ed to capture the individuals quest for self-authenticity. In the novel Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison depicts the many aspects of self-actualization, as well as the tormenting road that leads to the shaping of an individual. Through beautiful language, with immense reality, she is able to describe young black mans journey as he uncovers his personal history, myth, and essence.
The story revolves around generations, past and present, of a black family in the south. The character of Milkman (Macon Dead jr.) evolves through the descriptions, events, and experiences of others. His parents, Macon Dead sr., and Ruth Foster Dead, represent the wall-blocking Milkman from his true authentic identity. Many of Milkman’s major problems are a direct result of his parents suffocating mistakes. Ruth breast-fed Milkman until he was six years old, hence the name Milkman. She was sexually repressed by her husband for twenty years, and used her young son as a substitute for sexual intimacy. Ruth believed that she possessed no authenticity, and that she was insignificant and isolated. By passing these negative attributes and emotions to Milkman she disturbed his natural process for growth, and ultimately left him feeling lost and insecure. Instead of encouraging Milkman to grow and mature, Ruth hoarded him into the world that she herself despised.
Milkman’s father, Macon Dead sr., became a ruthless money hound after his father, Jake, was shot and killed for his property. This devastating event from his childhood made him miserly, insensitive, and stingy. Macon Dead sr. becomes a money hungry machine because he does not want to suffer the same fate as his father. Macon Dead sr. fails to tell Milkman the reasons behind his miserly attitude. Thus creating an insurmountable gap between their relationship. Milkman’s mother and father both thrust their personal fears on him adding to the destruction of his personal identity. Only after Milkman uncovers these tribulations behind his parents’ identities, can he begin his quest for self-authenticity.
By displacing the profound effect Milkman’s parents have on his quest for self-actualization, Morrison is able to convey her theme of generational conflict. Without appropriate parental guidance, honesty, and explanation Milkman has trouble finding the authentic individual within himself. The inner turmoil within both Ruth and Macon Dear sr. reflects negatively upon Milkman, leaving him lost and unfocused. Morrison writes of this hole within Ruth, “because the fact is that I am a small woman. I don’t mean little; I mean small, and I’m small because I was pressed small. (p. 124)” Instead of accepting the problems with their own authenticity, both parents force their unauthentic values on Milkman. The overbearing needs of both parents result in Milkman’s need to find his personal Identity in other places, other people.
The individual who first inspires Milkman to discover his own identity is Pilate, the forbidden sister of Macon Dead sr. She is a mysterious woman, large, masculine, and frightening. Her brother abandoned her after years of support because she began making wine. Macon Dead sr. this drunken profession, and subsequently forbid Milkman to encounter her. Despite his father’s wishes Milkman is intrigued by Pilate and quickly becomes absorbed in her magical, spiritual, fulfilling world. This was the same world that once held his father in awe. Morrison writes, “surrendering to the sound, Macon moved closer. He wanted no conversation, no whiteness, only to listen and perhaps to see the three of them, the source of that music that made him think of fields and of wild turkey and calico. (P.29)” By entering into Pilate’s’ home Milkman begins to question why his father acts the way he does. Through Pilate, Milkman discovers a past that seems lost within his father. This realization begi!ns Milkman’s quest for self-authenticity.
Milkman’s flight to identity takes him many places. He is fortunate to have a friend, Guitar, who is also lost, and hunting for his authentic identity. The two pursue adventures and their contrasting personalities leave them wit ha wide perspective on events and experiences. While Milkman seems quiet, poetic, almost stumbling on his authentic self. Guitar is eager, outgoing, and aware of his needs. Morrison creates Pilate as a metaphor for a pilot, guiding Milkman through his quest. The fact that