Song of Solomon
How we cite our quotes:
They wondered if one of those things that racial-uplift groups were always organizing was taking place. (1.1.7)
We’ve just entered the world of the book, and the tone, the point of view is very journalistic and neutral. The point of view shows no allegiance to any one particular character or group. But it’s only after we finish the novel that we realize that this moment is one of the few moments that we are allowed into the thoughts of white people. The nurses and doctors automatically assume that the only reason a group of black people would come together would be for reasons of "racial uplift" or of promoting civil rights. This early passage is a barometer, showing us the nature, the temperature of the social climate. It also helps to give a broad perspective of the Not Doctor Street society before we zoom in on the Deads.
The stout woman turned her head slowly, her eyebrows lifted at the carelessness of the address. Then, seeing where the voice came from, she lowered her brows and veiled her eyes. (1.1.11)
Here we watch racism play out. When disrespectfully addressed by a white woman, Guitar’s grandmother, who is a revered elder, must drop her eyes, not make eye contact in deference to the white nurse. Despite the fact that Guitar’s grandmother knows more of life (even setting aside the fact that she is so cool and has prevailed against so much hardship, there’s the simple fact that Guitar’s grandmother has lived longer), she must diminish herself. This scene stands in strong contrast to the way Macon Dead, her landlord, treats her not too long after. He shows no respect for her, only concerned about his money. We see right away the inequality running rampant in all aspects of society, making it nearly impossible to survive, to live peacefully as a black woman.
Mrs. Bains let her hand fall to her side. "A nigger in business is a terrible thing to see. A terrible, terrible thing to see." (1.1.22)
Mrs. Bains, Guitar’s grandmother, comments on Macon Dead and we have the beginnings of a discussion of the way materialism and capitalism affect (or infect) the concept of community. Macon’s businessman-ways have diminished his humanity, his ability to sympathize with an elderly woman trying to raise two grandsons on her own.