One reasons bird fly is to migrate. They fly away from their natural habitat to escape the grueling cold only to return months later to where they came from. In Song of Solomon, flight is a central theme, especially for the main character, Milkman. Throughout the story, flight becomes a symbol and we see it follows the progression of Milkman from childhood to adulthood, in fact reading “flight” right after his birth in the beginning of the novel and seen toward the end of the novel. Milkman refers to flight upon discovering the story of his great-grandfather, Solomon, of how he “flew” away to escape slavery. Milkman singing Solomon’s song- “O-o-o-o-o-o Solomon done fly, Solomon done gone / Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home!” (page 248). Flight signifies a feeling brought by the gain of new knowledge and liberation, similar to Milkman who seeks to discover his identity, learning that the only way to fly is soar is by leaving everything behind and riding the wind on his journey of self-knowledge
Flight was tied to Milkman even during his childhood. When Milkman had a discussion about Mr. Smith’s death who tried to fly he discovered something about; “...little boy discovered, at four, the same thing that Mr. Smith had learned earlier—that only birds and airplanes could fly—he lost all interest in himself. To have to live without that single gift saddened him” (page 9). As a child this term of flight to him was just simply the physical act of flying. This reflects his immaturity and lack of knowledge as a child. As the novel progresses this gift unravels to us and the author reveals what the gift is.
As his teenage years unravel and his maturity starts to develop a flightless bird, a peacock, appears before his eyes as he discusses what he would do with the gold he plans to take from Pilate. His previous actions, that of a peacock, shows that his vanity is one of the main things that holds him down, as Morrison writes, 'Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you gotta give up the shit that weighs you down' (page 179). This is a reflection of how Milkman takes everything for granted and lavishes himself in the riches that he feels he deserves. Just as a male peacock's majestic feathers hold him down, Milkman's vanity holds him back from realizing who he really is and being able to fly. Vanity is like unnecessary jewelry. It creates a sense of greed within the holder.
As Milkman grows and matures and goes on his “ journey”, similar to how Oddesus in the Iliad and the Odyssey tries to find his way back home. During his journey his journey on the way to Pittsburg he as a dream of flight once more. Now in his adulthood, in his twenties, this dream foreshadows that he is maturing and approaching the day he could finally learn to fly. The airplane flight to Pittsburgh 'exhilarated' (page 220) him. Another 'flight', but he is not the one who actually flies, it's the airplane which carries him. This symbolizes that Milkman is approaching his actual flight, and his decision to go alone to the South brings him onto the path leading to maturity
His search and growth for knowledge shows his path to flight. Literally, without knowing his family history and where he really belongs to, Milkman's spiritual world is hollow and hopeless, especially when considering that almost everyone nears him wants his 'living life' (Page 222) the whole time. He therefore leads an aimless and irresponsible life. However, after his journey to the South helps him find out his heritage, he really becomes mature and starts to reflect on himself and take responsibility. This time, he can finally fly. Figuratively, Milkman finds out that he is the kid of the flying Solomon after he goes to the South. Before knowing that, he is not able to fly. But this fact actually symbolizes his family heritage Since the 'flying' derives from the African folklore illustrating that African people could fly, the fact about Solomon symbolizes African American culture in a broader sense.