Essay on Individual Verses Society in Song of Solomon

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The Individual Verses Society in Song of Solomon

Toni Morrision's novel "Song of Solomon" contrasts the image of a self-made individual with that of an individual who is the product of his or her society. Since society changes, the man who simply reflects his social environment changes accordingly. But “the true individual's self-discovery depends on achieving consciousness of one's own nature and identity”(Middleton 81). This is what differentiates Pilate and Milkman from Macon and Guitar.  There are direct similarities between Milkman's and Pilate's self-discovery. They both achieve their individualistic spirit through travel, literal and symbolic. Not so for Guitar and Macon Dead jr. “Where Pilate's and Milkman's self-discovery is a journey of individuals, Guitar and Macon Dead Jr.are defined and determined by the kind of society they belong to”(Davis 225).


            Milkman is the protagonist of the novel and also the embodiment of Morrison's notion of individual self-discovery.  Throughout his life Milkman is pulled in all directions by the people around him. His father wants him to work with him, his mother wants him to go to medical school, Hagar wants a serious relationship, Guitar wants him to accept the Seven Days. Milkman rejects all of these options and drifts away from those who want to direct his life. Milkman gains his self-awareness after he leaves Southside and travels to Shalimar. The journey through Danville profoundly changes him. He looses or damages all of his material possessions before he leaves Danville. “Milkman is symbolically stripped of all of the things that connect him to his life in Southside”(Davis 225). However, it is in Shalimar that he undergoes spiritual growth and gains se...

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...dividual struggles for self-definition and self awareness is connected to the discovery of their heritage, their ancestors and their culture. Ultimately Milkman's flight is the discovery of his connection with his ancestry. Toni Morrison believes that individuality without community leads to egotism. But community without individuality is a community without a spirit. Guitar and Macon are conditioned by society. Pilate and Milkman are inspired by community. “Milkman's flight is not a flight away from responsibility it is a flight into true consciousness”(Middleton 113).


Works Cited:

Davis, Cynthia A. "Self, Society, and Myth in Toni Morrison's Fiction." Contemporary Literature 23.3 (1982)

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

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: The Penguin Group, 1997.

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