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I Ainít no Baby
Toni Morrisonís Song of Solomon touches upon topics ranging from racism to relationships. One such topic thatís discussed is self discovery, namely Milkmanís self discovery. Milkman travels through a series of apocalyptic events that eventually allow him to remove his blinders and let him look at life in a mature manner.
Milkman is introduced to the reader in the beginning of the novel as a naÔve, shy child who is seen more than he is heard. From early on Milkman encounters confrontational situations, such as demanding to be treated as an adult yet behaving as a child as shown in the following passage:
ďI know Iím the youngest one in this family, but I ainít no baby. You treat me like I was a baby. You keep saying you donít have to explain nothing to me. How do you think that makes me feel? Like a baby, thatís what. Like a twelve year old baby . . . Is that the way your father treated you when you were twelve?Ē (Morrison 50)
He does not comprehend the fact that he and his father Macon are virtual opposites of each other. Milkman fears and respects his father at the same time, yet knows that because of his physical shortcomings he can never be like his father. Because of this, he attempts to differ in every way he can. Morrison explains that ďMacon keeps himself well-groomed and clean shaven, while Milkman desperately tries to grow facial hair. Macon has a great aversion towards tobacco and alcohol; Milkman tries to put a cigarette in his mouth every fifteen minutes and keep a fifth of liquor in the toilet tankĒ (63). Milkmanís immaturity is exposed here: rather than trying to improve on himself to be a better person, he decides to become the foil of the person he idolizes.
He reinforces his image of being childish during a confrontation with his father. During this incident, Macon hits his wife Ruth and Milkman retaliates by striking Macon. When Macon comes to Milkmanís room to explain his reasoning on hitting Ruth, Milkman thinks to himself ďWhat the fuck he tell me that shit for? Just come to me like a man and say, Cool it. You cool it and Iíll cool it and weíll both cool it. And Iíd say okay you got it. But no. He comes to me with some way out take about how come and whyĒ (76). Itís not that Milkman is disgusted with what he hears as much as he just does not want to hear his fatherís reasoning; to him it seems like just another lecture. Rather than trying to comprehend why his father possesses these feelings, the selfishness in Milkman takes control making him take a hostile attitude at things. An attitude that makes him want to feel like heís the victim and everybody is out to get him.
Milkmanís immaturity extended beyond his father and into the ways he dealt with relationships with people outside his family. At the age of twenty-two, Milkman had been sexually active for six years, and few of these relationships ever lasted. Instead of sustaining a steady relationship, he uses these women only to satisfy his own childish needs and leave them when he is satisfied. In his opinion:
women [are] like beers. The best woman [can] be compared to the first beer, the one that the throat is thirsting for. The second woman [can] be compared to the second beer, the one that accentuates the pleasure of the first one. Then comes the third woman . . . or the third beer, the one that [nobody wants] but is taken anyways (91).
Extending this thought illustrates how Hagar fits into Milkmanís lifestyle. To Milkman, Hagar is the third beer: not that he posses any true feelings for her, just the idea that ďsleeping with Hagar [makes] him generous. Or so he [thinks]. Wide spirited. Or so he [imagines]. Wide spirited and generous enough to defend his mother whom he almost never [thinks] about, and to deck his father, whom he [fears] . . .Ē (90) Eventually Milkman decides that he no longer wants to have a relationship with Hagar. Rather than talking with Hagar about theyíre
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Song of Solomon, Milk, Milkman
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