19 November 2012
How Love Leads to Death in Song of Solomon
The novel Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison takes place in an unnamed city in Michigan between the years 1931 and 1963. The novel’s protagonist, Milkman Dead, lives with his father, Macon Dead II, his mother, Ruth, and his two sisters, Magdalene and First Corinthians. His father being somewhat obsessed with owning things and earning wealth, Milkman was raised more privileged than the typical African American teenager during this time. Despite the freedom and appeal that money tends to provide, Milkman increasingly feels more and more restricted by his family structure and society’s monotonous path. As an outlet for his feelings of frustration and boredom, during his adolescence, Milkman develops an intention attraction, accompanied with feelings of sexual excitement, directed toward his cousin, Hagar. Milkman and Hagar’s relationship is at the forefront of the plot and transforms as different dynamics develop between the two characters throughout the novel. The love affair between Milkman and Hagar does not end well for either characters. Hagar, feeling utterly rejected and betrayed by the man she loves, is driven mad and resorts to trying to take Milkman’s life repeatedly throughout the novel. While Hagar fails at killing Milkman, the love she has held onto ultimately results in her own death. Toni Morrison offers a poignant and true-to-life motif throughout Song of Solomon, that love can drive humans mad and can ultimately result in death and destruction. Milkman and Hagar first met one another at Pilate’s house. Milkman was stringently told by his father not to visit his aunt but his curiosity led him to her home. When Milkman laid his eyes on Hagar, he nearly knocked his chair backwards and hung on every word she said. “She was, it seemed to him, as pretty a girl as he’d ever seen” (Morrison 45). Although she was a great deal older than him, he could not help but feel an intense attraction towards the seventeen year old. Morrison notes than Milkman “seemed to be floating…more alive than he’d ever been, and floating” (45). When the two dragged two baskets of blackberries from the yard into Pilate’s house, Milkman remarked on how strong and muscular the girl was, equally as strong and muscular as he was at this point. It can be argued that Milkman fell in love at first sight with Hagar. This infatuation was jointly due to her perceived beauty, her mature age, and the strength she seemed to withhold. This infatuation of Hagar by Milkman, however, is short-lived.
After nearly twelve years of knowing Hagar, Milkman becomes inflicted with boredom. When he is Christmas shopping, he is able to quickly find random gifts for his family members, but struggles with what to buy for Hagar. Hagar is not considered to be Milkman’s girlfriend, but everyone who knew Milkman, knew about the relationship he had with the girl. At this point though, Milkman was unsure whether he wanted to keep up the charade of being associated with Hagar and her affections. Milkman considered her love and affection “free” and “abundant”, leading him to believe that“(t)here was no excitement, no galloping of blood in his neck or his heart at the thought of her” (Morrison 91). He even compares her to a third beer, stating that Hagar was “(n)ot the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude; nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink because it’s there…” (91). Milkman has lost all initial interest in Hagar because he has become bored with the very thought of her. She is no longer exciting or interesting him because he knows she will always be there and nothing will ever change; she has become overexposed to the growing man. Whilst contemplating what to get Hagar for Christmas, he reflects on his first experiences with the woman he once loved. “(H)e was...
Cited: Harris, A. Leslie. “Myth as Structure in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” MELUS 7.3 (1980): 69-76. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski and Deborah A. Stanley. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 July 2012.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Random House Inc., 1977. Print.
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