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Essay on Song of Solomon: The Names of a Society

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Song of Solomon: The Names of a Society

 
Think of a time when the black society was still getting used to the word freedom and the white society hated the thought of it. The book Song of Solomon, written by Toni Morrison in 1977, takes place in Michigan on the shores of Lake Superior. The book emphasizes the racial and social tensions between blacks and whites between the 1930s and the 1960s. The Dead family goes through many phases of self-discovery throughout the story. In an effort to hide his southern, working class roots, Macon Dead, an upper-class northern black businessman tries to insulate his family from the danger and despair of the rank and file blacks with whom he shares the neighborhood. Macon can not keep this from influencing his family when he learns that his son has different plans. The book introduces many characters that have received their names from yearnings, events, mistakes, and weaknesses. Some of these names are out of respect and others are given by certain occurrences. Mostly the names are used in defiance to the "cracker society". The black society used this term to relate to the "white society".

 

The Dead family lives on a street officially named "Mains Avenue". The only black doctor in town lived on this street and it soon became known as "Doctor Street". Soon it became the unofficial name of the street known not only to the doctor's patients, but also to the rest of the black citizens of the town. White legislators soon put a stop to the incorrect naming of the street and posted notices forbidding incorrect references to it in the black neighborhood. The notices stated that the avenue "would always be known as Mains Avenue and not Doctor Street"(p. 4). In a subtle retaliation, the ci...


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...ack society in those days. They kept and used names that the cracker society would forget about in a few days. By keeping such names the black community quietly defied conformation to the white society.

 

This novel illustrates how the human spirit can not be dominated. The black community is able to fill in the empty spaces, which the "other society" is not able to enter into or relate to. When Milkman thinks back of all of the people that he had met on his journey it reflects the essence of the novel, " Names they got from yearnings, gestures, flaws, events, mistakes, weaknesses. Names that bore witness"(p. 330). The African American population found a way to allow for life and spirit in a world controlled by "crackers". Their defiance shows that the human spirit is unstoppable.

 

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: First Plume Printing, 1987.


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