From Beginning to End
Toni Morrison begins her novel Song of Solomon in a very unconventional way. Instead of introducing a setting or characters, she retells an incident that without further reading is for the most part incomprehensible. As readers we notice later on in the story the references made throughout the book that relate back to the introductory pages. Some of the main themes such as oral traditions, naming, and especially flight are introduced in the first six pages and are further developed in a very similar format throughout the book.
One of the outstanding themes, oral tradition, is used to retell events throughout the book in a manner consistent with the beginning. On the first page we are introduced to an insurance agent by the name of Robert Smith. We shortly thereafter learn that he will "fly" form the top of Mercy Hospital. On the Wednesday of his flight a group of fifty people gather around the building to witness this event. While waiting for his "flight" or jump a woman in a contralto voice begins to sing the words "O Sugarman done fly away/ Sugarman done gone/ Sugarman cut across the sky/ Sugarman gone home…"(6) This lady simply describes Robert Smith’s flight "home" which we later learn is really him committing suicide. Much later on in the book Milkman is listening to a group of children singing "O Solomon done fly away/ Solomon done gone/ Solomon cut across the sky/ Solomon gone home."(3) In this song Sugarman, or Robert Smith, is replaced by Solomon, or the Great Grandfather of Milkman. The song describes his "flight" from Shalimar, his home town, and the events that happened after his "flight." In general, oral traditions are used in this book to retell past events for both our understanding and for the characters. They take the form of song, story, and fairy tale and are very important to the meaning of the story because they are a major medium of narration.
Naming is utilized throughout the book for...
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