Flight as a Literal and Metaphorical Symbol in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

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In Song of Solomon, a novel by Toni Morrison, flight is used as a literal and metaphorical symbol of escape. Each individual character that chooses to fly in the novel is “flying” away from a hardship or a seemingly impossible situation. However, by choosing to escape, one is also deliberately choosing to abandon family and community members. The first reference to this idea is found in the novel’s epigraph: “The fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names,” which introduces the idea that while flight can be an escape, it can also be harmful to those left behind. However, while the male characters who achieve flight do so by abandoning their female partners and family, the female characters master flight without abandoning …show more content…
In addition to the onlookers, Smith’s declarations imply that he himself believed he was literally capable of flight. However, Smith’s failure to fly contrasts with the success of Milkman, who is eventually able to escape the confining circumstances in his life. In this sense, Smith’s flight was a success, for he managed to use death as a way to escape from his community. This overwhelming belief in human flight stems from the story of Solomon, a Virginia slave who escaped slavery through flight and returned home to Africa. According to the myth, Solomon launched himself into the air, “cut across the sky,” and “gone home” (Morrison 303). While Solomon achieved total freedom through flight, his escape scarred the family members he left behind, including twenty-one children and his wife, Ryna, who “fell down on the ground…[and] threw her body all around” in grief (Morrison 303). The story of Solomon’s flight, which serves as the motivating factor behind Milkman’s quest, is also the community member’s primary “evidence” with regard to the possibility of human flight. The residents of Shalimar, Virginia, who have grown up hearing the story of Solomon, do not view it as a myth, but treat the story as fact – Solomon took flight. Overall, his flight is a physical demonstration of the freedom that is achieved when a person escapes confining circumstances. Both the stories of Robert Smith and Solomon influence Milkman to embark on a personal journey for

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