When we think about coming of age, we not only focus on transition, we focus on the growth a person has overcome in a certain amount of time. In the book Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison captures the term with one of the main protagonists; Milkman Dead. Initially, you may automatically get the idea that Milkman is selfish and self centered. With this idea the author brings us along on Milkman’s journey when he decides to find himself and learn more about his family’s past. We see how this process has affected him socially and personally in how he came of age.
Milkman’s background is what makes his character in the beginning so essential to his transition. Milkman comes from a wealthy background, with his mother being the daughter of a famous black doctor and his father being a wealthy landlord. Even though the family is wealthy, doesn’t mean that they are a great, well put together family. When reading the beginning, you get the idea that their family is dysfunctional, and this has an effect on milkman. As a kid milkman was isolated from everyone else. He’d never played like that as a child. As soon as he got off his knees at the window sill , grieving because he could not fly, and went off to school, his velvet suit separated him from the other children (Morrison 264). His money and his lifestyle separated him from other kids, which caused him to not have any friends. Because of this Milkman mostly stuck around his father and that’s where he was tied down to the family legacy. Milkman’s father, Macon Dead was a cold man, who only cared about himself and money. Through the years of milkman’s childhood, this behavior rubs off him and that’s where Milkman’s behavior changes.
Milkman never respected the women in his life throughout the first part of the book, especially the women in his own family. He emulated his father by not listening to the needs of a woman, and also ignoring the wisdom they have. Pilate was the main women who provided wisdom to milkman about the respect of women, even though it wasn’t directly thrown at him. When Reba was getting beat up by her lover in chapter 4, Pilate stepped up and made it be known that no women should be disrespected by a man. Although Milkman witnessed it all he still learned nothing considering the fact that he treats women as if they were nothing. He grows disrespecting women and Magdalene Lena, his older sister, finally stepped up and said something to him about it. When milkman decides to tell his father about the secret relationship his other sister Corinthians had with a tenant named Porter, his father immediately makes her end it because porter was poor, and this triggered the fight scene between Milkman and Lena. Lena points out the time where Milkman peed on her when they were kids and Milkman is left confused wondering why Lena had brought it up. She relates this memory in the past to the way Milkman treats women now and this makes Milkman think. You’ve been laughing at us all your life. Corinthians. Mama. Me. Using us, ordering us, and judging us: how we cook your food; how we keep your house(Morrison 215).
Lena was tired of Milkman taking advantage and using women for his own benefit. Even though this was Lena’s only scene in the book, it is an important one because it set its mark as the climax in the book where Milkman learns that is actions always affects people even the one he has close to him. You are to blame. You are a sad, pitiful, stupid, selfish, hateful man. I hope your little hog’s gut stands you in good stead, and that you take good care of it, because you don’t have anything else. But I want to give you notice. She pulled her glasses out of her pocket and put them on. Her eyes doubled in size behind the lenses and were very pale and cold. I don’t make roses anymore, and you have pissed your last in this house(Morrison 216). Milkman perspective on women changes towards the ending of the book. When Hagar dies, who was Milkman’s ex lover, Milkman comes to his senses and thought that is was wrong that he used her when all she did was love him.