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Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon

by Toni Morrison

Memory and the Past Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I don’t know who and I don’t know why. I just know what I’m telling you: what, when, and where." (1.2.42)

Pilate is uninterested with knowing the who and the why of her father’s death. In fact, the who and the why are never explored in great detail. The who and the why lead to the Butlers, the greedy, racist, white land owners, the likes of whom we never meet in present or in flashback form. Pilate remembers details as specific as the color of her mother’s ribbon, but there are other details she cannot recall (because she has no interest in them).

Quote #2

Guitar felt like a frustrated detective. "What year?"

"The year they shot them Irish people down in the streets. Was a good year for guns and gravediggers, I know that." […] "One morning we woke up when the sun was nearly a quarter way cross the sky. Bright as anything. And blue. Blue like the ribbons on my mother’s bonnet. (1.2.42)

Specificity of time as we know is not of interest to Pilate. She tells time, records time by the great events that take place along the way. Though she does not adhere to conventional methods of measuring time when telling this story, she remembers the exact position of the sun and the color of the sky. Guitar’s frustration serves to highlight his northern, citified ways of relying on watches, calendars, and the news, in contrast to Pilate’s southern roots whereby a person understands a situation by perceiving the natural world around her.

Quote #3

Macon paused and let the smile come on. He had not said any of this for years. Had not even reminisced much about it recently. When he was first married he used to talk about Lincoln’s Heaven to Ruth. Sitting on the porch swim in the dark, he would re-create the land that was to have been his. Or when he was just starting out in the business of buying houses, he would lounge around the barbershop and swap stories with the men there. But for years, he hadn’t had that kind of time, or interest. But now he was doing it again, with his son, and every detail of that land was clear in his mind. (1.2.52)

We really don’t know who the hey Macon is. There are huge chunks of time in his life that are unaccounted for. It is only when he remembers Lincoln’s Heaven and his childhood that we see a happier, peaceful Macon. We wonder why he doesn’t talk about Lincoln’s Heaven more these days. Macon seems to have been hardened by city life. The city is teaching him things that make him forget where he comes from.

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