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The point of this essay is not to evaluate the novel or short story. Instead, you will be expected to analyze and interpret a piece of literature. The goal is to develop your own original argument about the text, rather than to repeat what we already have discussed in class. By “original,” I mean attending to questions, issues, and sections of the text that we have not addressed. Ask yourself what interests you about the text, and use that answer as a way of guiding you to your own interpretation.

You could also use the guiding questions of this class in order to think about what to analyze, although you can choose to focus your paper outside of the following questions: How does the text represent difference – that is, different cultures, genders, classes, nationalities, sexualities, etc. How does the text represent power? How does the text address larger societal problems or injustices? How does the text help us to understand, define, or reassess difference? How does the text affirm or problematize societal norms and/or roles? How are relationships between groups of people depicted (i.e. men and women, different social groups, different ethnicities, etc)? How might technological advancements complicate our understanding of difference?

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In a scene of birth meeting death starkly contrasted by wealth and class, Toni Morrison sets up her novel Song of Solomon (1977) and continues these themes throughout. This novel is about a family both being accepted and ridiculed for its wealth and class, it’s family members never truly fitting into society no matter where the location. The Dead family’s high socioeconomic status within Black society whether in the North or the South contradicts people’s notions about what is and is not socially acceptable, and at times provides them with power and at other times renders them powerless. Those family members who act with love are able to transcend their position of wealth and class, making them the most powerful characters in the novel.

Every character in Song of Solomon confronts his or her own socioeconomic status within the context, and confine, of race. At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to three main characters, the mother Ruth, the aunt Pilate, and soon baby Milkman. While watching an insurance salesman attempt to fly off the roof of a hospital, ultimately leaping to his death, Ruth, pregnant and about to deliver, stands dressed in a “neat gray coat with the traditional pregnant-woman bow at her navel, a black cloche, and a pair of four-button ladies’ galoshes” while her sister-in-law Pilate is described “as poorly dressed as the doctor’s daughter was well dressed” in a “knitted navy cap pulled far down over her forehead” and “wrapped … up in an old quilt instead of a winter coat” (22). We are told that Ruth is a doctor’s daughter and already given a clue that this divide between wealth and class will play a significant role in her and her family’s relationship with Pilate and her family, as well as many other people later in the novel....
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