Song of Solomon
Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
These children were singing a story about his own people! He hummed and chuckled and did his best to put it all together. (2.12.304)
Usually, it’s you or your family that remember something important or significant to you. Imagine Milkman’s glee to find that children, strangers, remember his great grandfather. In this way we also see another vehicle through which memory travels (besides image, smell, taste, and emotion): song.
She talked on and on while Milkman sat back and listened to the gossip, stories, legends, speculations. His mind was ahead of hers, behind hers, with hers, and bit by bit, with what she said, what he knew, and what he guessed, he put it all together. (2.14.323)
A memory doesn’t all come together at once like a nicely wrapped birthday present. It comes in pieces. Song of Solomon in and of itself is the perfect example of the fragmented quality of memory. How many times do we hear the story about Macon and Pilate in the cave? A million. Each time we hear this story, a new morsel of sub-memory is thrown to us like a bone. This novel does not move linearly, but dips and dives and moves back and forth across time. We understand it by considering all of the narratives and fragments of narratives together, but we are not forced necessarily to connect these mini stories.
"He flew, baby. Lifted his beautiful black ass up in the sky and flew home. Can you dig it? Jesus God, that must have been something to see. And you know what else? He tried to take his baby boy with him. My grandfather. Wow! Woooee! Guitar! You hear that? Guitar, my great-granddaddy could flyyyyyy and the whole damn town is named after him." (2.15.328)
Milkman perpetuates the memory of his great grandfather, even though he never witnessed the moment of his flying. He tells this story to Sweet and Guitar, and so we suppose that the story will continue, even when the Dead lineage is ended when Milkman surrenders to the air. Here, Milkman contributes toward the memory of his great-grandfather.