is let go of all material possessions. Milkman, however, feels that the only way to be “free” from his problems is to
achieve financial independence from his father by finding the gold. He ends up doing so when he “flies” in search of the gold, believing that it will give him his freedom. He ends up losing his watch, shoes, pants and other possessions during his journey. This symbolizes his future ability to “fly” and free himself, unlike the peacock that is burdened from its weight. Milkman’s search for his flight was ultimately a success when he hears Solomon’s, his great-grandfather’s story. He eventually gets his confidence back when he finds out that Solomon was able to fly. Milkman begins splashing in the water and joyfully states, “He could fly! You hear me? My great granddaddy could fly!” (Morrison, 328). At the end of the novel, Milkman could fly because he knew that the people at home truly cared for him. Milkman’s search for his family’s history brought him to realize that he was the one that was at fault and that “if you surrendered to the air, you could ride it” (Morrison, 337). In other words, Milkman gains freedom because he finally sees that his family truly cares for him and he is part of something that is important, his family.
But flight is also a means of abandonment. The idea of flight can be seen in the abandonment of women by their male counterparts, both physically or emotionally. Men’s ability to have a large...