Song of Solomon
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed) In this celebrated novel, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison created a new way of rendering the contradictory nuances of black life in America. Its earthy poetic language and striking use of folklore and myth established Morrison as a major voice in contemporary fiction. Song of Solomon begins with one of the most arresting scenes in our century's literature: a dreamlike tableau depicting a man poised on a roof, about to fly into the air, while cloth rose petals swirl above the snow-covered ground and, in the astonished crowd below, one woman sings as another enters premature labor. The child born of that labor, Macon (Milkman) Dead, will eventually come to discover, through his complicated progress to maturity, the meaning of the drama that marked his birth. Toni Morrison's novel is at once a romance of self-discovery, a retelling of the black experience in America that uncovers the inalienable poetry of that experience, and a family saga luminous in its depth, imaginative generosity, and universality. It is also a tribute to the ways in which, in the hands of a master, the ancient art of storytelling can be used to make the mysterious and invisible aspects of human life apparent, real, and firm to the touch.
The curriculet is being added to your library
The insurance agent, Robert Smith, leaves what could be considered a suicide note. Though he states he will fly away "to the other side of Lake Superior" (Canada), Robert clearly means to never return. He asks for forgiveness and writes in the past tense that he "loved" everyone. Morrison provides foreshadowing with Robert's plea and his use of a past tense verb.
The details describing these two women indicate
Although Welsh, spoken in Wales, a region in southern England, is a native language of the British Isles, it is not English. Welsh has Celtic roots where as English has its history in West Germanic languages brought by invaders and settlers. Ironically, Morrison uses the simile "as though she had spoken Welsh" to describe the reaction of the white nurse to the African-American woman's pronouncement of her grandson's name.
What surprises the community most about Robert Smith's most recent decision?
While it may look terrible, being "born with a caul" was traditionally thought to be a sign of luck. A caul is actually only a piece of membrane from the amniotic sac that still covers a baby's head or face during birth. It is easily removed and causes no harm to the infant. Since the caul is rare, folklore held that the dried membrane contained magical properties. Cauls were prized by sailors who believed owning one would prevent death by drowning. In literature, such as in tales by the Brothers Grimm and stories by Stephen King, cauls portend supernatural abilities or result in suffering.
Ruth tries to delight her new husband in the early years of their marriage with a family tradition by arranging a new centerpiece for him for dinner. Macon Dead II; however, answers Ruth's question with a criticism of her underdone cooking. What does this exchange reveal about the relationship between Ruth and her husband?
Here Morrison alludes to Rumpelstiltskin, a fairytale about a young woman who is imprisoned by a man insisting she spin straw into gold. While Morrison's character acknowledges she feels "thrilled with the secret power", Ruth does not acknowledge she is also trapped like the miller's daughter and unable to escape a prison of her own making. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the impact of Morrison's use of the words regret, bitterness, and revolting in this sentence?
Known a Pontius Pilate, Pilate was a Roman official who notably "washed his hands" of Jesus's fate and said, according to the Gospel of Matthew, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." Ironically, Morrison's character Pilate (pronounced pilot) has a mother who dies in childbirth. Pilate's name, like the names of Morrison's other characters, has significant symbolism. (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence describes Macon's character development in his relationship with is sister?
Morrison makes an interesting word choice in this section. How do you feel about Morrison, an African-American author, having one character insult another with a controversial word? How does her choice of diction enhance the tension of the scene?
Which phrase supports the statement that Macon is a critical, calculating character?
Up until this point, Macon has been cruel and calculating, but not vulgar. He tries to distance himself from any perception of "low class" connection. However, when he faces the prospect of losing money, a symbol of his rise to power, Macon's speech changes to something he might expect to hear from his sister, someone he considers beneath him in social standing. Morrison highlights the threat Macon feels for his social position through his choice of words.
Morrison uses what literary device in the highlighted text to describe Macon's relationship with the houses he owns and rents?
Morrison does not reveal what Pilate's family sings in this scene. Perhaps it is the song Pilate sang to Robert Smith as he stood on the edge of Mercy Hospital's roof. Whatever the song, Morrison evokes an ancient tradition of group singing dating back tens of thousands of years. Below a trio of young women harmonize together in a spiritual called, "Now Let Me Fly." As you listen to their voices, think about why Macon is drawn to his estranged sister's house "like a carpet tack under the influence of a magnet." (This annotation contains a video)
There are four general points of view in novels. First person is from one character's perspective using first person pronouns like "I" and "we.". Second person is where one character reveals events to another character using "you" and "your." Third person limited tells the story from one character's point of view but uses third person pronouns like "he," "she," and "it." Third person omniscient revels a narrative from multiple points of view and uses third person pronouns. The highlighted paragraph is an example of which point of view?
Some people believe systematic segregation appeared only in the Southern United States as depicted in this Jim Crow era photograph showing separate "white" and "colored" water fountians. However, throughout the country public institutions divided along racial lines even if segregation was not legally enforced everywhere. (This annotation contains an image)
What literary device does Morrison use to indicate Milkman Dead will continue to focus "on things behind him" throughout his life?
Dialect is language used by people from a specific group or area. As a literary device, authors often use dialect for characterization. In the highlighted passage, Morrison drops the "g" at the end of "nothin" and "passin" and "standin" and also drops the verbs from some sentences. She manipulates spelling and grammar rules to reflect the dialect her characters speak. Many great writers utilize dialect in their works including Mark Twain and Paul Laurence Dunbar (pictured below.) (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement is a summary of the highlighted section?
Milkman experiences a hypnotizing effect as he sits and listens to his aunt talk about his father. He notices the details of the room: the smell, the light, the lack of curtains. How does Morrison's description create atmosphere for the scene? (This annotation contains an image)
Pilate tells the boys the story of a time she tried to save a man from an imaginary cliff. When confronted by the man's wife with the reality that there was no cliff, Pilate lets go and the man falls over "stone dead." At the beginning of the novel, Robert Smith jumps off a rooftop saying he would fly to the other side of the lake. Jumping, falling and flying are motifs that continue throughout the book. How do these two stories introduce the theme of human beings constantly trying to overcome impossible odds?
Pilate introduces her nephew to her granddaughter as Hagar's "brother" then argues with her daughter Reba about the two being cousins instead. Why does Morrison choose to include this discussion?
Playing a "guess the number" game is a popular method businesses use to attract potential customers into their stores. The winner often wins due to a lucky guess rather than any kind of strategy. (This annotation contains an image)
Compared to her mother and daughter, Reba could be described as
Guitar isn't making a foolish assumption. Traditionally women stomped on grapes to crush them before making wine. Lucille Ball created a famous grape stomping scene in her 1950's show "I Love Lucy." Interestingly it is Guitar, a boy from a poor family, that knew about grape stomping and also corrected the white nurse who misspelled admissions. What do these facts reveal about Guitar's character? (This annotation contains a video)
What is Morrison alluding to with the lines "Cotton balls to choke me" and "Buckra's arms to yoke me"? ("Buckra" is a slang offensive term for a white person or boss.)
Macon is angry with Milkman for going to Pilate's house. However, when his son questions Macon's rules, Macon does not know what to do with his anger. He recalls his life at twelve and his father's murder and beings to talk to his son. For the first time in the novel, Morrison helps the reader sympathize with Macon's character by revealing Macon's personal history.
As Macon talks about his childhood with Milkman, both characters
Macon has finally opened up to Milkman, and the reader, about his past. However, revealing his past does not lead to a change in his present attitude. How do you think Milkman and Macon's relationship will continue in the future?
Which literary device does Morrison accelerate at the beginning of Chapter 3?
Guitar and Milkman skip school to hang out together. An old man called Hospital Tommy ask if the "halls of academe" disappeared. Tommy uses a synecdoche, a term for when a specific part refers to the whole. Here the "halls" refer to the entire school building. Of course Tommy knows the high school is still standing and that the boys are skipping school. (This annotation contains an image)
Which phrase summarizes Tommy's point?
Guitar has a seemingly contradictory association with sugar. Sweets, like Baked Alaska, make him think of dead people and white people. Keep reading to see how Morrison creates this contradiction in Guitar's character. (This annotation contains an image)
Although Milkman creates differences in appearance and habits between himself and his father, which sentence provides the clue that Milkman secretly looks up to Macon?
Many Christian denominations believe in practicing communion. They reenact the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with bread and wine. In the Catholic faith, communion is one of the holy sacraments delivered only to active members of the Catholic Church. As a Methodist, a Protestant Christian denomination, Ruth should not have participated in a Catholic communion. (This annotation contains an image)
Which phrase describes the differing points of view Macon and Ruth have about their children?
Milkman retreats to his room after punching his father to stop him from beating his mother. "Milkman fiddled with things on his dresser" including silver-backed brushes inscribed with the letters M.D. Notice the way Morrison slows down the pacing of the narrative here after the excitement over dinner. Milkman dissolves into memory almost as a way to escape his newly disturbed reality. (This annotation contains an image)
How does this sentence reveal Macon's true feelings behind his marriage to Ruth?
While Macon makes an assumption that ether addiction caused Mr. Foster's deteriorating health, it is difficult to say. The long-term effects of habitually using ether as a drug are not clear, but as with any mind-altering substance, addiction is not healthy and probably contributed to his slow, painful death.
Objects stand as symbolic replacements for characters in this sentence. What do the silver-backed brushes and the empty chair represent?
Read closely and notice how Morrison switches between past and present tense in this scene. As Milkman gathers more of his past memories together, Morrison develops the dramatic tension by switching between past tense, "somebody he couldn't see," and present tense, "his mother is ashamed," in the same sentence. Watch the short biography of Morrison below to learn more about the themes of escaping the past and facing the future. (This annotation contains a video)
Although he doesn't know it, Milkman's personal crisis has collided with the event that galvanized the Civil Rights movement in America. Watch the video on the brutal murder of young Emmett Till. What is Morrison's reason for pairing this tragic but historically important event with Milkman's personal crisis surfacing from his past? (This annotation contains a video)
Freddie questions why Emmett Till would whistle at a white woman in Mississippi and says, "What he think that was? Tom Sawyer Land?" What literary device does Morrison use in this quote?
Ironically, Emmett Till's father did lose his life in World War II. He was executed by the U.S. Army for "willful misconduct" while serving in Italy. Also ironically, Morrison's line, "He could of had a wad of bubble gum, they'd swear it was a hand grenade," has a modern parallel. The death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 inspired many comparison's to Emmett Till. Trayvon's shooter said he believed Trayvon had a gun in his pocket. It turned out Trayvon was carrying a bag of Skittles.
Although Milkman now knows how he received his nickname, he questions Guitar about it anyway. What is the reason for Milkman's motivation for questioning his best friend?
Guitar tries to connect with Milkman by telling him a story from his childhood about a time he killed a female deer out of season. Guitar says he knows how Milkman felt. However, Milkman who gazed at Guitar "with the wide steady eyes of a man trying to look sober" probably doesn't understand what Guitar is saying. This is another example of Milkman's inherently self-centered nature. (This annotation contains an image)
Which literary technique does Morrison use to highlight the tension between Guitar and Milkman?
Again, Guitar offers his best friend good advice for dealing with his personal troubles. However, instead of trying to accept Guitar's help, Milkman continues to focus on himself and his problems rather than see the bigger issues of race and class engulfing the entire country. Morrison will spend the rest of the novel developing Milkman's character through the issue of his ultimately selfish nature.
Milkman. Macon Dead. Pilate. The importance of names and name history resurfaces over and over throughout the novel. This recurring element describes what literary technique?
Here Morrison reveals the first glimpse that after years of "going with" his cousin (technically his first cousin once removed) Hagar, Milkman is ready to stop his relationship with her. Milkman will "cast her out" like the Biblical Hagar. Again, Morrison layers meaning with names. Hagar of the Bible is Ishmael's mother, the Egyptian slave woman with whom Abraham has a son since he believes his legitimate wife Sarah is too old to have children. After Sarah does have a son, she convinces Abraham to throw Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. Hagar and Ishmael run out of water, but an angel rescues them by providing a well. The mother and son settle near the well. The prophet Muhammad is believed to descend through Ishmael's line. (This annotation contains an image)
Morrison jumps her narrative back in time to reveal the history of Milkman and Hagar's relationship. Which structural device is Morrison using at this point in the chapter?
Pilate offers a kind of logical conundrum to Reba's attacker. She says she would hate to let the man go in case he ever tries to hurt Reba again, but she would also hate to kill the man because it would hurt his mother. Notice that Pilate never takes the man's motives or feelings into consideration. Her mercy or vengeance is based entirely on the females affected by the situation. What does this exchange reveal about Pilate's values? (This annotation contains an image)
Which quote from the text reveals Milkman's self-centeredness?
The green sack hanging from the ceiling is an important element in the plot. Morrison has mentioned it once before when Milkman first visit's Pilate's house. In this scene he literally rams into it wit his head but doesn't pay much attention to the heavy weight inside because he is too distracted by Hagar. Continue to look for references to the green sack at it will play a major roll in the lives of everyone in the narrative.
Milkman ends his long relationship with Hagar full of excuses and justifications. In reality, he drops her because of his own boredom but tells himself he is being unselfish and thinking only of her happiness and her future. Which literary device is Milkman exhibiting?
In light of the recent murder of the white teenage boy, Milkman notices the men are nervous because there was a witness who said a "bushy-haired Negro" ran from the scene. Like Tom Robinson in Harper Lee's novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," the African-American community feels the real threat of racial prejudice and discrimination from the justice system. Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman and is convicted even though his lawyer proves the accusers are lying. Tom Robinson's fictional character (pictured from the movie version of "To Kill A Mockingbird" below) may have been based on the real Emmett Till. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman, once again, pushes his friend Guitar away by acting selfishly. Guitar tries to communicate something serious, but Milkman is only interested whether or not he feels insulted. Milkman misses the secret hidden in Guitar's conversation. How do you think the phrase "there are things that interest me that don't interest you" will impact the plot?
Ruth in her garden is an example of magical realism. Read closely as Milkman describes the interaction between his mother and her flowers. Other examples of magical realism include Pilate being born without a navel and Pilate seeing her father's ghost. Magical Realism as a movement developed when artists and authors blended representational art and literature with elements of fantasy. Notice the detail in the painting, "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth below. At first the painting appears to be of a young woman in a field, but looking closer reveals the woman is thin and straining. In fact, she is in her 50s and disabled from polio. She drags herself impossibly through the landscape to her distant farmhouse. Magical Realism brings to light hidden and unattainable mysteries of life. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this paragraph reveal about Milkman's friendship with Guitar?
Milkman's apathy about life has long plagued him since he was four years old and learned people cannot fly under their own power. Milkman is, and has long been, bored. Even Hagar who once excited him bored him to the point he ended their relationship. Milkman speculates marriage and business will interest him, but Morrison offers no hope in those solutions. Even the extreme racial problems engulfing the country don't interest Milkman. He says he is not interested in "politics" like Guitar. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this conversation about ghosts and Morrison's description of Freddie "looking like a gnome" and flashing "his gold teeth" allude to?
Freddie's character is the archetype of the Town Drunk who plays a critical role in the plot. Despite his intoxication and his subordinate state to Macon and Milkman, Freddie sees the truth others miss. Another famous character that represents this archetype is Haymitch Abernathy in Susan Collins's The Hunger Games series. (This annotation contains an image)
What is significant about the opening scenes to Chapter 5?
Guitar's conversation has become more erratic since we last see him talking with Milkman. This indicates a breakdown both of the relationship between the two friends and a breakdown of Guitar's psyche. In this scene he jumps between discussing tea to politics to race relations to religion. In the highlighted section Guitar claims Jesus was a Northerner who Southerners claim as their own because "He was strung up on a tree" and relates this to lynchings in the South. (This annotation contains an image)
Finally Morrison reveals the real reason Milkman visits Guitar. He is being hunted by someone who wants to murder him. Morrison has hidden the point of the plot of chapter 5 in mixed metaphors and flashback. By hiding the thread of the plot, the reader has become as confused about the narrative and characters as Milkman has become about life.
Who does Guitar mean in this sentence?
Although Milkman faces the reality he may be murdered in the night, he jokes with Guitar about the situation. Morrison uses the lighthearted tone to contrast the seriousness of the fact that Milkman is facing his own death.
Morrison manipulates the structure of her plot in Chapter 5. Here Milkman, who is already in a flashback, recalls events from a week ago. What literary device is Morrison using?
Ironically, Milkman feels betrayed by his mother for visiting her father's grave even though Milkman is the one secretly following her in the night. (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence is a summary of the highlighted paragraphs?
Reread the highlighted section. Morrison does some interesting things here. First, she allows Milkman to understand his father's hatred toward his mother is unfounded and that his father lied to him years ago. Second, Morrison establishes doubt in Milkman's mind regarding his long-held belief that his mother somehow wronged him by breastfeeding him until he was a toddler. Third, at the break Morrison reverts back to the scene where Milkman waits in Guitar's apartment for his murderer. Fourth, Morrison reveals it was the visit to the cemetery and his conversation with Ruth that motivated Milkman to stop running and face his attacker. In the end, Milkman is looking for an escape from his guilt and judgmental attitude and confusion.
How does this description of Hagar and Empire State reveal the theme?
In the Biblical story, Hagar and Ishmael are rescued by an angel. In Morrison's novel, there will be no rescue for Hagar. Despite her passionate rage and justified anger, she cannot kill the object of her desire. Even though Milkman longs to be free of his guilt and apathy, Hagar's failing fuels his arrogance. Milkman stands, insults and patronizes his former lover, and walks away incapable of forgiveness or empathy. (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence represents the best summary of the highlighted paragraph?
Ruth expresses extreme frustration over the small problem of the cabinet door. What does this reaction say about Ruth's feelings? What is she actually angry about?
How does the phrase "vulnerable, soft, like an easily wounded shin, full of bone but susceptible to the slightest pain" impact the tone of the passage?
Pilate is the voice of reason in this scene. She is the only one who can see Milkman's selfish nature--how he uses people and abandons both his mother and Hagar after their usefulness to him has run out. Having never needed or wanted to depend on a man, Pilate is the only woman Morrison allows to live life with complete freedom and independence. (This annotation contains an image)
In Morrison's novel where magical realism exists, what do Pilate's words imply?
As she retells her life's story, Pilate uses idioms, figurative language expressions common to a group or region. For example, in this section "make tracks" means to leave an area quickly while "broke as a haint" means Pilate did not have any money. A "haint" is a Southern expression for a ghost. The idiom "room and board" means Pilate worked only for a place to stay and meals to eat but she was not given wages. Finally, "lit out" means she left the area. All languages contain idioms. A diverse language like English has idioms from America to Australia. Idioms can vary from one region to another or even one town to another.
The expression "raised their eyes" is an example of what kind of figurative language?
Although she doesn't know it, Pilate is retracing her parent's journey out of Virginia to the farm they eventually settled in Pennsylvania. The Deads also traveled by wagon. Going by wagon was much slower than going by train, but it was faster and easier than walking. (This annotation contains an image)
Unwittingly, Pilate chooses a name for her daughter that means "to tie, bind or captivate." How does the meaning of Reba's name foreshadow the relationship between the two characters?
The reference to Circe bringing her cherry jam is swift but foreshadows a much larger story. Circe, the old midwife who delivered both Macon and Pilate, will surface again in the novel. (This annotation contains a video)
What literary device does Morrison use to indicate Hagar's personality and her mother's and grandmother's treatment of her will eventually lead Hagar to a life of grief and disappointment?
Song of Solomon Quiz - Chapters 1-5
Morrison pits three characters against each other in this scene. Hagar tried to kill Milkman for rejecting her. Guitar takes Hagar home, but blames Milkman for her actions. Milkman defends himself to Guitar saying he didn't do anything to Hagar that would cause her extreme hatred. How are all three characters responsible for the situation? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Reread this section carefully. Understand that lynching and mutilation were very real, very terrible threats in America long after the end of slavery. Think about what Guitar revels about the secret society the Seven Days. What is the objective of the society? How does the society respond to racial violence and injustice? How does the Seven Days contribute to it? (This annotation contains an image)
Guitar and Milkman reference historical figures in this section. John F. Kennedy was American's 35th President and pushed a civil rights agenda. Albert Schweitzer was a medical missionary to Africa and argued against colonialism. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, argued for social justice for woman and minority groups. What is Guitar's conclusion after being provided these examples?
Although his logic and actions are wrong, Guitar has legitimate reasons for his beliefs. It is true that racial violence against Native Americans and African Americas has a tragic history in America. While most Americans know about the history of institutionalized slavery, not as many know about centuries of prejudice and conflict with Native American tribal groups including war, forcible removal, and massacres of women and children. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman argues Guitar's life has no love in it and feels sorry for his friend. However, Milkman's life is loveless as well. His sisters ignore him, he despises his mother, he rejected Hagar and he has no children. What literary device is this an example of?
Milkman's reasoning exhibits his internal conflict over accepting what Guitar tells him about the Seven Days. The line, "You can off me," foreshadows the external conflict building between these two best friends. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Milkman's desire to leave his home advance the plot?
Remember the green sack hanging from Pilate's ceiling? Here it is again years later. When Milkman tells his father about the green sack, his father displays a strange, crafty smile. Morrison pairs the green sack with the word inheritance, but like most of the other symbols in the novel, inheritance is layered with meaning. Inheritance as a theme begins to emerge at this point in the text. Read carefully to uncover what inheritance means.
Pilate cries for the last time over cherry jam. What is the significance of this event and how does Pilate mark it?
Caves are fairly common in Appalachia though they are usually small, damp, and dark. In literature, caves often symbolize rebirth and are frequently associated with mythology and magical elements. Here, paired with a ghost, the cave offers shelter, but the characters' doubt and fear foreshadow danger. (This annotation contains an image)
After killing the old man, Macon wants to take the gold. Pilate refuses and fights with her brother. How does this external conflict foreshadow the internal conflict to come?
In 1963, four girls died in the bombing of an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama. In his dreams, Guitar blends the images from the opening chapter of the novel with the bombing. Like Emmett Till, Morrison infuses her fictional novel with historical events to create empathy and impact the plot. Below are the pictures of the four girls--Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman and Guitar plan to steal the green sack from Pilate, convinced it is full of gold. However, they want it for different reasons. Why does Guitar want the gold and why does Milkman want it?
Morrison leaves open the question of whether Guitar has killed during his involvement with the Seven Days. Milkman continues to wonder and scours the newspapers looking for clues. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman and Guitar, while planning how to rob Pilate of her gold, see a white peacock. Milkman reacts with wonder while Guitar reacts with plans of violence. How are these different reactions symbolic of the two characters? What could the unexplained appearance of the white peacock symbolize and how does it relate to the motif of flight? (This annotation contains an image)
Guitar's character has changed from the beginning of the novel. For years, Guitar advised Milkman, protected him, and acted as a friend. However, Guitar changed and his involvement with the Seven Days demonstrates how much. Which sentence in the highlighted selection demonstrates the distance that has grown between Milkman and Guitar? Support you answer with another example from somewhere else in the text.
Morrison never allows her characters in this novel to respect or understand each other across gender lines. Guitar, Milkman, and Macon do not respect the women in their lives. Pilate, Reba, and Hagar live without more than the occasional man in their household. Lena, Corinthians, and Ruth suffer under the patriarchal men in their lives. Based on these characters, what do you think Morrison says about the relationships between men and women in her novel? (This annotation contains an image)
Morrison references a fairy tale, the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. In the story, Jack climbs a magic beanstalk to steal gold from a giant. Which literary device does Morrison use by her reference?
Morrison references two Easter symbols in this section--the dyed Easter egg and the promise of the "Risen Son" which is a Biblical allusion to Jesus Christ. Many Christians combine both symbols. However, in Morrison's novel, the symbols are twisted into something skewed and harsh. For Milkman and Guitar, Pilate's gold means "complete power, total freedom, and perfect justice," but things do not work out that way.
First Corinthians and Ruth use the word "amanuensis" to describe Corinthians' job when in fact she is Miss Graham's maid. Which word is a synonym for amanuensis?
Corinthians is embarrassed to work as a maid. However, at the time there were few opportunities for women in the working world and fewer still for African American women. Another novel about the society of African American maids during the Civil Rights era is "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. Watch the clip below and compare the themes of the novels. (This annotation contains a video)
Corinthians rejects the friendly overtures of the man next to her on the bus. What changes her mind?
Morrison devotes this chapter to the developing relationship between Milkman's sister Corinthians and Henry Porter. Earlier in the novel, Henry Porter was the man shouting from a roof with a gun. Macon went to get his money and sent Freddie up to collect after Porter fell into a drunken stupor. How has Porter changed since the early part of the novel and why would Morrison reintroduce Porter through Corinthians?
What does Morrison mean when she states Corinthians "didn't know any grown-up women" and every woman in Corinthians' life "was a doll baby?"
Corinthians returns to Porter's car and bangs on the window. For the first time she makes a choice on her own rather than allow her family and society and history to define her. Toni Morrison speaks in the following interview clip about what it means to her to break out of traditional norms while still embracing herself as a "black, woman writer." (This annotation contains a video)
In 1939 it was common for companies to print and distribute calendars like the one below as a form of advertisement. Porter has covered the walls of his room with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company calendars from December 1939, the company Robert Smith worked for and the date Smith committed suicide. Even though this chapter seems to diverge from Milkman's story, the author slowly brings the pieces together in her parallel plot line. (This annotation contains an image)
Morrison uses a ___________ to compare men to "giants from dragon's teeth," an allusion to the Greek mythical heroes of Cadmus and Jason.
The reader can infer from the discussion Macon is having with Milkman that the theft of Pilate's green sack went wrong when the police pulled over Milkman's car. Macon insists Milkman could have gotten off if he had given his name. Milkman, however, disagrees. Below is a photograph of Baltimore police from the early 1960's. (This annotation contains an image)
This idiom alludes to a popular 1930's crime-fighting character similar to Batman or the X-men. The Shadow was said to have psychic powers and a secret identity. How does Milkman suggest The Shadow and Pilate are similar?
How does Pilate's decision to return to the cave to collect the bones impact the plot?
Milkman feels levels of shame over his actions and the actions of others. Specifically he feels the shame of Pilate putting on "her Aunt Jemima act" to get him out of trouble with the police. Aunt Jemima refers to a character created to sell breakfast food. This character typifies the "mammy" archetype. Though once common, this character archetype is considered by many to be offensive and steeped in racial prejudice. However, modern comedians sometimes flip this archetype with characters like Martin Lawrence's Big Mama and Tyler Perry's Madea, both of which are played in drag. (This annotation contains an image)
What effect does describing Milkman's sister Lena as "kind, like the man who had picked his pocket" have on the relationship between the two characters?
Milkman does not even recall the incident Lena describes. Like his other thoughtless acts, Milkman does not understand the impact he has on the people around him. The dying bush, however, is proof even thoughtless actions have consequences. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Lena react to Milkman's revelation to their father about the relationship between Corinthians and Porter?
Song of Solomon Quiz - Chapters 6-9
Morrison has made another jump in time in the plot. Somehow Milkman arrived in a forest looking for gold and ready to face even witch to get it. With the allusion to the fairy tale characters Hansel and Gretel, Morrison helps the reader understand a significant point about Milkman's character--like the fairy tale children he is lost, alone, helpless and haunted by malevolent forces. Only Milkman is unaware of his shortcomings and his precarious situation. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the description "Guitar was watching him carefully" imply about Guitar's character?
Misogyny is the hatred or strong dislike of women. Misogyny takes many forms such as discrimination, denigration, objectification and violence against women. Guitar's logic is consistent with a misogynist worldview. He cares nothing for the women, black or white, as individuals. He cares about women only as possessions or symbols. Guitar's misogynistic attitude has grown since his acceptance into the Seven Days.
How does the symbol of the peppermint stick alter Guitar's character?
Milkman, having arrived from the city, does not expect the small town bus station combination diner combination convenience store. What other surprises might Milkman experience on his journey? (This annotation contains an image)
Which idiom explains Milkman's thought that a thief should win goodwill?
In Greek mythology, Circe was the goddess of magic and sometimes was depicted as a witch or enchantress. Below is a depiction of Circe in a painting by John William Waterhouse. How does the mythological description of Circe fit with the opening scene of the chapter? (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman wonders at the anger he feels when learning that justice never prevailed, and wasn't even attempted, in his grandfather's murder. Why is this emotion significant?
Reverend Cooper uses hyperbole to describe Circe's advanced age. However, Morrison's use of magical realism allows for someone to live far longer than he or she should. Remember Pilate's conversation with Ruth about living forever? Milkman might be in for a surprise. (This annotation contains an image)
To the old men, the farm symbolized
Children growing up on farms often learn to drive at a young age. Mowers, four-wheelers, tractors, trucks--farm kids help with the work that needs to be done. In some states, the legal driving age is fourteen and a half for teens who must drive to do farm labor. (This annotation contains an image)
What event does the highlighted text summarize?
If Macon is seventy-two years old and Circe was around thirty when he was born, her age would be about a hundred. That puts her on the far range of natural human lifespan. However, since Morrison uses magical realism in her novel, it is possible Circe is much, much older.
In Homer's epic "Odyssey" Circe lives in a mansion in a dense wood. The house is guarded by drugged, docile lions and wolves. In Morrison's work, Circe lives in a dilapidated mansion with her former employer's Weimaraners. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman uncovers more about his family history. Throughout the novel Morrison offers different, sometimes contradictory, versions of the past, but each revelation contains some aspect of truth. How does this structure help convey the theme?
Traditionally cultures around the world bury their dead in the ground. However, mummification is also a common practice. (This annotation contains an image)
What reason does Circe give for bringing the dogs into her employers house?
In his haste, Milkman crosses the creek without thinking or planning. He falls in and ends up soaked. The encounter with the creek puts Milkman in a foul mood. (This annotation contains an image)
Money-hungry, Milkman frantically searches for the gold he is sure is at the bottom of the pit. It's not there. How does this turn of events develop the theme of wealth and money?
In the 1960's, Coca-Colas, like all other sodas and drinks, was sold in glass bottles like in the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman helps the old man load a box. This is the first instance Milkman has helped someone else without receiving something in return. What does this scene indicate?
Milkman is still convinced Pilate took the gold in the cave. He believes he will discover where she hid the gold if he follows her trail to Virginia. Why he believes this is unclear, but Milkman is not following logic at this point. He will travel down from Pennsylvania to Virginia. (This annotation contains an image)
What detail about the characters impacts the setting?
The town Milkman is looking for is called Shalimar but is pronounced Shalleemone and sounds like "solomon." Although Milkman does not realize it yet, he is drawing closer to the secret of his family history. The Biblical character, King Solomon, was reported to be the wisest man in the world. In the painting below, King Solomon solves a dispute between two mothers each claiming the same baby. Solomon orders the living baby killed. One woman agrees but the other woman begs for Solomon to give the baby to the other mother. That is how Solomon identifies the real mother. (This annotation contains an image)
How does this phrase impact the plot?
The children's chant alludes to a story Milkman will discover as he spends more time uncovering his family history. The human flight element of Morrison's novel brings to mind the mythological characters of Icarus and Daedalus, a father and son exiled to an island. Daedalus created wings for himself and his son so they could escape the island. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high so the heat would not melt the wax on his wings. Icarus, so caught up in the beauty of flight, did not listen and fell into the sea. (This annotation contains an image)
Which is a summary of the highlighted text?
Milkman ends up in a knife fight in Mr. Solomon's store. Another novel where a knife fight plays an important role in the plot is "The Outsiders" by S. E. Hinton. In Hinton's novel, two teen boys, Ponyboy and Johnny, are jumped by a rival gang of boys in a park. In self-defense, Johnny pulls a knife on the boys in order to save Ponyboy. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the worldview of the old men differ from the worldview of the town's younger men?
Before the integration of Major League Baseball, beginning with Jackie Robinson in 1947, African American players formed their own teams called the National Negro League. Below is a picture of a Pittsburg based team called the Grays. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman says he "watched the lamp until he realized that focusing on it kept him from seeing anything else." How is this phrase symbolic of Milkman's worldview?
Most people have never seen a bobcat but these mesopredators are an important part of the ecosystem. While bobcats are larger than domestic house cats, they are smaller than most dogs. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the communication between the men and the dogs illustrate one of Morrison's themes?
Guitar surprises Milkman in the forest and tries to strangle his friend with a wire. Milkman experiences life flashing before his eyes in one image of Hagar loving him. Milkman gets away from Guitar, but how will this experience change their relationship? How will it change Milkman's relationship with Hagar? How will Hagar respond if Milkman returns? The picture below is from a dramatic production of "Song of Solomon" in Chicago. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman recalls Guitar's words while Omar and Calvin skin the bobcat. Why does Morrison pair Guitar's words with this scene about the bobcat?
After his epiphany in the woods, Milkman hesitates to get back to his purpose for traveling to Shalimar--the search for Pilate's gold. (This annotation contains an image)
Sing has light skin and straight black hair like the other members of her family. Omar says Susan Byrd is the only person left at the old house since the other family members "moved out so they could pass." Based on the details of the passage, what does the term "pass" mean?
Milkman's sister accused him of never cooking or cleaning for himself. However, as he spends time with Sweet, Milkman washes the dishes and scrubs the tub. He has not changed completely though since he also pays Sweet fifty dollars. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the description of Susan Byrd's house impact the tone?
Susan is frustrated with her friend Grace. Grace however is fascinated with Milkman and pushes her generosity on him by offering him coffee and butter cookies. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman finds out Susan Byrd's aunt was named Sing. How does this detail impact the plot?
Susan claims to have family in South Carolina, but Grace points out that Susan cannot visit her relatives "because they're passing." Racial prejudice and violence was so strong, sometimes people of African or Native American descent "passed" as white and lived without the hardship of racism. However, serious consequences could occur if the person "passing" was discovered. In the movie "A House Divided" bi-racial actress Jennifer Beals plays a bi-racial woman who marries into a white family. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman feels connected to the people in Shalimar in a way he has not felt with his family or friends for a long time. How does this fact develop Milkman's character?
Milkman asks Guitar why he is trying to kill him. Guitar believes Milkman took the gold. Predict if Guitar will believe Milkman's story.
Which is a summary of the highlighted section?
Milkman and Guitar use puns, or word play, with the words "dead" and "Day" but in this case, the puns do not add humor. A pun is an example of figurative language. Watch the video to understand the difference between literal and figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the reason the town is so busy so early in the morning?
How does Morrison connect Milkman's family history to another text?
Milkman pieces together his family story including his grandmother's name Singing Bird and her brother's name Crow. Many Native American names referenced nature, but after encounters with Europeans these names were sometimes changed to fit with social expectation. (This annotation contains an image)
Which literary technique does Morrison use at the beginning of Chapter 13?
Pilate and Reba are helpless when trying to bring Hagar out of her depression. Reba, who for the first time tries to win things, finds her luck has run out. How does this lack of luck connect to Hagar's emotional state? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the disagreement between the three women suggest?
Morrison says Hagar is "like a smiling sleepwalker" at the makeup counter. She wanders to the counter like the one in the picture below as if in a dream buying whatever advertisements catch her eye. How does her shopping trip impact Hagar's mood? (This annotation contains an image)
In the highlighted section, what motivates Hagar to try to win Milkman back?
Hagar sees in Pilate's and Reba's eyes that all of her shopping for new clothes and makeup has not made her beautiful. This knowledge destroys Hagar emotionally and brings on a physical fever. Morrison offers no hope that Hagar will recover. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted selection, what can be inferred about Ruth?
Reba and Pilate sing in mourning for Hagar. They plead for mercy, but the word mercy also references the opening chapter of the novel when Robert Smith jumped off of the roof of Mercy Hospital. Although the events seems disconnected, Morrison threads the events of her novel together with the theme of how choices have far reaching consequences. From the death at the beginning of the novel through Hagar's death, Morrison's characters continue to impact each other. (This annotation contains an image)
"Words tossed like stones into the silent canyon" is an example of which type of figurative language?
Shalimar is an Arabic name (most often used for girls) meaning strong or beautiful. In America, Shalimar transformed into Solomon. To escape slaver, Solomon flew back to Africa. He left his twenty-one sons and his wife behind although Solomon tried to carry his infant son Jake in his arms. Virginia Hamilton's children's book "The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales" illustrates tales and myths of flying people. (This annotation contains an image)
Milkman believes Susan Byrd is using what kind of figurative language to describe how Solomon left his family?
Susan has just told a story of how Milkman's great-grandfather Solomon flew away to Africa, but she says "this is a dull place" and "absolutely nothing in the world going on" in the town. This is an example of what literary device?
Below is a picture of a quarry pond like the one Milkman wants to go swimming in. How does Milkman's mood change after he learns about Solomon's flying? (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Milkman shout to Guitar about Solomon?
Milkman makes his way back to Michigan on a bus like the one pictured below. He ponders names of people and places as he travels home, but all the while Milkman realizes Guitar is waiting for him. Morrison has not brought her novel's plot to a climax yet. (This annotation contains an image)
How do Pilate's actions contradict her words?
Reread the highlighted scene. Pilate and Milkman both come to understand something about themselves. Pilate realizes she carried around her father's bones in the green sack. Milkman takes responsibility for Hagar's death. The green sack of bones and the shoebox of Hagar's hair are physical symbols of the emotional connection lost between the characters. (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement is a summary of the highlighted section?
Song of Solomon Quiz - Chapters 10-15
Morrison ends her novel at the climax. Milkman jumps, surrendering to the air. Morrison does not resolve the conflict between Milkman and Guitar or Milkman and the rest of his family. Instead, she ends with a statement of theme--"If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it." Before taking the final quiz, watch the Prezi summarizing Morrison's novel. (This annotation has embedded rich content)