The book called Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, deals with many real life issues, most of which are illustrated by the relationships between different family members. One archetypal relationship that Morrison includes in her book is the father:son relationship. Although it is obvious that Morrison does talk about this topic, it is not so obvious what she is trying to say about it. So, one might ask, how does the author establish the father:son relationships throughout Song of Solomon and do they fit some sort of archetype?
To answer a question such as this, it would be beneficial to examine the actual father:son relationships throughout the book. One established father:son relationships that is significant to this issue is the one between Milkman and Macon. From the start, Macon objected to Milkman even being born; he forced Ruth to do things to her body that could possibly kill the fetus. With a little help from Pilate, however, Milkman was allowed into the world. Macon, perhaps instigated by never having a mother and seeing his own father killed, has always appeared to be a cold and unforgiving parent even to his other children besides Milkman, but since Macon heard that his son?s nickname was ?Milkman? he has seen him as a symbol of his disgust for his wife and lost a lot of respect for his son and became even colder towards him. The only time Macon did spend time with Milkman, he spent it boasting about his own great upbringing, warning him to stay away from Pilate and telling him about the embarrassing actions of Ruth. This is the manner in which Morrison establishes the relationship between Macon and Milkman in the first part of the book.
As Milkman grows up, he recognizes the emotional distance between his father and himself. He goes his own way with a few skirmishes here and there and later he even manages to hit his own father. As Macon and Milkman grow apart and go their separate ways, Milkman doesn?t even think twice about it and just continues on with his life as if nothing was different.
Near the end of the book Milkman seems to change his view of his father, with some help from the positive memories of the old men in the passage. Milkman grew up thinking that his father was a cold-hearted, hot tempered control freak who was only interested in gaining money and property. He came to realize that although there was some truth to what he thought, Macon was not inhuman. This is displayed in the passage when it states, ?His own father?s words came back to him: ?I worked right alongside my father. Right alongside him.? Even though Macon was against Milkman?s birth, he came to cherish his only son in his own way. Probably under the impression that showing affection was a sign of a weak man, Macon held back what feelings he had for his son. Milkman?s feelings about his father?s shows of affection are described when Morrison writes, ?Milkman thought then that his father was boasting of his manliness as a child. Now he knew he had been saying something else.? One of the few good memories that Macon had of his father was spending time working alongside his father. Milkman finally figured out that Macon?s description of his time spent working with his father were meant to as a show of affection for Milkman and to cause Milkman to see the similarities between Macon?s relationship with his father and Milkman?s relationship with Macon. Milkman?s revelation is explained, ?That he loved his father; had an intimate relationship with him; that his father loved him, trusted him, and found him worthy of working ?right alongside? him.? He most likely remembers gaining a great amount of respect for his father by learning and watching how his father made a living. Milkman now saw that all those times that he spent with Macon down in the workshop and being taught how to run a business were his father?s mild way of showing love. When Macon would tell Milkman about how he worked right alongside his father, he wasn?t bragging about how masculine he was when he was little, he was attempting to describe the only real time he ever had an intimate relationship with his father. Macon shared what he had with his father with his son. Milkman now realized that there was some substance to his relationship with his father and that it wasn?t completely disfunctional.
It is not clear whether Toni Morrison intended this part of the storyline to fit an archetype, but no matter what she intended, it does. It is the common story of two related characters who never really appreciate each other, or do appreciate each other but separate and never really discover the true value of their relationship with the other character until it is too late can be found in this book.
Song of Solomon