Biblical References in Toni Morrison’s “Song of Soloman”

Published in issue 40 of the journal Onoma. Abstract: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the third of Morrison’s eight novels, is the story of Milkman Dead, a young African American man so pampered by the women around him that he grows up incapable of forming meaningful attachments or of assuming responsibility. His development reveals on the relationship of individual and communal identity. Although the Dead family’s tradition prescribes an utterly haphazard manner of naming their children (specifically, opening the Bible and pointing blindly to a word to assign to the child in question), and though none of those biblical names proves wholly appropriate to the character who dons it, each of those names does bear a profound significance with regard to the novel at large. A careful comparison of Morrison’s characters to their biblical counterparts, and of the narrative as a whole to the biblical book which shares its name, reveals the novel’s central critiques of its contemporary black community. The community cannot embrace Pilate’s message of love, the same love personified by the lovers in the biblical Song of Solomon, until its members replace their once salvific but now out-dated inclination to fly away from misery with a renewed commitment to their community and a determination to improve their shared living conditions.

2005 Onoma 40 Essay_Biblical References in Toni Morrisons Song of Solomon