IUP Publications Online
Home About IUP Magazines Journals Books Archives
     
A Guided Tour | Recommend | Links | Subscriber Services | Feedback | Subscribe Online
 
The IUP Journal of English Studies :
The Politics of Gender in Toni Morrisonís Song of Solomon
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Toni Morrisonís novels are deeply embedded in the African cultural heritage and primarily concerned with the experiences of African American women, whose quest for individual identity is integrally intertwined with a sense of community and cultural history. Therefore, it is not surprising that women of color play prominent, strong, and powerful roles in her novels. Morrisonís Song of Solomon is one such novel where the main protagonist, Milkmanís development is framed by the sacrificial stories of three women important in his life. On the surface, these female characters are shown to be living pathetic lives where rebellion is almost impossible. Their lives are constructed around menís desire or fancy. However, if one goes deeper down the surface to examine these female characters critically, then one would find that in reality, these women play a huge role in reconstructing cultural memory and demonstrating the importance of the past to the male protagonist. This paper critically looks at Morrisonís Song of Solomon in order to establish that the ultimate experiences of these black women are not the loss and sufferings endured by them in the name of slavery, racism, and gender. Instead, their creative voices that connect one generation to another are the true markers of the potential of their womanhood.

 
 
 

Toni Morrison’s novels explore issues of African American female identity in stories that bring together elements of oral tradition, unique literary techniques, and the supernatural to give voice to the experiences of black women living on the margins of the American society. A Nobel Laureate and a bestselling African American female author, Morrison is an inspiration for several other black women novelists who are trying to make their mark in the mainstream publishing industry. Although Morrison’s stories are deeply embedded in the African cultural heritage and engage in the complex examination of problems within the African American community, power dynamics of gender, and issues of racism, her primary interest lies with the experiences of African American women, whose quest for individual identity is integrally intertwined with their sense of community and cultural history. In fact, at times, the dominant tropes of oppression like class, race, colonialism, and slavery seem to be the metaphorical representation of the oppression of women (Pathak 2007, 104)

Grewal (1998, 80) expresses that Morrison’s overarching thematic concern throughout her oeuvre is with issues of African American identity in the contemporary world: “African Americans must negotiate a place for themselves within a dominant culture; how they situate themselves with respect to their own history and culture is a pervasive theme of Morrison’s novels.” Song of Solomon (Morrison 1977) is one such mythical novel relating the story of Macon “Milkman” Dead, who is born in the North but journeys to the South in search of familial roots and personal identity. He discovers that he is a descendant of Solomon, a well-known figure among a mythical West African tribe whose members can fly. According to the myth, this talent of flight was mainly used by the enslaved Africans taken forcibly to America, in order to escape their bondage and fly back to their homeland.

 
 
 

English Studies Journal, African American female identity, The Politics, Gender, Toni Morrisonís, Song of Solomon.