Song of Solomon

by: Toni Morrison

Chapters 8–9

Summary Chapters 8–9

Milkman is not the only character who undergoes a transformation. His sisters, First Corinthians and Lena, whom Morrison keeps in the background of the novel’s main events, are suddenly transformed into deep, complex characters. The two sisters, who have spent their lives in Dr. Foster’s parlor making artificial roses, which are symbols of fake love, refuse to be aristocratic sweatshop workers any longer. The fact that First Corinthians works as a maid despite her college degree does not demean her but rather liberates her economically and socially. Furthermore, the fact that she finds true love only outside the strict confines of her class shows that Morrison is making an attack on class-consciousness in general. Lena’s revolt comes out during her confrontation with Milkman. Even though she may be mistaken about the nature of Milkman’s now-transformed character, her rebuke is fully justifiable and represents the revolt of the novel’s repressed female characters. Lena speaks not only for herself, but also for her mother, sister, and every other abused, subjugated, or abandoned woman in the novel.

The confusion about the location of the gold illustrates the difficult nature of Milkman’s journey toward self-discovery. When Macon Jr. prepares to tell Milkman his story after Milkman first mentions the tarp at Pilate’s house, the narrator cuts in to tell us that the gold was not in the cave when Macon Jr. came back three days after murdering the old white man. But Macon Jr.’s suggestion to Milkman that the gold may still be inside the cave conflicts with the narrator’s version of the story. Because Milkman does not have our luxury of sifting through conflicting narratives, he can follow only the erroneous roadmap that Macon Jr. lays out for him. This wasted effort teaches Milkman a lesson: although he has spent his life idling, he must now work hard for his reward, the eventual recovery of his identity.