Song of Solomon is the title of a book by Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison. I didn't completely like the book until I read it a second time. Morrison's prose is very poetic and rich while she explores issues of privilege, status, history, love, hate, and a plethora of other issues. The plot centers around Milkman Dead, a black man who finds himself in his obscured family history. The following is a response paper I did for my English class.
The male African-American experience as described in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison is divisive. On one side, there is solidarity as illustrated by the gathering in Tommy's barbershop. On the other side, there is a desire to get ahead in 'the white man's world' as demonstrated by Macon Dead. Both aspects are directly related to the ostracism of African-Americans from mainstream American society. However, they reflect vastly different approaches to dealing with the isolation of oppression.
The solidarity achieved by the majority of members in the black community comes from being pushed into a confined social stratum. They may not like or agree with each other, but they are equally hated by the white populace, so they have to stick together. African-Americans have always been pushed down socially and this also affects them economically. In this Depression era, the community members implicitly understand everyone else's situation.
However, Milkman Dead's genealogy consists of men who tried to succeed as if they were white men. So, sometimes their actions and decisions hurt members of the African-American community. Macon Dead, Milkman's father, has no remorse evicting poor black families from his rental properties. He considers purchasing lakeside land to sell to affluent African-Americans. Never mind that there were only a few rich people to sell to. The funny thing about it is that although Macon Dead has no compassion for the poor members of the community (meaning the vast majority of the town), he hated (among other things) Dr. Foster because although Dr. Foster was African-American, he was racist against them.
Although Macon Dead seems truly vile in this story, he is also a tragic figure. Does he choose to stay within the safety of solidarity and poverty or should he exploit those around him to get ahead. We know which one he chooses, but neither option comes without a huge cost.