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Essay on Identity in Song of Solomon

Searching for Identity in Song of Solomon

Abstract: Whether Africans really fly or just escape a monumental burden, perhaps only through death, is a decision Toni Morrison has apparently left to her readers. Never the less, no matter what you believe, within Song of Solomon, the suggestion is, that in order to “fly” you must go back to the beginning, back to your roots. You must learn the “art” from the old messages.

O Sugarman done fly away

Sugarman done gone

Sugarman cut across the sky

Sugarman gone home… (6)1

Milkman was born to fly. Perhaps not! Maybe, he was just doomed to a life of flight. Toni Morrison seemingly presents her readers a choice. Milkman is born under a paradoxical cloud. His life seems to be destined for controversy. Toni Morrison eventually leaves the reader with a “choose your own ending” configuration. As in Beloved, Morrison’s unique style of ending a novel with no finalization, only enhances the content and tickles the imagination. Evidence of the influence of Zora Neale Hurston is sprinkled liberally throughout the story. In addition to folklore and mythology, Song of Solomon is also rife with the cold, hard facts of reality. Did Milkman actually become airborne or was he merely a man, consistently trying to escape reality?

Toni Morrison’s, Song of Solomon, was inspired in part, by All God’s Chillun Had Wings (Andrews et al 103). According to this folk tale, at one time all Africans could fly. Through transgressions, they lost the ability of flight. On occasion, someone would shake off the weight of their burdens and be able to fly. Only a select few held onto remnants of the memory of flight. According to a legend in Hurston, the transgression, …

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…to converge in the distance. Soon they begin to twine and twist together. At the core, is a solid rope, with each strand braided neatly with the others to form a tightly woven story. With its many parts, but only one beginning, Song of Solomon is absolutely, the “perfect soft-boiled egg” (40).

Works Cited

Andrews, William L., et al. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.

New York: W.W. Norton

Comparing the Immature Males of the Iliad and Lysistrata

The Immature Males of the Iliad and Lysistrata

Both Homer’s Iliad and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata explore the nature and character of men. In their respective portrayals of male characters, both works reveal a fundamental flaw in that nature. This underlying flaw, immaturity, results in a variety of childish behaviors that are not only inappropriate but potentially quite dangerous and destructive. Reliance on women, inability to exert self-control, and resorting to violence as an easy solution to any problem or perceived threat are typical traits of young boys. Readers of the Iliad and Lysistrata are confronted with grown men consistently exhibiting exactly these behaviors and witness the adverse consequences to society.

Throughout the Iliad Achilles operates like a spiteful child empowered with the body and strength of a man. He is stubborn and unreasonable, sullen and resentful when he cannot have his way, and, much like a playground bully, he uses his unusual strength to intimidate anyone who might challenge him. When in book one Achilles loses a battle of wills with Agamemnon and cannot retaliate, he retreats in frustration and self-pity; before long, he is throwing a tantrum. “Mother!” he cries, “You gave me life, . . . so at least Olympian Zeus, thundering up on high, should give me honor–but now he gives me nothing” (I, 416-419).

Achilles subsequently relies on his mother, Thetis, several times for her advice and divine assistance. Rather than attempting to be resourceful in the face of frustration, he simply acts helpless and lets Thetis work out his problem for him. “But you, mother, if you have any power at all, protect your son!” the mighty and invincible Achilles implores (I, 467, 468). When his armor is …

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…Robert. “The Iliad”. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Maynard Mack, general editor–6th ed.

W.W. Norton and Company, N.Y. 1992. 98-208.

Gulick, Charles Burton. Modern Traits in Old Greek Life. New York: Cooper Square. 1963.

Henderson, Jeffrey, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, 1987

Holst-Warhaft, G., Dangerous Voices: Women’s Laments and Greek Literature, Routledge, 1992.

Hooper, Finley. Greek Realities: Life and Thought in Ancient Greece. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 1978.

Keuls, E. C., The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens, New York, 1985 (reprint Berkeley, 1993).

Miller, J. Hillis. “Narrative”. Critical Terms for Literary Study. Lentricchia, Frank and Thomas McLaughlin, eds.

University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1990. 66-79.

Tannahill, Reay. Sex in History. London: Scarborough House. 1992.

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