The Flight of a Strong Woman

Marieke Chattargoon

        In Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon there are many different creative aspects throughout it. There is the theme of flying as an escape, physically and metaphorically. And, there is the character of Pilate, who represents a strong independent woman, and a role model to the main protagonist in the book, Milkman Dead.  These main aspects of the book are summed up in the last two pages, page 336 and 337. As Pilate is dying in the eyes, she says some of the most inspirational words throughout the whole novel.

        In this final chapter of Song of Solomon the most inspirational character dies. Pilate takes a bullet, meant for Milkman, and as she lies dying in his arms she says one of the most inspirational quotes throughout this novel. “I wish I’d a knowed more people. I would of loved ‘em all. If I’d a knowed more, I would a loved more.” This quote shows the selflessness of Pilate. It shows not only her love for people in general, but the regret she feels because of the social isolation she was in due to not only race, but physical deformity. Pilate struggled for life ever since birth. When her mother died, it was said she crawled out of the room, which therefore left her with no navel. This physical deformity, along with her skin color, left her socially isolated her whole life, even though she was one of the most loving, and intelligent women throughout this society. Milkman is forbidden from seeing her, but Guitar ends up introducing the two for the first time, and Milkman gained not only a family member, but a mentor and ultimately the main person who helps him on his quest to find out about his family. Pilate throughout the book proves to be a strong woman; an example of this is when Reba gets beaten by a man. Pilate storms out and pushes a knife within an inch of his heart and tells him never to touch Reba again. Even though this is a young man and Pilate is older, she still prevails and wins the fight. As Pilate dies in Milkman’s arms, she asks him to sing to her, and he sings the song that Pilate sang at his birth. He links the past, which is the Song of Solomon, and the song of sugarman, with the present, the song of the sugargirl. The song that he sings not only comforts Pilate, and her own singing did to her, but embraces the importance of memory and history. When she dies, Milkman lays her head down on a rock, and then, “Two of the birds circled round them. One dived into the new grave and scooped something shiny in its beak before it flew away.” (pg 336) This quote shows that as soon as Pilate is dead, the birds take off, this may represent the freeing of Pilate’s soul, and how now through death she is freed of all her burdens and struggles and she is free. After this, Milkman makes a vital discovery.

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        As the birds are flying away, Milkman realises why he loved Pilate so much. “Without ever leaving the ground, she could fly.” It becomes known to him that in truth, she was spiritually and mentally free, and that only her body left her on the ground. Flying throughout the novel is an ongoing theme. In the first chapter Robert Smith, an agent of an insurance company, attempts to fly. He stands on the edge of a building with blue silk wings as Pilate sings the song of the sugarman, and he jumps. “Mr. Smith’s blue silk wings must have left ...

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