The Importance of Names in Toni Morrison’s Song Of Solomon
Toni Morrison’s award-winning novel Song of Solomon is full of very interesting, deep symbolism. Macon Dead III, nicknamed “Milkman,” is a very symbolic character throughout the novel. His character is not only symbolic, for so is his name. Also, Milkman’s paternal aunt, Pilate, has an extremely significant and symbolic role in the novel. To her father, she represents the child who killed her own mother and took away her father’s wife. Seeing that Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death, the name Pilate seems to coincide with her father, Macon Dead’s, opinion. Ironically, though, Pilate is a good person and is murdered in the end, just as Jesus was by Pontius Pilate. Another important character in the novel who portrays a great deal of symbolism is Guitar, Milkman’s best friend. Guitar is named after something that he is ultimately unable to attain. “I saw it when my mother took me downtown with her. I was just a baby…I cried for it, they said. And always asked about it.” This unreachable goal accurately describes his character throughout the novel. He is never able to overcome the obstacles that stand in his way or to reach the goals he has set for himself. Toni Morrison intelligently uses the characters Milkman, Pilate, and Guitar to successfully portray a great deal of symbolism throughout her novel.
“A milkman. That’s what you got here, Miss Rufie.” Milkman is given his name for a very logical reason: his mother nurses him until he is an adolescent. Freddie discovers this and gives Macon III his new nickname that will stick with him for the rest of his life. The name Milkman is symbolic in that it represents the other man in his mother, Ruth’s, life; it represents her need for another man because she simply cannot get what she feels she wants and needs from her husband. Consequently, she turns to her son to provide her with the comfort and love she is lacking.
Also, Milkman symbolizes his mother’s strong dependence on him. She does not feel needed by her husband or her other children, so she nurses her son for many years beyond infancy to feel that she is needed, as mother, by her son. The fact that she depends so heavily upon her son reveals the numerous insecurities she has about herself. It is the character and the name of Milkman Dead that enlighten readers of these highly significant facts and symbols throughout the novel.
Though Milkman is a very symbolic character in Song of Solomon, he is not the only one. Pilate also has both a very symbolic character and name. First of...