Essay on Song of Solomon: A Bildungsroman of Milkman

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It can be said that Song of Solomon is bildungsroman which is defined by The Encyclopedia Britannica as “a class of novel that deals with the [coming-of-age or] formative years of an individual”. Furthermore, in a bildungsroman, a main protagonist usually undergoes some transformation after seeking truth or philosophical enlightenment. In Morrison’s novel, the plot follows the main protagonist Milkman as he matures within his community while developing relationships with others and discovering his individual identity. In an essay titled Call and Response, Marilyn Sanders Mobley notes that “What Song of Solomon does ultimately is suggest that a viable sense of African American identity comes from responding to alternative constructions of …show more content…

Smith had learned earlier—that only birds and airplanes could fly” (Morrison 9). Morrison writes that Milkman loses all interest in himself at that point. This incident is complementary to an episode in The Autobiography of Malcolm X when Mr. Ostrowski, a teacher of Malcolm X’s, tells Malcolm that becoming “a lawyer…is no realistic goal for a nigger” (X 41). In both cases, each individual thereafter tries to pursue a more mainstream view of self-identity. Further observation of the two men aligns closely with identities of American ideals of wealth, prosperity, and Western culture.
Initially, Milkman’s journey leads him down a path that resembles cultural influences of mainstream America. This is the same direction in which his father, Macon Dead, Jr. navigates his life—seeking wealth, prosperity, and likeness to White Americans while remaining undisturbed by the problems inherent to his community. Milkman tries to imitate this characteristic of his father’s until he grows older and realizes that one of his legs is shorter than the other which requires him to walk with a limp. At fourteen, “Milkman feared his father, respected him, but knew, because of his leg, that he could never emulate him” (Morrison 63). Once again Milkman’s sense of identity is stumped and while he tries to imitate his father, he becomes different, nonetheless, in his behaviors.
Milkman’s journey for an identity takes him down a road in which he becomes as callous as his father.

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