Concept of Self-awareness in Song of Solomon

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One of the most fundamental characteristics of human beings is the ability to be self-aware. Essentially, self-awareness is the capacity to be introspective about one’s self. In this state, individuals are capable of actively identifying, storing and processing information about their personhood. While awareness of the self comprises an integral part of human thought, many individuals often find themselves being disconnected from this process. There are various reasons as to why individuals become less and less self-aware, but the most prominent reason is, people begin to develop a severe preoccupation with the events in their lives resulting in a disconnect from the inner self. Once this disconnect between an individual and their inner self occurs, the question becomes how does one regain this connection? The novels Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry look to provide an answer to this predicament. Song of Solomon discusses the story of an African American, named Macon ‘Milkman’ Dead, who goes on a journey to learn more about his heritage. While Such a Long Journey tells the story of a hard-working bank clerk, by the name of Gustad Noble, whose life slowly begins to crumble. Song of Solomon argues that self-awareness can be regained if one learns how to stop being selfish. Whereas, Such a Long Journey argues novels argue that self-awareness can be regained if one loses all sentiments of entitlement. This idea is primarily expressed through the authors’ use of character interaction and other literary devices such as imagery, motifs and symbolism.

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The idea of how selflessness can bring about self-awareness can be demonstrated through the character of Milkman and his interaction with the prominent female characters in the novel. One of the most impactful relationships throughout the entirety of the novel is Milkman’s relationship with Pilate. Ever since the reader’s introduction to Pilate, it is clear to see that she will play a monumental role in Milkman’s journey. Upon meeting him she immediately takes him under her wing and explains the Dead’s family history. Despite her kindness towards Milkman, he one day decides to betray her by stealing her sack. He does under the assumption that there is gold in the sack that will allow him to distance himself from his family. However, he steals the sack and gets caught, Milkman begins to contemplate how his actions affected the woman who had shown him the “blue” (209) of the sky. This reflection on his actions of results in Milkman feeling a sense of “shame” (209). Milkman’s consideration of the impacts of his actions, indicate his shift towards a selfless character. This selfless attitude eventually results in him becoming a self-aware character. This is demonstrated by the growth of his left leg. Throughout the novel the image of Milkman’s undersized leg has been symbolic of his emotional childishness, the fact that it grows in this scene demonstrates that he is undergoing a deep personal transformation. He now understands that he needs to change his immature and selfish approach to life to become a better person. The idea that selflessness can bring about self-awareness is also demonstrated through Milkman’s relationship with Hagar. Throughout the novel, it is made evident that Hagar is deeply in love with Milkman. In chapter 4, the reader learns about how Hagar would always “pout” (99) and “complain” (99) that Milkman did not love her. Instead of reciprocating his love back, He opts to look for ways to dwindle his affection for Hagar. He states how she was a “third beer” (91). Milkman’s comparison of Hagar to a beer symbolizes how little he thinks of her. To him, Hagar’s main purpose in life is to quench his thirst for sex. This use of Hagar’s body as a mere tool of pleasure highlights his selfishness. However, as the book proceeds, Milkman begins letting go of this selfish attitude. In chapter 12, Milkman reflects on his treatment of Hagar and admits that he had “used her love” (301). This quote demonstrates that Milkman is now a selfless individual, he is far more considerate of other people’s feelings. Eventually, his journey to self-awareness is complete when he returns with a “box of Hagar’s hair” (334). The image of Milkman returning home with a box of Hagar’s hair demonstrates that he understands that he is responsible for Hagar’s death. The examples mentioned above demonstrate that self-awareness can be achieved by letting go of one’s selfish tendencies.

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Concept of Self-awareness in Song of Solomon. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
“Concept of Self-awareness in Song of Solomon.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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