Storytelling in Song of Solomon

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Storytelling is a way of communication, a way of relating the past to future generations of listeners.Storytelling plays an important role in Toni Morrison's novel, Song of Solomon, in that the protagonist, Milkman, is told a variety of stories by many of the characters.Each story influences him and gives him a different or additional view of his family's history, ultimately molding him into a person willing to give up the restrictions imposed upon him by his parents and allowing him to look forward into the future to find a way to fly.
Macon, Milkman's father, tells him a story of the past-a tale about his mother, Ruth-in an attempt to show Milkman that Macon was justified in hitting her.Milkman is extremely troubled after he is told about his mother and begins wondering what else happened years earlier that is still affecting him (as it is Ruth's fault he is called Milkman at all).Ruth's story is similar in its intent, to bring Milkman on her side against his father, but Milkman rejects her story as he rejected his father's.Both stories are told with self-serving intents on the parts of the storytellers, fabricated to sway Milkman's opinion rather than enlighten him.
Pilate's multiple stories about her youth are recounted to Milkman very differently from her brother Macon's stories of the same time.Pilate tells Milkman of the death of her father in a musical, descriptive way, speaking of his "flight" five feet into the air when he was shot, then his "return" later on as an apparition; she does not know who killed her father or why-shedoesn't even care to know.She speaks of the dark, of the woods, and of Circe.She gives Milkman an appreciation of the wonder the past can hold through her mysterious stories.Milkman's father, however, explains that his own father was killed because white men took advantage of his illiteracy.Macon Dead II