Escape Towards Death


Escape Towards Death Essay, Research Paper

As the cliched statement says, “Nobody’s perfect.” Everyone’s life has some difficulties, with which one may arrive at a variety of resolutions.

For instance, if one has lost a love to something other than death, he may simply discuss it with his friends; if someone is troubled by family

memories, that person may receive counselling or other forms of psychological therapy; and if one is dissatisfied with his life, then he may spend

money on making improvements or a vacation. The story Song of Solomon describes characters with these travails, but they offer strange

solutions-a variety of deaths. All descendants of a man, Solomon, with a famous legend of flying away from his wife and twenty-one children,

these characters do not meet death wit h anger or fright, but with acceptance and peace. The characters seemed more et peace in their times of

death than in some points of their lives. The novel Song of Solomon shows how the burdens of three characters, Hagar, Pilate, and Milkman,

were resolved by their deaths.

Hagar, the first main character to die with her burdens, is a character whose life revolved around her emotions and the positive, happy side of

life. A vain and spoiled person from her birth, Hagar never knew the problems of racism and poverty as other people in her small, midwestern

town knew and felt. Hagar’s life was completely devoted to Milkman, her cousin and lover. “He is my home in this world.” (pg. 137) Her

happiness, Milkman, would ultimately be her depression as “Ecclesiasties” finally turned her success into failure, though Hagar exaggerated the

loss and apparently was not aware of the Biblical promise that her life would eventually regain confidence and prosperity. After Milkman no

longer loved her, Hagar suddenly became a different p erson, “into a bright blue place where the air was thin and it was silent all the time, and

where people spoke in whispers or did not make sounds at all, and where everything was frozen except for an occasional burst of fire in her

chest.” (pg.. 99) Hagar , instead of finding something new to occupy her life, was only “totally taken over by her anaconda love,…no self left, no

fears, no wants.” (pg. 137) Her obsession even led to attempts on murdering him which did not succeed, since she never killed him when she

came near him; Hagar thought that violently stalking him was simply her only method of physical contact and mental attention from him. A long

home seclusion only helped Hagar to think of how to improve her image, spending money to her external ad vantage, but when she realized her

complete loss of Milkman in her image, she became feverish and lost herself in a sickness, crying for Milkman and how he would never “like my

hair.” (pg. 316) These, her last words, ended her life and obsession; her deat h was the result of a never-ending love. Death was the only

resolution to her burdens, because her love for Milkman would have never ended, and she would have simply continued her cycle of stalking,

attempting murder, depression, and weak hope had she not died.

Pilate, Hagar’s grandmother, was the second main character to die; though considered one of the toughest and emotionally strong characters,

Pilate was still secretly burdened with her family’s disturbing memories. The legendary “song” praising the flying leave of Solomon, her

grandfather, was still a part of her daily life, as she had sung it when the insurance agent had flew off the roof of the Mercy hospital. Pilate had

also sang the song with her daughter Reba and granddaughter Hagar (pg. 49). Memories of her father were also frequent with Pilate; according

to her brother, Macon, they stemmed from the time when, in the cave running away from the city where their father died, they had seen the spirit

of their father, “As if in answer to her reco gnition, he took a deep breath, rolled his eyes back, and whispered, ‘Sing. Sing.’ in a hollowed voice

before he melted away again.” (pg. 170) Pilate, oddly, also had human bones, from that same cave, hanging from a wall in her home, which she

stated was there because of a constant stream of haunting advice from her father s ghost: “He kept coming to see me…’Sing,’ he’d whisper.

‘Sing, sing.’ Then right after Reba was born he came and told me outright: ‘You just can’t fly off and leave a body.’” (p g. 208) Pilate was still

affected by these memories, since she always hung the bones where she could see them everyday; later, she was speechless to discover, from

Milkman’s journey to his family’s origin towns, that she was actually hanging her father s remains from her ceiling. When Pilate and Milkman

travelled to Shalimar, Solomon’s hometown, Pilate was the accidental victim of a homicide, and she died with a last wish for Milkman,

foreshadowed by her life and her father’s ghost, “‘Sing,’ she said. ‘Si ng a little somethin’ for me. ” (pg. 336) Death, though not meant to happen

to her at the time, was her resolution to her family’s constant, troubling memories. With her last words, Pilate had joined her father, therefore

meeting death with complete peace ; her death was a tranquil, not violent, end to life, but also a new beginning to the future, happy with her

father’s spirit.

Milkman, the most emotionally changeable character, was the final descendant of Solomon to die, with a death most linked to his

great-grandfather. Milkman was never truly satisfied with his life until his end. Beat by his father before his birth and ph ysically attractive to his

overly nursing mother, Milkman began his life knowing a dysfunctional family. The idea of flight, foreshadowing to his discovery of Solomon, was

most constant in Milkman s childhood, but to the disagreement of others; as a four- year-old wishing to fly, people “called him ‘peculiar’.” (pg. 9)

As he continued to grow and become distraught with his mother s strange family relationships and experience one himself with his cousin Hagar,

he worked under the money-hungry influence of h is father, Macon, the city s greedy tax collector, which unfortunately transformed his needs to

“boats, cars, airplanes, and the command of a large crew.” (pg. 179) This controlled lifestyle only brought Milkman more dissatisfaction with his

life, long ag o realizing that “his life was pointless, aimless, and it was true that he didn’t concern himself an awful lot about other people.” (pg.

107) As he even had arguments with his best friend, Guitar, Milkman further grew away from his adult life: “Deep down, ….he felt used.

Somehow everybody was using him for something or as something…Everything they did seemed to be about him, yet nothing he wanted was part

of it” (pg. 165) Out of an greedy impulse from his money-loving father’s plea, Milkman travelled t o his family’s past residences to claim the

valuable gold supposedly still in the cave where Macon and Pilate stayed. On his travels, especially in Shalimar, Milkman finally felt free and

returned, in his mind, to his childhood dreams of flight, as childr en played near him. “A boy in the middle, his arms outstretched, turned around

like an airplane…doing his imitation of an airplane.” (pg. 264) Milkman learned much about his great-grandfather’s life and legend, which helped

Milkman, like an excited chil d, praise Solomon for his ability, screaming, “He could fly!…My great-grandfather could fly!…He didn’t need no

airplane. He just took off; got fed up….No more orders!” (pg. 328) At the end of the story, when he confronts Guitar, who was ready to kil l him,

Milkman gained happiness before Guitar could ruin his misery by flying off the cliff towards his death; the novel’s last quote, “For now he knew

what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air you could ride it,” (pg. 337) proved how Milkm an was fully free from his peers who had

wanted his life, but without him, by giving his life up to join Solomon in his reign of freedom from orders and the reality of life. Milkman’s death

resolved his burdens by allowing him to “Ay” away from his t roubles with the courage of his great-grandfather, Solomon.

In conclusion, the novel Song of Solomon shows how the burdens of three main characters, Hagar, Pilate, and Milkman, were resolved by their

deaths. They were all descendants of a troubled man, Solomon, who flew away from his problems in a legend , but they all had many difficult

burdens, like the fancy peacock who could not fly because of “that tail full of jewelry,” (pg. 178). All three characters had some “jewelry” which

they loved, whether it be love, family, or money, but the elegance had sto pped them from “flying,” or living their lives in peace. Song of Solomon

showed how the characters’ problems would end peacefully by death, rather than long, therapeutic, and painful emotional remedies most normal

people receive for their woes. Thi s novel is not of fantasy with its talk of flight, but a story that relates to everyone; with a variety of difficulties,

all people may have their unique way of coping with them, but one odd method discussed in Song of Solomon is the philosophy of how death can

perhaps hold one’s peacefulness within the final “flight” to the unknown afterworld.

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