The Juxtaposition Of Ruth Foster And Pilate Dead In Toni Morrison’s Song Of Solomon

1165 words - 5 pages

Toni Morrison juxtaposes Ruth Foster and Pilate Dead, in Song of Solomon, to highlight the separate roles they play in the protagonist Milkman’s journey.
Early in the novel Morrison, uses the juxtaposition of Ruth Foster and Pilate dead, when she tells of the flight of Mr. Robert Smith from Mercy Hospital. Ruth Foster, not yet described as such, is known as the “dead doctor’s daughter” (5). During this scene her insignificance is made clear, “the rose-petal scramble, got a lot of attention, but the pregnant lady’s moans did not” (5). This scene perfectly embodies Ruth Foster’s character, as diminutive, and unimportant, she also ignores the flight of the Mr. Smith as the pedestrians ignore her and Mr. Smith. On the other hand, Pilate Dead, is the singer in the crowd that notices Mr. Smith’s flight and says, “O Sugarman done fly away” (6), introducing the theme of the novel, flight, and representing her understanding of it, while others remain oblivious. This is important, because this is Milkman’s journey, the discovery of the flight of his people, or the realization of his people’s culture. Pilate, Milkman’s aunt, also foreshadows his “flight”, which is a main theme of the novel, ‘A little bird’ll be here with the morning” (9), whereas his mother, Ruth, says, “It can’t be...It’s too soon,” (9) this shows her role in the novel as keeping Milkman from his flight, while Pilate teaches him he can fly. "Mr. Smith's blue silk wings must have left their mark, because when the little boy discovered, at four, the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier - that only birds and airplanes could fly - he lost all interest in himself" (9). Tis loss of flight symbolizes Milkman’s loss of his heritage, which Pilate tries to reinstall in him, and Ruth tries to ignore. Ruth contrasts Pilate as strange, possessive, insipid and obsessive, and acts as the force that keeps Milkman away from his flight, whereas Pilate free spirited, loving, and without anger or bitterness, and acts as the “pilot,” or guiding force for Milkman’s flight.
Ruth’s relationship with her son Milkman, stems from the emotional abuse she receives from her husband Macon Dead II, “His hatred of his wife glittered and sparked in every word he spoke to her” (10). This hatred from her husband causes Ruth to be “stunned into stillness,” (11) and “wholly animated by it” (11). This shows that even though Macon’s hate is debilitating to Ruth, it also keeps her alive, she lives by his hate, stilled or animate. This also shows that because she stays with her husband, she is a passive character and she wishes for the finer comforts. This greed both she, and her husband share, is then passed to Milkman. His journey is based on his salvation from this greed, a greed he learns to give up from Pilate. Ruth's need for love, that she doesn’t have from her husband, and lost when her father died, leads her to her to Milkman, who she unnaturally breast-fed. "It was one of her secret indulgences - the one...

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