Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
She toyed, sometimes, with her unsucked breasts, but at some point her lethargy dissipated of its own accord and in its place was wilderness, the focused meanness of a flood or an avalanche of snow which only observers, flying in a rescue helicopter, believed to be an indifferent natural phenomenon, but which the victims, in their last gulp of breath, knew was both directed and personal. (1.5.128)
Here, we’re not talking about the real wilderness, but the wilderness that exists within us. A connection is drawn between the internal self and the natural world, suggest that the run parallel to each other or that they mirror each other. Just as nature is capable of being cruel and disastrous, so is the self.
Now the land itself, the only one they knew and knew intimately, began to terrify them. The sun was blazing down, the air was sweet, but every lead that the wind lifted, every rustle of a pheasant hen in a clump of ryegrass, sent needles of fear through their veins. The cardinals, the gray squirrels, the garden snakes the butterflies, the ground hogs and rabbits – all the affectionate things that had peopled their lives ever since they were born became ominous signs of a presence that was searching for them, following them, following them. (1.7.168)
Again, we see an example of how quickly nature, and the land which Macon and Pilate know so well, can turn on them, can become something entirely different. If the natural world is also reflected in the internal self, then we learn from these descriptions and stories that humans are also capable of transforming at the drop of a hat. Like when Milkman and Guitar are having one of their usual debates about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Guitar is able to change the tone of the conversation from playful to deadly without blinking. If you can’t trust nature, pure and good and untainted nature, then who and what can you trust?
Breathless, he reached for his cigarettes and found them soaked. He lay back on the grass and let the high sunshine warm him. He opened his mouth so the clear air could bathe his tongue. (2.10.249)
Baptism time! Nature is telling Milkman to quit smoking, and, as a way of convincing him, it bathes his tongue. How nice. He’s muddy, he’s soaked, he’s tired, he’s hungry, but Milkman feels clean and pure. Nature’s better than Safeguard soap.