Toni Morrison presents various different allusions to the Bible in her novel Song of Solomon. The most apparent examples of this are represented within the parallels between Pontius Pilate and Pilate Dead, along with the thematic plot of love present in the novel and in the biblical book Song of Solomon. Morrison shows a great deal of correlation between the Bible and Song of Solomon. She uses her creativity to present familiar characters in a new and different light. She is able to present the same characteristics in an original story that has a vast amount of biblical similarities in love, strength, and power. There are several circumstances that demonstrate Morrison's creativity in the parallel aspect of the story. Pilate, for one, is a strong and independent character determined to live the way she sees fit. Fascinating is how Pilate got her name. Macon remembers after their mother dies during child birth, their father must point to a name out of the Bible, but unfortunately, he cannot read. "How his father, confused and melancholy over his wife's death in childbirth, had thumbed through the Bible, and since he could not read a word, chose a group of letters that seemed to him strong and handsome; saw in them a large figure that looked like a tree hanging in some princely but protective way over a row of smaller trees" (18). Even more interesting is the description of Pilate cooking when Macon is spying through the window as "Pilate swayed like a willow over her stirring" (30). This is a representation of what Pilate Dead will be and what the biblical Pilate was; strong like a willow tree. There is clear evidence from scripture that Pilate was a strong man that primarily did what he thought would be best for him. In the book of John, after Jesus is sent to be crucified, "Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS
and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written" (Holy Bible, John 19.19-22). This is unmistakably a description of the dominance enveloped in his character. The chief priests of the Jews did not want it written out for all to see that Jesus was considered a king, but Pilate would not alter his decision because some of the Jews opposed the idea. He would stand strong in the certainty of his choice being right. He managed to remain in a position of power and strength over the people wishing for the title to be removed from the cross.
Pilate shows characteristics that are close to those of Pontius Pilate in the Bible. As Pontius Pilate was strong, Pilate Dead had similar attributes. She did what she thought was right, even if her concern sprouted from love and Pontius Pilate's sprouted from selfishness. This is proven at one specific point when Ruth was having marital problems with Pilate's brother Macon Dead. Ruth was "desperate to lie with her husband and have another baby by him" and she had for a long time wanted to "reinstate their sex lives" (131). Pilate assists Ruth in this by giving her a magic powder to put in his food to make Macon desire his wife, and when Ruth becomes pregnant, Macon wants her to abort the baby. At this point Pilate shows her confidence and faith in herself. She tells Ruth not to worry and that "Macon wouldn't bother her no more; she, Pilate, would see to it." She left a doll that looked like Macon in the chair of his office "with a small painted chicken bone stuck between its legs
he left Ruth alone after that" (132). Pilate did not allow for Macon's intimidation to pressure out of the situation. Pilate was not afraid of the man that so many people in their town feared with every fiber of their existence. She was able to stand up to that man with no inclination of the dread seen in the many faces that Macon had...
Cited: Bryant, Cedric Gael. "Every Goodbye Ain 't Gone: The Semiotics of Death, Mourning, and Closural Practice in Toni Morrison 's Song of Solomon." MELUS 24.3 (1999): 97+.
Buehrer, David. "American History X, Morrison 's Song of Solomon, and the Psychological Intersections of Race, Class, and Place in Contemporary America." Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 25.1 (2004): 18+.
Glickman, Craig. "Solomon 's Song of Love: Let a Song of Songs Ispire Your Own Romantic Story." Publishers Weekly 250.47: 60-61.
Holy Bible: Authorized King James Version. Michigan: Zondervan, 1994.
Life in the Spirit: Study Bible. Donald C. Stamps, gen. ed. Michigan: Zondervan, 2003.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Vintage, 2004
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