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Song of Solomon

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1) In an interview, Toni Morrison commented on the unique importance of names and naming for African-Americans, saying that "if you come from Africa, your name is gone. It is particularly problematic because it is not just your name by your family, your tribe. When you die, how can you connect with your ancestors if you have lost your name? That's a huge psychological scar. The best thing you can do is take another name which is yours because it reflects something about you or your own choice."
1) Using this comment and looking at the names and how the characters get them in this novel (many of which are near the beginning of Chapter 15 when Milkman is reflecting), how do characters get their names? What does the power to name consist of? What do names signify to the individual? To others? What is the significance of names and naming in the novel?

2) What are the qualities and characteristics that Morrison emphasizes about Pilate? Why is she often compared to a witch? What knowledge does she possess and what actions does she take that are heroic? How is that heroism connected to her being a woman and how does it contrast with a male heroism in the novel, such as the Seven Days? If Pilate is "large" because she "is like soemthign we wish existed" and represents hope in all of us (as Morrison claimed), if Pilate is that "something we wish existed," what is it?

3) In an interview about "Song of Solomon" the author said, "I chose the man to make that journey because I thought he had more to learn than a woman would have. I started with a man, and I was amazed at how little men taught one another in the book. I assumed that all men ever learn about being men they get from other men. So the presence of Pilate, and the impact that all the other women had on Milkman's life, came as a bit of a surprise to me. But it made it work out right, because there were two sets of information he needed to learn in order to become a complete human being."
3) What is it that Milkman learns from the other men in the book? What does he learn from women? What are the two sets of information he needed to "become a complete human being"?

4) What are the significant references to flight and flying in the book (both literal and metaphorical)? What does Milkman learn about flight and flying in his perilous journey from Michigan to Pennsylvania and Virginia? What is the significance in the end of the novel when Milkman jumps from Solomon's Leap? Has he learned to fly? What does the author mean with regard to what Milkman has learned, when she wrote, "If you surrender to the air, you could ride it."?

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Solution Summary

Themes and characters of Song of Solomon.

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