Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon - Angelfire
Biblical Names in SONG OF SOLOMON - The Reading …
Tony Morrison put a lot of emphasis into the characters' names in Song of Solomon. I think one has to first consider the main characters' last name of "Dead." The first man in the family that was named Dead ended up being murdered. Macon, Jr. saw this murder and because of it was emotionally "dead." He grew up not enjoying life and only cared about becoming rich and getting ahead in life. His son, Milkman, has a "dead" personality growing up because of the influence of his parents. Proof of this is in the scene when Milkman urinates on his sister and doesn't even realize it. He also has a sexual and somewhat emotional relationship with Hagar, which he carelessly breaks off, devastating her. He is emotionally dead and is not thinking about anyone else in the world besides himself. The name Milkman was give to him because he was breast-fed by his mother until a very old age and this name is mocking him and his mother for this absurd. Milkman has the inability to emotionally grow up and Ruth cannot emotionally let go to the time period in which Milkman was a young boy, uncorrupted by the world and his own parents. Morrison's use of biblical names was very interesting to me. I have never read the Bible, nor do I know many of the stories, but I do know that Pilate was a negative character, somewhat responsible for the death of Jesus. I feel as though this name does not suite her character, for she is the one Milkman can count on. It is interesting that Guitar is the name for the boy who is associated with the terroristic group of African Americans in town. Something that usually brings music and joy and happiness to people is having the opposite effect.
I believe that Toni Morrison's use of names has the purpose of causing her readers to really think and understand the characters she created. They obviously meant a great deal to her and she just wants her readers to get a similar understanding, or any understanding out of them at all.
Biblical Names in SONG OF SOLOMON
What is the importance of names in Song of Solomon you might ask. Yes this is a good question I would respond, and then I would sit there and ponder while you become impatient. Then this you, which may be anyone depending on who reads this, would say something along the lines of hurry up and tell me what the importance of names is. And then I would finally say that the importance of names is the understanding of how the community shapes who we are through its power of judgements and how it impacts our daily life. Take Pilate for example. She was given the name Pilate essentially at random. And yet the community accepted this name and continued to call her by that very religously charged name. And why is that we must ask? It is essentialyl because Pilate fits in with the desription of Pilate, or at least someone named Pilate. She is apart from rest of the community, and so her name fits as a part of her othering. The other question that must be asked is whether or not her name causes her othering, or whether it is accepted as part of the othering.
This piece would like to put forth the idea that the name is accepted rather than forcing the individual into it, as can be seen by the renaming that the community engaged in with Milkman Dead. Milkman was originally named Macon Dead, but the community did not force him into becoming a mirror image of his father, but rather chose to rename him in order to better suit his personal past and happenings. Thus we are left the firm idea of the community shaping the name to fit the individual rather than the community shaping the individual to fit the name he or she was born with.