Character Analysis of Milkman Dead in “Song of Solomon”

Updated December 28, 2021

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Character Analysis of Milkman Dead in “Song of Solomon” essay

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Song of Solomon clearly highlights the personal and community impacts of the conflict throughout the histories of marginalized people. Milkman Dead, becomes self-affirming and discovers his own worth with the assistance his aunt, Pilate Dead, however this goes against the social constructs during this time period. Milkmans strong desire to learn about his past with eventually will come to fruition. The main question being put forth is Why Does Milkman feel he needs his past to completely understand himself? Also why does Milkman do the things he does, and react the way he does, these are all questions that immediately peak any readers interest when it comes to fully understanding this novel.

The individual, Milkman Dead, is a member of a minority group, and, perhaps, excluded from the normal and basic narrative structures of the dominant culture surrounding him. As a result of the disclusion of a relevant cultural participation, Song of Solomon suggests that African Americans have to validate their individual existences by personally reconnecting with their particular past in order to fully understand themselves and to be fully accepted by society. Morrison makes sure to emphasize the basic, and clear importance of a larger relevant narrative to the creation of individual identity regarding Milkman and structures her novel around the Milkmans simultaneous quest of self-affirmation and his ancestral/racial narrative. Milkmans past is what he needs to feel complete, he needs a feeling of self worth and understanding.

Milkman knows neither the significance of his own and his father’s and grandfather’s name nor their legacy and his heritage. Years before, when Milkman was seventeen and came to his mother’s defense by hitting his father, not only did Milkman not know the origin of his name , but he was ignorant about the relationship his mother and father shared, and his father’s efforts to have his wife abort Milkman. If Milkman had known this information throughout his whole life, he would most certainly have reacted differently toward situations and possibly even acted as a completely different person. It was interesting deeply analyze Milkman and almost pick at his brain through extensive research and truly understand what was going through his head throughout the entire novel.

Macon Dead II, was the richest black man in town, he was a materialistic man whose main interest is obtaining money and land. Macon Dead II is quite ashamed of his sister, Pilate, and her daughter and granddaughter, all of whom essentially reject the idea of materialism that he values. Which reveals a better sense of who he truly was. African Americans regard themselves and other African Americans. Mrs. Bains, one of Macon Dead II’s tenants, says, ‘A nigger in business is a terrible thing to see A terrible, terrible thing to see.’ Mrs. Bains says this after an encounter with Macon Dead II. She degrades an African American by referring to him as a ‘nigger,’ while implying that African Americans should not be business owners. This indicates her internalization of the notion of African-American inferiority. All of these things is exactly what Milkman was looking for in regards to his father to better understand himself, he needed to know why when he was younger he was mostly around white children and adults. However, if and when Milkman discovers these things about his father, it seems that he will only be more confused about his childhood but maybe he will understand his life as whole, much more.

Comprehension and assimilation are some of the major pieces with the quest of Milkman Dead and also are in the way in which Morrison demonstrates the inability of traditional narratives to provide a completely satisfying base of meaning for her characters. Morrison’s work gives us a unique understanding of life and living in an African-American context. Also, as a skillful and perceptive author, she has risen above all of her immediate concerns. She analyzes the universal and long lasting human predicament, which is the ultimate impact of her work as a whole.

Milkman develops quite a bit throughout this novel, his journey begins like anyone else’s, he is born and right from the start his life was different from the rest. He immediately had something a bit different about him, he was the first black child born in an all white hospital, and his name became Milkman, from a strange habit he had while he was growing up. From the beginning he felt distanced from everyone around him, especially his own family. Milkman grew up feeling a million miles away from his father, however as he discovered new things about his father he became more of an understanding person altogether. With this it also seems in a way Milkman has shed light on his father’s past instead of resenting him as he possibly could from some of his behaviors.

Milkmans name is another main part of his identity ; the name was given after someone discovered that his mother was still breast-feeding him when he was five years old. Milkman was born in Ohio to a middle-class African American family dominated by the severe materialism of his father. When Morrison, decided to move forward with developing Milkman’s character she introduced a supernatural element, when she had Circe begin to interact with Milkman. Milkman asks her questions about life, and then begins to talk about his father, which caused Milkman to start opening up as a character. Milkman initially felt extremely distant from his father and resented him quite a bit, he didn’t know much about his father, only really the negative things that caused him to have poor feelings toward him. Circe being a ominous figure, reveals information about Milkman’s dad which allows Milkmans feelings to change. Not only do his feelings change toward life in general, he feels as if he is he more apart of his family.

Its though as if, when milkmans character develops, the story as a whole begins to change overall as well. As well as good feelings toward his family, he also comes to some negative realizations as well, within his backstory he comes to the conclusion that although he loves his mother very much he now believes she was just playing games with him and was extremely childish and immature. Which is as clear as can be as to why Milkman would feel the way he does and why he is more confused than ever about his father, but also has this great understanding all at the same time. It’s quite remarkable how Morrison was able to create understanding and confusion all at the same time and have it make sense. This just obviously furthers how talented Morrison is as a writer and how she truly had a clear idea of the events and outcomes in Song of Solomon.

Morrison remarks that she envisioned in Milkman ‘a character who had everything to learn, who would start from zero, and had no reason to learn anything, because he’s comfortable, he doesn’t need money, he’s just flabby and pampered’ (Infobase). Milkman must find knowledge from both the men and women in his life, ‘two sets of information he needed to learn in order to become a complete human being.’ Due to Morrisons vision of Milkman, it creates a better understanding of why Milkman felt the way he did his whole life, it was an intended feeling and an overall theme. With learning this, a reader can better understand each and every event that occurs in the novel and feel a bit more to Milkman. The more someone understands Milkman and his reasoning behind his actions everything within the novel begins to fall into place, Its as if Milkman is basically the cornerstone to the novel as whole.

Character Analysis of Milkman Dead in “Song of Solomon” essay

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Character Analysis of Milkman Dead in “Song of Solomon”. (2021, Dec 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/character-analysis-of-milkman-dead-in-song-of-solomon/


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