In Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon, the main character Milkman (Macon Dead III), goes through a massive change in his mental mindset. Milkman is born into a sheltered, privileged life and grows up to be an egotistical young man. He lacks compassion, wallows in self-pity, and alienates himself from his local African-American community. As one progresses through the novel they realize that Macon’s nickname symbolizes more than an embarrassing childhood story involving breastfeeding . But it also represents the fact that he lives his life literally feeding off of what others produce. As the novel progresses Milkman also begins to realize his own flaws, and seeks to change his shallow mindset. Starting to perceive how egotistical he has been, taking from his mom and his sisters,and cold-heartedly abandoning his loyal girlfriend , he begins to feel like he doesn’t live up to the few things other individuals ask of him. Although being held back my many things , Milkman evolves from being an uninterested, selfish child, to a more self aware and selfless adult. His eventual discovery of his family history gives his life purpose. Although he remains flawed, this newfound purpose makes him compassionate and caring.
To some extent, Milkman’s adulthood is delayed because of his privilege growing up comfortably as an only son of a wealthy father. He would be considered to be in the upper middle class in that era’s society, having a nice car and even a vacation home on the island of honore. Milkman feels offended by the way lower class blacks treat him for living in an advantaged position. Class envy, predominance, and disgrace keep milkman from having meaningful connections with other characters. Despite the fact that in connection to whites, upper-class African Americans and lower-class African Americans are just perceived as having one status: being black. This is exposed to Milkman when he is subjected to a “random” traffic stop by police, which turns out to be for no specific reason other than his race. This realization furthers milkman’s sense of unification with his own race furthering his development into adulthood.
Milkman’s development into adulthood also relies upon his acknowledgment that he is to share the joy of others, likewise, he should also share their misery. However, Milkman himself is often the cause of others misery, which hinders his development into adulthood. Naomi Van Tol agrees with this point in the section Milkman’s Dilemma in her pamphlet The Fathers May Soar by stating that Milkman is “struggling toward an acceptance of the fact that an active commitment to others is paradoxically the best of all possible means for fulfilling oneself and one’s personal freedom.”. An example of this would be with his cousin Hagar who he was first introduced to when he was only twelve years old. As the book progresses and time goes on they quickly progress into having a sexual relationship. However the love that hagar gives to Milkman is not returned, leaving hagar in emotional limbo, which ultimately leads to her death. This manipulative like state that Milkman leaves Hagar in greatly prevents his transition into adulthood, as he cannot yet understand and appreciate a real relationship between two people. It is this lesson he learns over the span of the novel, at last turning into a developed, capable grown-up. Milkman endeavors to satisfy this, taking a case of Hagar’s hair home with him as a method for looking to offer reparations for his womanizing activities inspired by Pilate. He additionally wants to help reseal his cracked family, spreading ideals of forgiveness among them, however he ultimately fails in doing so. Morrison demonstrates the limits of milkmans efforts when she exposes that Milkman’s newly implemented efforts do not effectively change the mindsets of the people around him.
Milkmans lack of growth into adulthood isn’t just a result of class division and his womanizing relationship with Hagar. His growth has also been greatly been hindered by the relationships around him and toward him. Naomi Van Tol agrees with this point in the section Milkman’s Dilemma in her pamphlet The Fathers May Soar. She states that “Milkman’s emotional and moral growth has been severely stunted by his parents’ twisted and barren relationship with each other, which denies their children the nourishing love they they need to be whole.”. She acknowledges that the lack of love and attention given to Milkman has greatly affected the way that Milkman has relationships with others in the novel like Hagar.
In conclusion it takes Milkman to age thirty two when he can finally transition into becoming an adult. In this time he overcomes class division, his habit of itemizing others, and his roadblocks of family relationships holding him back. After all of these roadblocks have been overcome he is transformed into a more selfless and understanding character.