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Essay on Names in Song of Solomon

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The Importance of Names in Song of Solomon

 
   Abstract:  In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, names have great implication.  Language is extremely personal and deeply rooted in culture.  Names are an integral part of language, and they help to establish identity, define personality, and show ownership through formal and informal usage.

 

" 'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; / Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. / What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, / Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part / Belonging to a man.  O, be some other name! / What's in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet; / So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, / Retain that dear perfection which he owes / Without that title.  Romeo, doff thy name, / And for that name which is no part of thee / Take all myself."

            -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

 

            In the play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare claims that a name is just a name; that it has no real significance.  Individual names and the names of cultural and racial groups can be very influential, however, as Malcolm X explains in his On Afro-American History, "So they'll say whites, Puerto Ricans and Negroes.  Pick up on that.  That's a drag, brothers.  White is legitimate.  It means what color they are.  Puerto Ricans tell you that they're something else, came from somewhere else, but they're here now.  Negro doesn't tell you anything" (16).  In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, which describes the tribulations faced by an African American family attempting to define and find themselves, names have great implication.  Language is extremely personal and deeply rooted in culture.  Names are an integral part...


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...d many important lessons about his past as well.  It was possible to see the transformation from materialistic to concerned that Milkman underwent.  By coming to terms with his roots, Milkman was able to become whole; to become comfortable with who and what he was.  Knowledge is power, and having a name and a history are two of the most powerful things one could have.           

           

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Toni Morrison. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 1990.

Malcolm X.  "On Afro-American History."  Audubon Ballroom, Harlem.  24 Jan 1965.

Middleton, David. Toni Morrison's Fiction: Contemporary Criticism. New York: Garland, 1997.

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

Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet. ed. Jane Backman. Lincolnwood: NTC Publishing Group, 1994.


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