Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis
For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.
Milkman meets Pilate, the forbidden aunt, and learns about his father’s (and therefore his family’s) past. Milkman’s curiosity for his history is stirred, and he lays plans for his journey into the past.
In many ways there are two distinct Act IIs, because Milkman’s goal continually changes. The first Act II arrives when Milkman and Guitar steal Pilate’s green bag. Like two leprechauns who feel they have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Milkman and Guitar dream about what kind of lives this gold will bring them. Soon after, they realize that the "gold" is really human bones, and, to top that off, they are taken to jail. Milkman’s dreams of independence are tarnished, and his best friend is furious at him.
The second Act II arrives after Milkman has abandoned his dream of goal in the pursuit of his family history. After an impossible search, he stumbles upon the teensy town of Shalimar, Virginia where he suspects he has roots. He is so close to his history, and yet the first thing he does when he rolls into town is to insult all of the locals, thus momentarily sealing him off from the ancestry that lurks around him.
When Milkman and Pilate go to bury Jake’s bones on Solomon’s Leap, Milkman has already reached his goal of solving his family mystery. He has proved to himself that he can live and act independently through his journey. His ambiguous and complicated leap into the air at the end of the novel further highlights his sense of independence and empowerment. It is at this moment that he takes the cocktail of emotion and knowledge within him (the self knowledge he has gained, the family history he has learned, and his unbending love for his aunt) and acts upon it. He chooses his death or life, whatever the case may be, resulting in a final and full realization of his quest.