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Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon


by Toni Morrison

Analysis: Writing Style


We know what you're thinking. "Descriptive? Isn't every novel descriptive? What kind of cheesy label is that?"

Let's just put it this way: Song of Solomon is descriptive in the way cotton candy is sweet. This isn't an oh-look-how-beautiful-the-landscape-is kind of a style. No, Morrison's descriptions are raw and thick with details.

Let's take a look at an example:

The blood was not pulsing out any longer and there was something black and bubbly in her mouth. Yet when she moved her head a little to gaze at something behind his shoulder, it took a while for him to realize that she was dead. And when he did, he could not stop the worn old words from coming, louder and louder as though sheer volume would wake her. He woke only the birds, who shuddered off into the air. Milkman laid her head down on the rock. Two of the birds circled round them. One dived into the new grave and scooped something shiny in its beak before it flew away. (15.80)

See what we mean by raw? Morrison doesn't hold back on the blood. She's no Quentin Tarantino, sure, but she's also no 19th-century British novelist who's all into the way a country estate looks among the fields of Devonshire or whatever.

Morrison's also not afraid to repeat her words for added effect. Did you notice how she uses "louder" twice? Doesn't it give you the feeling that you're there listening to Milkman sing? Or check out how she uses "wake" in one sentence and then "woke" in the next; she's forcing you to track the effect of Milkman's singing on the now-dead Pilate to the birds.

There's always a ton going on at once in Song of Solomon, and Morrison doesn't hesitate to shows us every little thing. Or at least it feels like every little thing.

The total effect? Reading Song of Solomon will feel like you're shadowing Milkman's every move, kind of like the way Guitar shadows Milkman at the end—only without all the violence and death. At least, we hope not.

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