Shute was a reformed Anglican. Mary, Woolnoth. Cowper was a Scottish bishop. Jackson has given me in the Christian religion, against the Atheist, Jew and Socinian, and in the Protestant against Rome. So far as commenting is concerned it is not important. The following page has works on it from throughout Church history. Expositions of the 10 Commandments. Patrick was an Arminian, Latitudinarian Anglican. It is one of the old standard books of our fathers. It is a capital book, though too often the figures not only run on all-fours but on as many legs as a centipede. It is not strictly upon Leviticus, but we felt bound to insert it in this place.
It is so huge that it might have been the work of a lifetime, and yet the same writer has also given us Philemon. Think of folio pages on Numbers! It is thoroughly plain and eminently practical. Lavater was a Swiss reformed theologian. He wrote a curious work on spectres, and made a catalog of comets, thus showing himself to be both a philosopher and divine.
His book is seldom met with. Topsell was an Anglican. If then, O reader, little pain thou take, Thou greatest gain with smallest pain shall make. Fuller was a reformed Anglican. Under every verse, and often clause of a verse, the learned author proposes a question, and proceeds to answer it. He narrowly escaped martyrdom. We cannot therefore set a price [at which it sells for]. These sermons are different from his commentary. Guild — was a Scottish covenanter.
John Owen by the widow of the author, with a letter of her own, informing him that her dying husband desired it to be so forwarded. Rogers was a reformed puritan. It is a work which exhausts the subject and turns it to earnest evangelical uses. Bunyan hammers away at each type, but no one may call it tinkering. Leighton was a very godly Scottish bishop.
Bishop Pilkington was one of the English reformers. The style is cramped, and even grotesque, yet Pilkington is a grand old author. He has only written upon five chapters. Merlin was reformed. Abbott was an English, puritan, lay theologian and scholar who sat in the House of Commons. Caryl was a Westminster divine. Caryl on Job will not exhaust the patience of a student who loves every letter of the Word.
It would be a mistake to suppose that he is at all prolix or redundant; he is only full. In the course of his expounding he has illustrated a very large portion of the whole Bible with great clearness and power. He is deeply devotional and spiritual. He gives us much, but none too much. His work can scarcely be superseded or surpassed. An ox in a gallipot is nothing to it. He distills the text, and gives his readers the quintessence, ready for use. Antique, but still prized. It is certain to be good, for Durham is always admirable. As a commentator he lacked the profound insight and comprehensive grasp of Calvin, but as a critical scholar he is said to have been his equal if not his superior.
This work on Job is rare. Senault, J. Senault was a Roman Catholic in Paris. His writings were highly esteemed in their day, and translated into English. Dickson was a leading Scottish covenanter. Henry Cole, Richard Robinson. Strigel only comments on the first half of the Psalms. Strigel was a Lutheran who later moved to Heidelberg and accepted the Reformed view of the Eucharist. Strigellius was the friend of Luther and Melancthon, and a man of sound sense and vast learning. Wilcox c. Bellarmine was a prominent Roman Catholic divine and apologist.
For background to this work in English, see this dissertation. He is frequently as evangelical as a Reformer. He follows the [Latin] Vulgate text in this comment. His uncommon skill in Hebrew learning, and his excellent commentaries on the Scriptures are held in high reputation to this day. Dickson was a prominent Scottish covenanter. Invaluable to the preacher. Having read and re-read it, we can speak of its holy savor and suggestiveness. We commend it with much fervor. The Psalms of David in metre, with the annotations of the Rev. These are brief summary notes and applications prefixed to each psalm in the psalter.
Mainly for devotional use. Note that the available print-on-demand versions of this work by Nabu Press are a spectacularly unreadable farce. Do not waste your money on them. Abbott was a reformed Anglican. Though not of the first order, many of his remarks are good. Abbot was nephew to the Archbishop of the same name. Ewart, J. His comments were given at the public reading of the Scriptures, and although destitute of spirituality and Gospel clearness, they are not without a measure of originality.
Hammond was an Arminian, Latitudinarian Anglican. Nonetheless Matthew Henry was able to quote from him often. His work is extremely rare. Nicholson was a reformed Anglican. In his explication the author steers between the two extremes of literal and spiritual interpretation.
Bythner was reformed. Kimchi was a medieval Jewish commentator. Cope c. The style is scholastic and pointless. Including expositions of 15 Psalms: 3, 6, 16, 23, 32, 39, 42, 49, 51, 62, 65, 84, , , He wrote in Latin, and his language is made more dull than need be by the translator.
All his writings are masterly. Boys was a reformed Anglican, who was the Dean of Canterbury. From his golden pen flows condensed wisdom. Many of his sentences are worthy to be quoted as gems of the Christian classics. Knight of the flowing pen. We have often tried to quote from him and have found ourselves so embarrassed with riches that we have been inclined to copy the whole book. Why it has not been reprinted, and made to pass through fifty editions, we cannot tell. Poor man, he became a surety and smarted, dying in poverty in the Fleet. Were there any Christians alive in those days?
Fisher was a Roman Catholic. Simson was a Scottish minister. Includes expositions of: Ps. Ministers will find teeming suggestions here. Turnbull d. Hooper was one of the English martyrs during the time of Bloody Mary. Sedgwick was an English puritan and Westminster divine. His commenting is solid and lively. Renwick, James — Lecture on Ps. Renwick was the last Scottish covenanter martyr in Scotland. Mossom is a fruitful writer.
An old-fashioned exposition. The price is caused by its rarity rather than its value. See the Expositions of the Penitential Psalms Above. Bruce, Robert — Sermon on Ps. Troughton c. Remarkably tame and meagre for a work of that exuberant period. Let it alone. Here are homiletical materials in abundance. His works were once exceedingly popular and they are still esteemed.
He tells us that he spent the spare hours of a long sickness in publishing this short exposition, and thus the world is all the healthier for his illness. He is copious and discursive, we had almost said long-winded. Both Willet and Preston speak of him in the highest terms. We agree with Dr. Hemmingsen was a Lutheran. Some of his works were turned into English; but the translations, like the originals, are now left in undeserved oblivion. Cameron, Richard — Lecture on Ps. He was a learned Lutheran. Reynolds was a man of vast learning and thoroughly evangelical in spirit.
At any rate Gouge has often given us a hint. He was a man of great learning. Sclater was a reformed puritan. The style, however, is antique and cramped, and Manton and Bridges are quite enough. Cowper was the Anglican bishop of Galloway. We have found it very delightful reading. Manton, Thomas — sermons on the th Psalm, vols. The work is long, but that results only from the abundance of the matter. As a learned man he says good things, and as a courtier foolish things. Rollock, Robert — 2 Sermons on Ps. Owen, John — Practical Exposition on Ps.
It is unnecessary to say that he is the prince of divines. Owen is said to be prolix, but it would be truer to say that he is condensed. His style is heavy because he gives notes of what he might have said, and passes on without fully developing the great thoughts of his capacious mind. He requires hard study, and none of us ought to grudge it. Be sure not to confound this with [Anne] Hutchinson [the New England antinomian heretic]. Manton, Thomas — 5 Sermons upon Ps. Psalm Cope was a minister in Geneva. Jermin was a Reformed Anglican. Jermin does not err in excessive spirituality, but the reverse.
Those who can put up with his style will be repaid by his quaint learning. Blair finished this work in manuscript, but it was never published. Taylor was a Westminster divine. Matthew Henry was able to quote from Hammond throughout his commentary. References to a number of these works can be found at EEBO. Ethics, 2.
Politics, 3. Economics that is; the government of: 1. Behavior, 2. Commonwealth, 3. He is said to have been very inaccurate in his learning. Broughton was a reformed Anglican. Gill quoted as an authority. His work is nearly obsolete, but its loss is not a severe one. Pemble was a Reformed puritan. The style is scholastic, with arrangements of the subjects such as render it hard to read. We confess we are disappointed with it. Ecclesiastes is not a book to be expounded verse by verse; but Cotton does it as well as anyone.
He is always good. In our judgment it is as heavy as it is weighty. Commentary on Ecclesiastes in Latin. It is exceedingly rare. Ecclesiastes Arranged by Subject with a Commentary. Gifford was a Reformed puritan. Matthew Poole introduced the substance of this treatise into his Synopsis, and in that huge compilation he speaks eulogistically of the author, with whom he resided. We mention it because of its singularity. Wilcox was a reformed puritan.
This venerable author gives a doctrinal summary of each verse, and from this we have frequently been directed to a subject of discourse. There is no poetry in it, but the renderings are often good, and the comment valuable. The student will do better with the moderns. This commentary was published by the Westminster divine, William Gouge. Homes was a puritan. Homes, however, spiritualizes too much, and is both too luscious in expression and too prolix for these degenerate days.
It is just a little dull and common place. The author was one of the better sort of the Scotch Episcopalians. This commentary has been reprinted by the Banner of Truth. He gives us the essence of the good matter. For practical use this work is perhaps more valuable than any other Key to the Song. Portions Throughout the Song of Solomon. Possibly some reader of this catalogue may yet present us with it. Collinges also had a similar commentary on ch.
The materials are gathered from many sources and make up a mass of wealth. On the second chapter there are five hundred and thirty pages. It would try the constitutions of many modern divines to read what these Puritans found it a pleasure to write. When shall we see their like? Sermons on Canticles chs. His repute is such that we need only mention him. We should never care to read his exposition while Durham, and Gill, and Moody Stuart are to be had. We suppose there must be a public for which they cater, and a very foolish public it must be.
Whatever portion of the work was completed, was lost. Jewish Commentary on Isaiah. The Commentary of Ibn Ezra on Isaiah, vols. Leighton, Robert — 3 Lectures on Isa. Just what the title would lead us to expect—marrow and fatness; honey from the Rock, Christ Jesus. We need say no more: Durham is a prince among spiritual expositors. Whatever he does is done in a style worthy of a chief among theologians. He is, however, seldom too brief, and his own bulk hinders his being read.
Preachers of long sermons should take a hint from this. MacDonogh, T. He had not, of course, the critical skill of the present day, but his spiritual insight was keen. He rather commented on a passage than expounded it.
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His works have almost disappeared. In his own day some considered him a sage and others a quack. He was a little of both. Moulin — was a Huguenot minister in France. Cumming and brethren of his school would revel in it. We had sooner read a table of logarithms. Gwalther Hutcheson was a Scottish Covenanter. Note that the Sovereign Grace Publishers reprint only contains 6 of the minor prophets see the review on Amazon.
Hutcheson is always rich. He resembles Dickson. Luther, Martin — Works , vol. A vast treasure-house of experimental exposition. With the exception of Adams, we prefer it to any other of the expositions reprinted under the editorship of Mr. Pococke was a reformed Anglican. Get it by all means, if you can. Reynolds was a Westminster divine and reformed Anglican. He worthily takes place with Burroughs. He has the usual force, homeliness, piety, and fullness of the Puritan period.
Pococke was a reformed Anglican and Arabic scholar. The level of the work is intermediate to advanced. Holds a high place among the older comments, but will never again be popular. Udall says:. Benefield, Sebastian, on chs. This is better than hot stuff just off the press. Written over years ago, Adam Clarke gives us the benefit of his thoughtful insights into the Bible and makes them useful to us today. Clarke, an original Methodist preacher who lived in Ireland, shares his extensive knowledge of languages of the ANE Ancient Near East as well as profound understanding of the author's original intent.
Not preachy; just useful! More importantly, Adam Clarke's total respect for God's Word and his complete devotion to his Lord are apparent throughout his works. Clarke examines the Bible phrase by phrase and sometimes word by word with an unusual carefulness both for the correct understanding of the text and for the souls of his readers. Although this is an expositional commentary rather than a devotional one, Clarke frequently pauses to apply the Scriptures to your life.
Adam Clarke's commentary is rich with sound Biblical exegesis and meaningful insights. Clarke was a good friend of John Wesley, and his theological positions are primarily Arminian, thus his Commentary will be a tremendous blessing and help to any sincere student of the Bible. Clarke, as an early Methodist, was deeply influenced by the teachings of John Wesley who held to Protestant teaching i. In this, one finds in John Wesley a beautiful synthesis of the best of church thought throughout the ages.
Not only does Clarke explain in detail the meaning of scripture passages in light of scholarly analysis and historical background, he compares the beliefs of the millions of Arminians around the world with those of the Calvinist. As a Wesleyan, Clarke gives a thorough and systematic explanation of Scripture which serves as a check to the imbalances of Calvinism and Reformed theology. Within this commentary are many great rebuttals to both John Calvin's and Martin Luther's ideology.
In doing this we find Adam Clarke's Commentary biblically accurate and refreshing. We highly recommend this author and work to the church. Product Details About the Author. He is chiefly remembered for writing a commentary on the Bible which took him forty years to complete and which was a primary Methodist theological resource for two centuries. As a theologian, Clarke reinforced the teachings of Methodist founder John Wesley. Having pieced together the story, Milkman returns home and tells Pilate that she has her father's bones, not those of the white man Macon killed. Milkman and Pilate return to Shalimar to bury her father's bones, but after they do, Guitar—who has been hiding nearby—shoots her.
The novel ends on an image of flight, as Milkman jumps in attack from the ridge "into the killing arms of his brother [Guitar]. Guitar is Milkman's best friend. As a child, his father was killed in a terrible industrial accident, and his mother abandoned the family when she couldn't cope. Because his mother gave him candy after his father's death, sweets make Guitar sick. After Guitar's grandmother took responsibility for him, Macon Dead evicted Guitar's family from their home for nonpayment of rent.
Later, Guitar befriends Milkman after defending him in a fight, and introduces him to Pilate and the community of Southside. As an adult, Guitar is the Sunday man of the Seven Days, responsible for choosing white victims at random in retaliation for white atrocities against Blacks. He tries to kill Milkman because he believes that Milkman has cut him out of their plot to recover the gold from the cave. At the end of the novel, he kills Pilate after she and Milkman bury her father's bones at Solomon's Leap.
Susan Byrd is the daughter of Milkman's great uncle, his grandmother Heddy's brother Crowell. She lives in Shalimar and is not very helpful to Milkman the first time he sees her because she does not want her friend Grace Long to know about their shared ancestry. When he visits again, she tells him more about the history of his grandmother, including the story that Heddy's husband Jake, who becomes the first Macon Dead, was the son of a flying African named Solomon.
Circe is the woman who hides Pilate and Ma-con after their father's murder. She works as a maid for the same family who killed the first Macon Dead, and she hides his children in the Butler mansion, in rooms the Butlers do not use. Milkman meets her when he goes to Danville. She is living in the Butler house and tending to their Weimaraners, allowing them to destroy the house for which the Butlers killed, stole, and lied. She directs Milkman to the cave and tells him that his grandfather's body was dumped there after he floated up from his shallow grave.
Reverend Cooper is a childhood friend of Ma-con's in Danville. His father made Pilate's snuffbox earring. He is the first person Milkman finds on his trip to Danville, and he introduces Milkman to the old men of the community, who tell him stories about his people. Corinthians Dead is the second of the two daughters of Macon and Ruth Dead. She is raised to be a good catch for a professional man of color, but after college and a trip abroad, is a little too elegant for the few professional men of color that she meets.
Instead, she stays home with her sister Lena and makes rose petals. When she wakes up one morning realizing that she is a forty-two-year-old maker of rose petals who still lives with her parents, she gets a job as a maid and begins an affair with Henry Porter.
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After Porter tries to break off their affair, Corinthians realizes that she will die of loneliness if he leaves her, and she hangs on to the hood of his car until he relents, taking her home with him. After Milkman discovers that Porter is a member of the Seven Days, the Black terrorist organization, he tells Macon about the affair, and Macon responds punitively.
Eventually, though, Corinthians moves to a small house in Southside with Porter. An owner of houses and apartments, Macon believes that owning things enables you to own yourself, and others too. With Pilate, he grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania called Lincoln's Heaven. At sixteen, he sees his father killed by whites who want the family's land, and he and Pilate are protected by Circe, a midwife and maid who shelters them in unused rooms of the Butler house.
Macon and Pilate run away from the Butler place, and while hiding in a cave for the night, encounter a white man. After Macon kills the man, they find his cache of gold, which Pilate pre-vents Macon from taking, leading to their estrangement. After Macon flees to Michigan, he marries Ruth Foster, having two daughters with her before her father's death and their subsequent estrangement. Macon believes that he has seen Ruth naked in bed with her dead father, kissing him, and almost kills her as a result.
They have not had sexual relations in many years when Pilate uses magic to compel Macon to have intercourse with Ruth. A pregnancy results, which Macon wants to abort. When Milkman—the product of the controversial pregnancy—is a child, Macon grows richer, buying land on Honore Island and evicting tenants who can't pay their rent. When Milkman grows up, he works in Macon's office with him.
Milkman's decision to leave the office results in his disclosure about Pilate owning a green sack that he has heard contains her inheritance, and Macon tells his son to steal the gold he believes the sack contains. Milkman's subsequent journey, and discovery of the family's mythic past, does not heal Macon's estrangements with his sister and his wife, but Ma-con does enjoy hearing Milkman's stories about Danville and the old men who still fondly remember him.
Lena is the elder daughter of Macon and Ruth. As a child, Milkman accidentally urinates on her, and many years later she confronts him about it, saying that he has been cruel to Corinthians and to her. Lena's anger with Milkman spurs him to leave home for the first time. Milkman acquires his name when his father's employee, Freddie, catches Ruth nursing him when he is four years old. Later, we find out that Ruth nurses her son in part because she has been sexually deprived after a rift between her and Macon.
Macon, who has come to her as a result of his sister Pilate's spells, tries to end Ruth's pregnancy before Milkman is born and afterwards speaks to him only "if his words held some command or criticism. In response, Macon tries to lessen Pilate's influence on his son by putting Milkman to work in his office. While running errands for Macon, Milkman learns about Southside, the working class Black area of town, and develops a relationship with Pilate and her family. When he is seventeen, he begins a sexual relationship with his cousin Hagar. At twenty-two, he hits Macon in response to Macon's violence toward Ruth, and learns Macon's version of the rift between his parents.
At thirty-one, he breaks off his relationship with Hagar in a letter, and she tries to kill him several times as a result. An essentially passive person, Milkman gravitates toward those who inspire fear, and until he is thirty-two, lives with his parents and works for his father. It is only after he breaks into Pilate's house and has a confrontation with his sister Lena that he decides to leave home, travelling to Danville, Pennsylvania, and then Shalimar, Virginia, in search of stolen gold.
Instead, he discovers the mythic history of his family, a history that teaches him his obligations to others and makes him an adult. Pilate, Macon's sister, is a maker of homebrewed wine who lives with her daughter and granddaughter in Southside. A woman without a navel who fought her way out of her mother's dead body at birth, Pilate is widely believed to have magical powers.
She helps Ruth to restore sexual relations with her husband and to protect her unborn child from Macon's attempts to kill it. Pilate wears her mother's snuffbox as an earring; the box contains the only word her father ever wrote: her name, which he copied from the Bible onto a piece of paper. Pilate has traveled all over the country with her daughter Reba, finally settling in Michigan when her grandchild Hagar is two years old. She is uneducated yet intelligent, full of wisdom about human relationships and generous to all who come to her door.
She also has a warm posthumous relationship with her father, the first Macon Dead. Unbeknownst to her, she has been carrying her father's bones in her green sack, the sack which she believes contains the bones of a white man her brother Macon killed, and which Milkman and Guitar steal from her, believing it contains gold. Milkman tells her that she has been carrying her father's bones, and together they bury those bones on Solomon's Leap, where Pilate is fatally shot by Guitar.
After her estrangement from her husband, Ruth undergoes a long period of sexual deprivation, broken only by the brief time when Pilate's spells are working on Macon. Pilate also helps Ruth protect her unborn child from Macon's violence. After her son is born, Ruth nurses him until he is four years old, when her husband's employee Freddie discovers her. Ruth also indulges in overnight visits to her father's grave; on one of these visits, her son Milkman follows her and she tells him her version of her behavior at her father's deathbed.
In contrast to Macon, she says that she was only kneeling at her father's bed while she was in her slip, kissing his fingers. Though Ruth seems resigned to her fate, she does confront Hagar when she learns of Hagar's attempts to kill Milkman, and she forces Macon to give her money for Hagar's funeral. Morrison calls her "a pale but complicated woman given to deviousness and ultra-fine manners. Freddie is Macon's employee. He is the one who broadcasts news of Robert Smith 's death to the Black community, catches Ruth nursing Milkman, tells Macon that Milkman has been at Pilate's house, and tells Milkman that Guitar has been hanging around with a dubious character, Empire State.
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Hagar is Pilate's granddaughter. Five years older than Milkman, she has a relationship with him for fourteen years. When Milkman breaks off their relationship, she tries to kill him, then sinks into a deep depression.
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Believing that Milkman prefers pale, white-looking women, Hagar goes on a manic shopping spree to try to acquire the dominant culture's standards of beauty. After most of what she buys is ruined in a downpour, Hagar falls into a fever from which she never recovers, and dies soon afterward.
Grace is a friend of Susan Byrd's. Her presence prevents Susan from telling Milkman all she knows about their shared ancestry. She flirts with Milkman, then steals his watch. Porter is one of the Seven Days. He has a nervous breakdown on the same day that Macon evicts Guitar's grandmother from her house. Later, he becomes Corinthians's lover.
Reba is Pilate's daughter and Hagar's mother. She has extraordinary luck, winning contests, lotteries, and raffles. She lives "from orgasm to orgasm" and is described as looking "as though her simplicity might also be vacuousness. Empire State is an elective mute, and one of the Seven Days. He stopped speaking when he found his French wife in bed with another man, and he gets his name because he just stands around and sways.
Hospital Tommy, the other owner of the barbershop, is also one of the Seven Days. A veteran of World War I , he talks "like an encyclopedia. Early in the novel, he tells Guitar and Milkman all the things they will never experience when they complain about not being served a beer. In some respects, Milkman's story is a classic Bildungsroman , a coming-of-age story about the moral and psychological development of the main character.
However, Milkman is thirty-two when he finally comes of age, unlike traditional heroes and heroines of the Bildungsroman. In part, Milkman postpones his adulthood because he is comfortable as the pampered only son of an upper-middle-class family. But Milkman also resists the sense of connection and commitment to others that are required of adults. As he seeks the lost gold, he discovers instead his family's history: the ambivalent legacy of his great-grandfather, who abandons his family to fly back to Africa, the injustice of his grandfather's murder, the Indian roots of his grandmother, and the child his father had been.
He begins to define himself as the descendant of a man who could fly, but also to recognize the costs of his great-grandfather's transcendence. In so doing, he learns his duty to his family and community. One major turning point occurs when he is lost in the woods, and he realizes that "[a]pparently he thought he deserved only to be loved—from a distance, though—and given what he wanted. And in return he would be … what? Maybe all he was really saying was: I am not responsible for your pain; share your happiness with me but not your unhappiness. It is this lesson that he learns throughout the course of the novel, ultimately becoming a mature, responsible adult.
Closely related to Milkman's coming-of-age is his quest for atonement and forgiveness. He begins to see how selfish he has been, taking from his mother and his sisters, coldly casting his lover off, feeling like he doesn't deserve the few things people ask of him. In order to get the gold, he had been prepared to assault Pilate, a woman who has only been generous to him, an intention of which he is deeply ashamed. But Pilate also teaches him how to seek atonement, for it is Pilate who has returned to the cave for the bones of the man her brother killed, knowing that once you take another human life, you own it.
Milkman tries to live up to this, taking a box of Hagar's hair home with him as a way of seeking to atone for his actions. He also hopes to reconcile his fractured family, inspiring forgiveness among them, but he cannot. Morrison shows the limits of atonement and forgiveness when she writes that Milkman's newfound knowledge does not change those around him.
The class conflict in the novel manifests itself in the relationships of those in the novel. Macon Dead feels ashamed of his lower-class status in relation to his wife and father-in-law. Milkman feels estranged from other Blacks by virtue of his privileged position. Macon feels that his sister threatens his newfound propriety. Guitar's killing rage is in part directed toward Milkman's inherited advantages, and toward Milkman's blase attitude to life.
Corinthians feels ashamed of her poor lover, Porter. Class jealousy, superiority, and shame prevent the characters from having close relationships with each other; although in relation to whites, they are only recognized as having one status: being colored, which is something brought home to Milkman when he is picked up by police for no particular reason other than his race.
A continuing preoccupation in the novel is language and meaning, particularly with regard to names and naming. The Deads get their name because of the mistake of a drunk Yankee soldier, yet they claim it anyway. Milkman eventually dicovers his family history through his interpretation of the words of a childhood game. Pilate's name comes from the Bible, and she keeps it in a box that dangles from her ear.
When they are told that it is not Doctor Street, they call it Not Doctor Street, continuing to honor Doctor Foster while acknowledging their powerlessness to name the streets of the city. Language, then, is a double-edged sword: it is imposed on African Americans , but they must claim it, make it their own, and find meaning in it. The main motif in Song of Solomon is flying: the novel begins with Robert Smith's flight from the roof of Mercy Hospital and ends with Milkman's flight from Solomon's Leap.
The motif of flight is a complicated one: it represents transcendence as well as loss. Milkman's great-grandfather Solomon was able to transcend his circumstances by flying back to Africa, but in doing so he abandoned his wife and children. Milkman finds a better example of flight in Pilate, who can fly without leaving the ground. Though the main focus of Song of Solomon is Milkman's story, the narrator repeatedly turns to other stories to show how they intersect with Milkman's story.
The narrative jumps back and forth in time to give the reader the necessary background for understanding the current situation being discussed. For example, in chapter nine the narrative shifts to the story of Corinthians and her affair with Henry Porter. When Milkman realizes that Porter is a member of the Seven Days, he tells his father about the affair, and Macon reacts punitively, forbidding Corinthians from leaving the house and evicting Porter and garnishing his wages.
This provokes Lena to confront Milkman, which in turn spurs him to leave home. Another aspect of the narration is the point of view of the narrator, which, as Catherine Rainwater noted in Texas Studies in Literature and Language , sometimes merges "with that of a character, but later undercuts or problematizes this point of view by presenting its alternatives. In this way, readers are forced to interpret the history and the meaning of the story's events and the character's lives for themselves, just as Milkman does when he hears the song of Solomon.
The Bildungsroman is the classic Western coming-of-age novel.
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The Bildungsroman usually presents a young hero struggling to find his identity. In Milkman's case, he is at thirty-two much older than the classic Bildungsroman hero, but Morrison shows how Milkman's race, class, and natural inclination to passivity keep him trapped in his carefree boyhood until events in the story compel him to grow up. Cynthia A. Davis writes in Toni Morrison that "Milkman's life follows the pattern of the classic hero, from miraculous birth … through quest journey to final reunion with his double" as Milkman comes of age.
The Bildungsroman is sometimes called the "novel of education" or "apprenticeship novel. He apprentices himself to his mythic great-grandfather and learns to fly as a result. Though Song of Solomon is set during the s and 60s, much of its action results from events that happened at the turn of the century, including the Great Migration and World War I and its aftermath. The Great Migration involved the movement of millions of southern Blacks to the ur-ban North in search of jobs and freedom in the first few decades of the nineteenth century. In her novel, Morrison gives voice to one of those families, the Deads, showing their progression from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Michigan.
Likewise, Guitar has left the South with his family after his father's death, and no doubt many of the other inhabitants of Southside are relatively recent migrants from the rural South. The Great Migration, though it represented marginal material progress, is also portrayed by Morrison, among others, as representing the loss of a traditional rural culture.
Certainly her characterization of Macon Dead, whose loss of his father and his rural lifestyle makes him emotionally stingy and materially greedy, represents this loss. In addition to heading north, many Blacks enlisted in the armed forces during World War I as a way to improve their status in society.
They were subject to discrimination even during their time in the armed forces, but they hoped that the war's end would bring new opportunities in economic life and in civil rights. After all, the war had been waged ostensibly to protect and extend democracy. Instead, the war's end marked a renewal of Ku Klux Klan activities; some Black soldiers were lynched while still in their uniforms.
The summer of , after the end of the war, marked the greatest period of interracial strife in the nation's history. In part, the violence escalated because Blacks were more willing to defend themselves from racist attacks. Morrison echoes this in her treatment of the Seven Days, the older members of which are World War I veterans who speak bitterly of their mistreatment on their return. Other Blacks fought back against racism by increasing their level of activism; some historians credit the period immediately following World War I with the birth of the modern-day civil-rights movement.
One of the important moments in Song of Solomon is the moment when Milkman finds Guitar in the barbershop listening to a report about the murder of Emmett Till. Till was a fourteen year old from Chicago visiting Mississippi in He allegedly whistled at a white woman and was murdered by whites. No one was ever convicted for his murder, but it was one of the catalysts for a renewal of the civil-rights movement.
Shortly there-. This would later be described as a pivotal moment in the struggle, a moment when many Blacks began to despair that freedom would never be attained. Some civil-rights workers became radicalized, no longer believers in nonviolent action. This is echoed in the character of Guitar, whose violence becomes more acute—and misdi-rected—after the little girls are killed.
Song of Solomon , the first of Toni Morrison's works to become a best-seller, also established her as a major American writer. In an early review, Anne Tyler commented, "I would call the book poetry, but that would seem to be denying its considerable power as a story. Whatever name you give it, it's full of magnificent people, each of them complex and multi-layered, even the narrowest of them narrow in extravagant ways.
And to a very large degree Morrison has the compelling ability to make one believe that all of us … are penetrating that dark and hurtful ter-rain—the feel of a human life—simultaneously. Song of Solomon was the first of Morrison's books to have a male hero, but some critics, including Vivian Garnick, have written that Milkman never really comes to life as a character.
Some scholars, including Reynolds Price and Bill Moyers, have also wondered at Morrison's exclusion of white characters, but as Cynthia Price wrote, "the destructive effect of the white society can take the form of outright physical violence, but oppression in Morrison's world is more often psychic violence. She rarely depicts white characters, for the brutality here is less a single act than the systematic denial of Black lives. Critics have also commented on the "diffuse" nature of the narrative; as Rainwater pointed out, "Chapter 4, for example, skips to Milkman's adulthood, some twelve years after the events of the previous chapter.
However, almost immediately, the narrator begins to search backward through time to account for the present. This attempt, however, laterally deflects attention onto the stories of other characters. Before the chapter concludes, the narrative has taken at least four different directions in an effort to amass information convergent upon, and apparently explanatory of, Milkman's life.
Leslie Harris of MELUS , that the plot is not "meandering and confused" but rather "enhanced by its very discontinuity. In addition to noting the parallels between Milkman's story and the myth of Icarus, recent critics have examined the implications of Morrison's use of an African-American folktale as a source for her flying African, Solomon.
As Michael Awkward noted in Negotiating Difference: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality , the most common variants of this tale present a group of flying Africans, who undertake a communal exodus. By contrast, Morrison's version of the myth presents a solitary flyer and, "while the narrative suggests that the offspring of the legendary Solomon do not perceive themselves as adversely affected by his act—they, in fact, construct praise songs in recognition of his accomplishments—his mate Ryna, who bears his twenty-one children, is so aggrieved by her loss that she goes mad.
Davis maintained in Toni Morrison , this artistic choice makes Morrison's version of the Icarus story a conflict "between 'absolute' freedom and social responsibility," suggesting Morrison's alteration of Western ideas and forms to fit the concerns of the Black community.
Song of Solomon remains one of Morrison's most well-regarded works, as well as a novel beloved by readers. In the twenty-three years since its publication, its positive critical reputation has grown even stronger, and it continues to be read, taught, and studied. Dougherty is a Ph. In the following essay, she discusses Morrison's depictions of the male characters in Song of Solomon. In Toni Morrison , Cynthia A. Davis writes that the narrative trajectories of Toni Morrison's novels are driven by "the Black characters' choices within the context of oppression. Morrison presents the limited array of choices available to Black men through her portrayals of three living Black men, Milkman and Macon Dead and Guitar Bains, and through her mythic evocation of Dead ancestors, the first Macon Dead and his father, Solomon.
As Matus notes, each man must either choose between "fight" and "flight" or find some way to combine the two alternatives.
In this essay, I will examine each of the "choices within the context of oppression" that the Black male characters make as a way of illuminating Morrison's concerns in Song of Solomon. Though Morrison's novel is a coming-of-age story, it follows the coming-of-age of a character, Milkman Dead, who is thirty-two years old and has been able to avoid making any choices about his life.
Milkman is trapped by the circumstances of his life: within his family and the Black community, he is privileged and pampered, but in the larger world, he is limited by his race. He is separated from the Black community by his class, and hindered from advancing in the larger world by his race. As a result, Milkman avoids making choices or commitments, and is disconnected from his community. As Guitar notes, "[y]ou don't live nowhere. Not Not Doctor Street or Southside. Indeed, Milkman's father, Macon, owns rental property in Southside and does not hesitate to evict tenants who have not paid their rent, as he does to Guitar's grandmother in one early scene.
Macon is portrayed by Morrison as angry and harsh, but throughout the course of the story we develop some sympathy for him. We learn that Ma-con's father valued many of the same things that Macon does, but that his death perverted Macon's values. Morrison writes of Milkman's realization that. He loved these things to excess because he loved his father to excess. Owning, building, acquiring—that was his life, his future, his present, and all the history he knew.
That he distorted life, bent it, for the sake of gain, was a measure of his loss at his father's death. Milkman's father, the second Macon Dead, loves what his father loved, but he also makes choices to try to keep himself safe from his father's fate. Instead of competing with whites, as the first Macon Dead did, he exploits his fellow Blacks. This is a historically accurate portrait of the Black middle class during this period; unlike today, the Black middle class of the 40s, 50s and 60s mostly worked in, and earned their living from, the Black community.
But Macon's harshness toward the members of that community also separates him from it, in contrast to his father. An early scene in the novel has Macon listening to his estranged sister singing, emphasizing the joy and life that Ma-con has given up for the sake of propriety. Unlike the men of his father's community, the Blacks of Southside do not see Macon's success as belonging to them in any way, perhaps because his success comes at their expense.
By contrast, the first Macon Dead was an example to all, as Milkman learns when he journeys to Danville and meets his grandfather's contemporaries:. He had come out of nowhere, as ignorant as a hammer and as broke as a convict, with nothing but free papers, a Bible, and a pretty black-haired wife, and in one year he'd leased ten acres, the next ten more. Sixteen years later he had one of the best farms in Montour County.
A farm that colored their lives like a paintbrush and spoke to them like a sermon. See what you can do? Never mind you can't tell one letter from another, never mind you born a slave, never mind you lose your name, never mind your daddy dead, never mind nothing. Here, this here, is what a man can do if he puts his mind to it and his back to it. Stop sniveling," it said. Take advantage, and if you can't take advantage, take disadvantage. We live here.
On this planet, in this nation, in this country right here. No where else! We got a home in this rock, don't you see! Nobody starving in my home; nobody crying in my home, and if I got a home you got one too! The first Macon Dead's triumph tells the men of Danville to "stop picking around the edges of the world. Though he sat with a shotgun for five days and nights, willing to fight for his farm and his family, the first Macon Dead still couldn't protect himself or what he owned.
In a world in which whites control both the courts and the culture, Macon's choice to fight resulted in his death, a death which haunts his descendants. The first Macon Dead's choice to fight is contrasted with the choice of his father, Solomon, who chooses flight.
The first Macon Dead claims his right to an American life, while his father has despaired of ever being accepted into American society and flown back to Africa. This action, which Morrison bases on an African-American folktale, is both a celebration and a loss; as Michael Awkward notes in his Negotiating Difference: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality , "the empowered Afro-American's flight, celebrated in a blues song whose decoding catapults Milkman into self-conscious maturity, is a solitary one … He leaves his loved ones, including his infant son Jake, whom he tries unsuccessfully to carry with him, with the task of attempting to learn for themselves the secrets of transcendence.
This corresponds with Milkman's own quest for flight, in which he abandons his lover Hagar and abdicates his familial and communal responsibilities. Throughout the novel, in fact, Milkman's friend Guitar Bains reminds Milkman that he should feel a sense of connection to his community. Guitar himself takes the "fight" strategy to its logical extreme; he defines "self-defense" as defense of the community, and charges himself with keeping the ratio of Blacks and whites constant through "eye for an eye" justice.
Yet Guitar also rejects love and familial ties, and in what A. Leslie Harris calls "his total commitment to death," ultimately tries to kill his "brother" Milkman. Guitar justifies his violence by arguing that it comes from love, but he separates himself from the very community he claims to be protecting.
In her portrayal of Guitar, Morrison suggests that the "fight" strategy costs too much, just as in her portrayal of Solomon, she suggests that "flight" comes at too high a price. In her portrayal of Milkman, Morrison begins to suggest a viable strategy for Black men struggling in a racist society. Milkman honors both the "fight" and "flight" strategies, as Matus notes when she writes that "the alternatives of flight and fight come together in the final scene of the novel" when "as fleet and bright as a lodestar [Milkman] wheeled toward Guitar and it did not matter which one of them would give up his ghost in the killing arms of his brother.
He has also learned a deep appreciation for the power of language, which Morrison seems to argue is the most effective strategy of both fight and flight. It is through language that the past can be acknowledged, mourned, celebrated, resisted, and transcended. Milkman realizes that names, words and stories can keep the past alive in spite of death: "Shalimar left [his children], but it was the children who sang about it and kept the story of his leaving alive.
In the following essay, Matus considers the significance of father figures, and particularly the theme of the loss of fathers, in Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is a novel about fathers, or more specifically, the loss of fathers. At its heart are two revelatory incidents of traumatic loss which govern the novel's investigation of the history and future of African American men in relation to society and their own families. A brother and sister, Pilate and Macon Dead the second , witness their father being shot to death by greedy white neighbours who resent his prosperity and covet his land.
But this father himself experienced the traumatic loss of his father, who, legend has it, decided to fly away from America and his condition of enslavement. He attempted to take his baby son Jake with him, but dropped the child a few moments after he took off in flight back to Africa. His bereft wife lost her mind through grief and the child was reared by others.
Knowledge of the second of these traumas, withheld almost to the close of the novel, explains not only the riddle on which the novel turns, but reveals the generational transmission of traumatic effects that hampers all the Dead men, descendants of Jake, who is also known as the first Macon Dead. The multivalent meanings of Solomon's flight in the novel allow Morrison to celebrate an early and marvellous escape from slavery, while also registering the trauma of those who must function without the father.
Though Solomon's flight may offer inspiration as a version of the celebratory legend of the Flying African, the novel also emphasises the grief and mourning of those who were abandoned. The trauma of the father's abandonment or death infects the descendants of Solomon—as it does the text—with a series of distortions in memory and obstacles to interpretation.
Among these, for example, is the cryptic admonition that Pilate's father utters when he appears to her on a number of occasions after his death. Guiltily, she interprets his saying that you can't just fly off and leave a body as an injunction to return to the bones of the man she and Macon left dead in the cave. When we later learn the history of Jake, we understand that his poignant refrain relates repeatedly the central loss of his own childhood—the fact that he was the body left when his father flew off.