Role of Violence in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

The novel Song of Solomon is among the works of Toni Morrison that have shown prevalent aspects of violence in the American society. However, aspects of violence in this novel are not as prevalent compared to some of his previous works.  These aspects of violence still seem to stem from the pressure that the Whites exert on the African-Americans. Violence in this novel has been highlighted in a manner that shows the various functions it plays in the society. With the current generation, a lot has changed with regards to roles played by violence. As much as people would hate to admit, the society has reached to point where violence can be regarded as a source of entertainment. The media has given violence no meaning. Movies, music, and literature are full of violence, and they are consumed at home by millions of Americans every day. However, in this novel Toni Morrison has tried to showcase various roles that can be typified by violence.

To begin with, Toni Morrison provides an example of how violence can be used as a way of acquiring one’s property illegally. This is showcased by the death of Macon, who was killed as a result of defending his land. Milkman’s grandfather could not let the whites grab his people’s land something that culminated to his death. This shows how people will use violence to take that which is not theirs regardless of the impact that would come as a result.

Morrison has also used violence to demonstrate aspects of love and romance.   A good example is the case of Hagar (Pilate’s granddaughter) who was deeply in love with Milkman. She tried to express her love for him on several occasions without getting any positive outcomes. Milkman could not reciprocate the feelings. The situation angered Hagar, and it occurred to her that the only she could deal with the situation is by use of violence. As a result, Hagar attempts to kill Milkman at least six times without success. Hagar thought that making Milkman disappear would help heal her broken heart and be able to carry on with her life as usual. She was afraid that the love she had for milkman was so intense, and his presence tormented her even more.

Another function of violence demonstrated by Morrison is that of using it as an object of punishing individuals that break their promises. This aspect is expressed by the several attempts that Guitar made to kill Milkman. He was his best friend, but this did not matter. According to him, Milkman had betrayed his trust. He thought he had kept all the gold for himself despite his promise of sharing with him. Guitar thought that the only way to make Milkman regret his actions was by suffering the consequence of death. Here, violence seems to topple even the aspect of friendship.  This is based on how Guitar is determined to kill his friend for the sake of the “greater good”.

The plans that guitar and the other members of “Seven Days” have towards the Whites demonstrates violence as a weapon of exerting revenge. The group is of the belief that Whites must pay for the African-American’s blood that they did shed in the past. Seven Days believes that the murders are justified since that is what these people deserve. Vengeance was a deemed as a way of reclaiming Black subjectivity. The group was determined on this course to the extent that Guitar was willing to kill his best friend since he thought he had swindled him funds that would have been used by the group to execute their retaliations.

Morrison goes on to show how violence can be used as a way of demonstrating attributes of jealousy. This is based on how Macon was violently aggressive towards his wife, Ruth. Ruth used to idolize her father to the point where she even became obsessed with him. Macon is not happy with these actions. He even claims that he ones found Ruth sucking her father’s fingers after his death. This is something that Ruth refuted, and tried to explain to Milkman her side of the story. Macon is jealous and as a result, he occasionally beats his wife. The attention that Ruth gives her further makes him suspicious. He tends to believe that her wife is sexually involved with her father and that she loves him more than her husband. Such an occurrence is evidence of how violence can be used as a way of demonstrating jealousy.

Milkman is not happy on how his father strikes his mother on various occasions. This aspect displays another role of violence demonstrated by Morrison. Milkman uses violence to show that he cares for his mother and feels obligated to protect her. This is shown when on one occasion Milkman punches his father when he strokes his mother. He attempted to show how he cared for his mother’s wellbeing by use of violence. The moment also reveals the growing rift between son and father.

The violence involved in the novel also tends to demonstrate aspects of sacrifice in the society. The death of Pilate evokes this thought. She can be regarded as a defenseless woman that becomes a society’s scapegoat. The bullet that killed her was intended for Milkman. Pilate was at the wrong locale, at the wrong time. Pilate was sacrificed as a result of violence involving other people.

Morrison proceeds to show how violence plays a negative role of abandonment towards women and children. Milkman’s great-grandfather, Solomon had to fly back to Africa due to violence subjected towards the African-Americans by the Whites. The slavery bestowed on Solomon had reached its boiling point, and he could not withstand more. When Solomon escaped, he left his wife and 21 children behind.  This occurrence makes Ryan; his wife to go crazy. This is an elaboration of how violence usually results to negative implications on women and children. They are inferior in some ways hence the pressure that comes with violence might have major negative effects on them. It even gets worse that the society celebrates Solomon’s victory of being able to flee slavery at the expense of his wife’s misery.  Here, Morrison attempts to show the double standards that prevail in the society.

The novel demonstrates something peculiarly American regarding violence. It is used as a way of identifying heroes and villains in the society. The actions by “Seven Days” to revenge the death of their fellow African-Americans would be easily regarded as heroism. The group stands for people’s rights and seeks to protect them regardless of the mechanisms involved. On the other hand, violence demonstrated towards African-Americans would be easily identified as a villain act. The society tends to classify violence based on its cause and the resulting outcome. A good example is the movie “American Sniper”, which evoked numerous public conversations. It is a movie demonstrating war and violence whereby American soldiers invade Iraq. The movie evokes conversations of heroism despite the violence involved in the process.

In conclusion, Morrison demonstrates various roles exhibited by violence. It is the usual scenario of his previous works where pressure emanating from the Whites towards African-Americans becomes the center stage of violence. The forms of violence involved have been demonstrated to play various roles throughout the novel.


Work Cited

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Knopf, 1977. Print.

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