Song of Solomon: How does Toni Morrison reveal flight as a way to escape?

Authors Avatar by lwalsh226yahoocom (student)

Song of Solomon: How does Toni Morrison reveal flight as a way to escape?

Since ancient times, humans have been fascinated with the idea of flight. As one watches a bird fly, he cannot help to yearn for the same ability. It is a common human desire to be able to free oneself from the trials and tribulations of life, and just leap, take flight and soar off into the peaceful blue sky, never looking back.  Flying is a way to free oneself from the chains of oppression shackling one to the ground. The theme of flight goes further in Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon where she demonstrates that flying both figuratively and literally represents a means of escaping oppression.

The epigraph of the novel addresses the theme of fleeing by flight: “The fathers may soar and the children may know their names” (Morrison 2). It depicts that flight lets men rise above oppression, and escape the chains holding them to the ground. However, men give little thought to who they leave tangled in the chains; Loved ones are left behind to pick up the pieces.

The next instance of flight occurs in the first chapter of the novel. The novel’s opening scene depicts the flight of insurance salesman Robert Smith from the top of Mercy Hospital. He leaves a note on his house door telling everyone he is going to fly across lake Michigan that morning. He wishes to escape from his life of emptiness and sorrow. As he stands on the ledge, it is apparent that suicide is his contemplation. A woman in the crowd, Pilate, begins to sing a song, “ O Sugarman done fly away, Sugarman done gone, Sugarman cut across the sky, Sugarman gone home…” (Morrison 6). However, instead of flying as promised, Mr. Smith soars to his death. Instead of stopping him, the crowd of people below encourages him to fly to his death. Thus, Mr. Smith’s flight to death represents his escape from society and his own sad life. Mr. Smith’s flight does not directly affect any other character immediately; however, the event affects a little boy named Milkman Dead indirectly nearly four years later.

Join now!

             The day after Mr. Smith’s flight, Milkman Dead is born. At age four, he realizes that human flight is impossible. This realization causes him to alienate himself from the community, his family’s love, and his heritage.  “Mr. Smith’s blue silk wings must have left their mark, because when the little boy 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 6). As Milkman grows up, his alienation and the stress of his family’s emotional chaos cause him to dream of ...

This is a preview of the whole essay