The novel is a mosaic of characters driven by their impulses of both a loving and sexual nature. It is a song about a black family that merely three generations after the end of slavery have managed to be wealthy and successful, but that have dysfunctions that cripple their growth.
But mostly the book is about Macon Dead the third, also known as Milkman.
Mr. Smith Tries to Fly
Milkman was born on the 18th of February, 1931. The day he was born was marked by a gruesome event: a man named Mr. Smith had taken his life that day. It had all been accidental; he had been trying to fly. Possibly because of the commotion that Mr. Smith’s death had caused, Milkman’s mother was the first woman of color to give birth inside Mercy hospital.
The Milkman came into the world to a family that was already laden with emotional problems. His father, Macon Dead, the second, is a cold, mean spirited man who hates his wife, Ruth Foster. He finds her disgusting, and other than the time that they make Milkman, he doesn’t sleep with her for nearly 20 years.
Macon Dead is also disappointed in his two daughters, Magdalena, called Lena and First Corinthians.
Milkman grows up having a comfortable and pampered life. Regardless of the family problems, he has everything he wants and needs money, women wherever he goes, good friends, and the knowledge that he will inherit his father’s business later in life.
In time though, he begins feeling asphyxiated by his life, the hatred that punctuates all of his parent’s movements, the racism that permeates his friend’s thoughts and actions, and the boundless passionate love that his second cousin Hagar has for him. More importantly, he becomes tired of knowing he isn’t truly independent, since all he has he owes to his parents.
Something Better Than Gold
For these reasons, he decides to go on a quest to the town where his father and aunt grew up in to find bundles of gold they once saw. He sees something much more critical: himself, and his past.
He learns that the strength that lies within him is far stronger than he ever imagined. He learns that regardless of who wants to take him down, he can overcome, and he learns that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to fly after all.
Several characters make a backdrop to Milkman’s life, but at times take center stage in the book, making Song of Solomon richer. Characters like Pilate Dead, who, without a bellybutton, and with a stronger will than anybody, creates her path regardless of society’s norms.
Then there is Hagar Dead, a woman whose strong, bratty love may lead to Milkman’s death, or to her own.
There are also Guitar, Empire State, and Henry Porter, three of the seven men who make the Seven Days. The Seven Days are an organization that fights racism in the most violent and sadistic way.