Study Guide

Circe in Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison


Circe is the Danvillian midwife who has birthed hundreds of babies in the region, bringing them safely into the world. She helped birth Macon and Pilate, and the only patient she ever lost was Sing, their mother.

Circe worked for the Butlers (a wealthy, greedy family of gentlemen farmers who murdered Macon and Pilate’s father so that they could seize his land) for most of her life. When Milkman encounters her at the Butler mansion, he is totally surprised to find her because she should be too old to be alive. It’s hard to know whether she’s a ghost, a dream, or alive, because her voice is that of a twenty-year-old.

She lives in the Butler mansion by herself surrounded by a pack of semi-wild dogs. She tells Milkman she hopes someone will find her soon after she dies. When Milkman assumes she stays in the mansion out of love for the Butlers, she nearly bites his head off. She stays in the mansion in order that she might see it completely and utterly destroyed. Everything within it was begot of greed, murder, and foul play, and she wants to see the entire estate crumble. Circe shows a shocking resemblance to the goddess of the same name found in Homer’s Odyssey.