After undergoing a journey of profound growth, unearthing fascinating epiphanies about his family’s past, and watching his most beloved and admired family member die in his arms, Milkman Dead leaps from the edge of a cliff. It’s unclear whether he plummets or soars, lives or dies, and whether his spirit ascends or descends as a result of his previous actions. But unlike the outcome of his flight, the motivations pushing him forward are completely certain; for the first time in Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, Milkman realizes that in order to fly, one must first rid themselves of the baggage weighing them down. Flight is a recurring theme in the book and has varying functions in propelling the story forward. Milkman has completed his adventure and the book has come full circle by the time of his carefree leap, yet for much of the novel, the concept of flight comes with plenty of various baggage and important connotations. Flight might represent personal growth for many characters, but always comes at the cost of others; a supernatural element means that gliding through the air might be feasible, but never without consequence; and finally, flying frequently carries musical and biblical implications that also serve to illuminate the story of the Dead family. Given that flying indicates Throughout the novel, Morrison uses flying as a symbol of both escape and abandonment to highlight the increasing gender imbalance between the characters, given that flight was not as equally achieved by both genders due to society’s norm at the time.
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon begins with the flight of Robert Smith and ends with the flight of Milkman Dead. The theme of flying is one that appears quite frequently throughout the novel. From Smith to the flight of Solomon, to the figurative flight of Milkman from Michigan, it seems as if flying as a means to escape occurs very often. Robert Smith’s form of For Milkman to truly fly, he must relinquish all that corrupts one’s mind to disregard the values of identity and culture and instead embrace humanity. The peacock serves as the icon of societal domestication. Only once the peacock releases the heavy, ornate feathers on its tail will the peacock be able to soar freely without constraint. While belittling Pilate through his anecdote about the baby snake that eventually ate its caretaker, Macon Dead also teaches Milkman “the one important thing you’ll ever need to know: Own things” (55). Macon Dead was not born into wealth, so he had to work with just ambition to reach the pinnacle of the black hierarchy; however, Milkman was born into wealth and took it for granted, which is even worse. Society corrupted Macon Dead’s mind to such an extent that Macon Dead believes “money is freedom. The only real freedom there is” (163). Milkman adopts this principle, when he writes the word “gratitude” and includes money in a breakup letter to Hagar so that he can be liberated from Hagar’s love
Morrison also uses Pilate’s struggle to show the strength that a woman can have in the face of adversity. After years of being rejected because of her blemish, Pilate became one of the wiser and strongest characters in the book. Almost every essential character in the story comes to her for help solving their problems. Ruth visited Pilate on multiple occasions as well as other people. Morrison states, “She was a natural healer…and sometimes mediated a peace that lasted a good bit longer than it should have because it was administered by someone not like them”(150). Because of her struggles, Pilate was able to help herself and the people around her. Her ability to make the best out of her life warrants no sympathy since she is completely capable of dealing with anything that life throws at her.