Song of Solomon; Desire to Fly

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Since the beginning of time human beings have had a fascination with human flight. As one watches a bird soar through the air they cannot help but desire that same capability. Imagine the point of view of the world from the bird that flies amoung the mountains, high above the trees, over the ocean and far away from the clamor of everyday life on the ground. To have the freedom and power to release ones self from the tribulations experienced with two feet on the ground, and spring up and away into the peaceful, blue sky, is a common human desire. Since ancient times, flight has represented the opportunity to free ones self from the chains of oppression. This theme of flight is exemplified in the novel Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. In the conclusion of this novel, Milkman, the protagonist, jumps off of a cliff and towards Guitar Bains,the man that was once Milkman's friend but is now deranged and trying to murder him. The ending is left ambiguous, and it is not known if Milkman soars or simply crumbles to his death, it is only known that he attempts to "ride" the air. Thus, in Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison uses the unknown ending of this novel in conjunction with the ever-present theme of flying to emphasize the importance of Milkman's leap off of the cliff; it is not crucial to know if he soars or if he dies, but that he was able to reach such an understanding with his past as to be able to free himself and attempt to fly. In the very beginning of Song of Solomon, the theme of flight and its importance to the African-American community is instantly established. This is shown when insurance agent Robert Smith jumped from the roof of Mercy Hospital, it marked an event: the first black woman was admitted to that hospital when she went into labor just outside the front doors. This expecting mother started into labor with her first son, who would be nicknamed Milkman, when "she saw Mr. Smith emerge as promptly as he had promised from behind the cupola, his wide blue silk wings curved forward around his chest"(Morrison 5). Unfortunately, even with wings, he could not fly and Mr. Smith prompty lost his balance. But, "Mr. Smith's blue silk wings must have left their mark, because when [Milkman] discovered, at four, the same thing Mr. Smith had learned earlier- that only birds and airplanes could fly- he lost all interest in himself" (Morrison 9). The realization for the young Milkman that he would "have to live without that single gift saddened him and left his imagination so bereft that he appeared dull" (Morrison 9). Thus the beginning of Milkman's life is marked by the attempt of flight by Robert Smith, and this fascination with flight follows Milkman throughout the novel, and is established as a metaphor for the inner peace that he seeks. Milkman's fascination with flying never truly dies. As a young man on a journey to shed light on his heritage and find enlightenment, he comes across a male peacock in the parking lot of a Buick dealership. In this instance Milkman realizes his fascinaton with anything that could fly.When Milkman asks his friend Guitar why it cannot fly any better than a chicken, Guitar replies, "'Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down'" (Morrison 179). The meaning of Guitars words could be compared to the situation of the African-Americans in the novel, and perhaps even to modern society. A great majority of African-Americans in this novel seem to be preoccupied with the attainment of material goods in a desperate attempt to emulate the Caucasians in American society, and pay no attention to their heritage. For example Milkmans father, Macon Dead, is consumed by his want for money or anything having to do for it. Macon pushes this materialism onto Milkman thus trapping him into a life not of his choosing. This causes Milkman to want to experience more in life and there is where his...
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