Essay on Dream Deferred in Song of Solomon

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The American Dream Deferred in Song of Solomon

Beginning with the first African American literary works through the more recent successes such as Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon the topic of literacy is almost inextricably connected to freedom and power. A closer investigation, however, leads the reader to another, less direct, message indicating that perhaps this belief in literacy as a pathway to the "American Dream" of freedom and social and financial success is contradictory or, at least, insufficient in social and cultural terms. In this way, African American literature reconstructs the "American Dream" into an even more complex "dream deferred."

Toni Morrison deconstructs the "American Dream" and the "literacy
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However, despite his own literacy, Milkman's father remains unfulfilled and extremist in his pursuit of the "American Dream". "Own things. And let the things you own own other things. Then you'll own yourself and other people too" (55), advises Dead while he simultaneously yearns for the music that "made him think of fields and wild turkey and calico" (29) - his history, his culture.

Morrison continues to emphasize the usefulness of song and orality while dismissing traditional representations of African American literacy throughout the novel. For instance, Morrison's use of biblical names for her characters represents the African American reliance on the Bible as a historical tool for literacy. Morrison, however, turns this idea upon itself by representing the use of the Bible as an ambiguous, thoughtless tool for naming rather than a spiritual guide and a means to literacy:

He had cooperated as a young father with the blind selection of names from the Bible for every child other than the first male. (18)

Instead, Morrison emphasizes the importance of African folktales and slave-inspired blues songs that tell the tale of Milkman's people and that allow for the expression of the pain and sorrow of a past and the continuing journey of a people:

O Sugarman don't leave me here

Cotton balls to choke me

O Sugarman don't leave me here

Buckra's arms to yoke me

Sugarman done fly away

Sugarman done gone

Sugarman cut

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