Study Guide

The Butler family in Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison

The Butler family

The Butlers are the greedy white family of farmers who live in a huge mansion just outside of Danville. Though we never encounter them directly, we hear of them throughout the novel, as their actions have huge consequences. They shoot Jake (Macon Dead, Sr.) so that they can steal his land, orphaning his children.

Pilate and Macon live as stowaways in the Butlers’ mansion for two weeks after their father’s death, and they are kept hidden by Circe. Eventually, however, they sneak off in the middle of the night, having been tormented by the confinement they experience in the house and by the bland white food that Circe serves them.

Eventually the Butler family dies out, the final heir killing herself by throwing herself off the second floor banister. All of the wealth they had amassed had to be sold off one by one to help maintain the farm. Circe worked for the Butlers most of her life, and she outlives them all. She makes sure to destroy every piece of wealth that they own.