Song of Solomon

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Destructive Love in Song of Solomon

When an emotion is believed to embody all that brings bliss, serenity, effervescence, and even benevolence, although one may believe its encompassing nature to allow for generalizations and existence virtually everywhere, surprisingly, directly outside the area love covers lies the very antithesis of love: hate, which in all its forms, has the potential to bring pain and destruction. Is it not for this very reason, this confusion, that suicide bombings and other acts of violence and devastation are committed…in the name of love? In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, the reader experiences this tenuity that is the line separating love and hate in many different forms and on many different levels—to the extent that the line between the two begins to blur and become indistinguishable. Seen through Ruth's incestuous love, Milkman and Hagar's relationship, and Guitar's love for African-Americans, if love causes destruction, that emotion is not true love; in essence, such destructive qualities of "love" only transpire when the illusion of love is discovered and reality characterizes the emotion to be a parasite of love, such as obsession or infatuation, something that resembles love but merely inflicts pain on the lover.

As her "daddy's daughter", there is little doubt that a form of love exists between Ruth Dead and Dr. Foster; however, such love is not truly love because as evidenced by Ruth's subsequent life, the filial relationship better resembles an emotional dependence that Ruth took for granted (67). The great emotional schism within her that is the result of her father's death leaves Ruth dysfunctional: she is unable to emote towards other, especially her family. Instead, she expects her family to treat her with the abundant emotional expressions present in Dr. Foster's treatment, taking their caring spirits for granted as she has done with her father. Morrison includes much intimation to prove that Ruth lacks true love: she is unable to perform basic domestic tasks such as cooking, suggesting that she cannot adequately provide for her family at even the most quintessential level of what woman during that time were expected to provide.

When Macon found Ruth with "[Dr. Foster's] fingers in her mouth," the "love" that Ruth had for Dr. Foster has evidently become destructive as it not only estranges her from Macon and the rest of the family, but also forces her to live an impersonal, emotionless life (73). Although at the onset of the novel, she attempts to rekindle these emotions not through Macon who utterly refuses to please her, but through her own son Milkman, a gross exploitation of filial love: "His mother had been portrayed not as a mother who simply adored her only son, but as an obscene child playing dirty games with whatever male was near—be it her father or her son" (79). It seems, however, that her willingness to emotionally satisfy herself finally comes to an end when Freddie blatantly points out her misjudgment of breastfeeding Milkman who is twelve years old at the time. Thus, instead of looking for emotion, she learns to take comfort in the emotionless, the inanimate such as the goldfish, rhododendron, and other flowers she constantly surrounds herself with. And to simply remind herself that she exists as an animate being because she is unfeeling, "she never set the table or passed through the dining room with out looking at [ the large water mark]" (11). Morrison shows the extent of the destructiveness of Ruth's love when Milkman relays his dream to Guitar: "Finally she noticed them…they were smothering her, taking way her breath…but she didn't seem to guess this at all…" (105). In the end, it would seem that Ruth's "love" masqueraded a selfish emotional desire and these falsities, in the end, destroyed herself as she was "having fun" asphyxiating.

Hagar's relationship with Milkman epitomizes the notion that love kills slowly as Hagar's background and...
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