Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
Character Role Analysis
Circe birthed Pilate, protected her when her father’s murderers were looking for her and Macon, and healed her ear after the little girl pierced her own ear. Circe has birthed hundreds of Montour County inhabitants, only losing Pilate’s mother, Sing, to death. Like the goddess of the same name in Homer’s Odyssey, Circe helps the wandering Milkman find the cave he seeks, but, more than that, she gives him an essential clue to his past: the name of his grandmother.
Having been ostracized all of her life for her unnatural stomach that bears no belly button, Pilate knows what it means to be an outsider, but she doesn’t let that harden her shell. She uses her alien perspective to identify and help other outcasts of society. She protects Ruth, she saves Milkman’s life, and she provides Milkman with fodder to find his own identity and family. Pilate’s name sounds like pilot, reinforcing her role as a mentor.