Thursday, April 28, 2016

Character Names in Song of Solomon

After reading chapter one, it was apparent to me that the names in Morrison's Song of Solomon are important. I will even go so far as to say that I believe that they will be symbolic. 

This family, the Dead family, has some interesting naming conventions for their children. The male children are named Macon Dead, hence we would have Macon Dead the first, Macon Dead Jr., Macon Dead the on and so forth. Their last name is interesting, supposedly a mistake during the Civil War. But it becomes even more intriguing when girls are born into the family. The father then takes a pin and pierces a page in the bible, then finds the name that is closest to the pin, and names their daughter that. This system has lead to some very interesting names. All of the women in the novel, thus far, have had biblical names--including Ruth, Macon's wife.

Because I think these names are going to become a huge factor in the novel, I will spend some time analyzing each.

Pilate Dead: Macon's sister's name alludes to Pontius Pilate in the Bible. Pilate was the Roman leader of Jerusalem and interrogated Christ when the Savior was brought before him. Pilate washed his hands of the matter of Christ and allowed the Jews to crucify him. Even Dante, in The Inferno, is ambivalent as to Pilate. He wasn't necessarily evil or wicked, but he certainly didn't do any favors for Christ.

Reba/Rebecca: Pilate's daughter. This name comes from Genesis. Rebecca was Isaac's wife. She helped her son Jacob to gain the birthright blessing from Isaac.

Hagar: Hagar is Reba's daughter in the novel. In the bible, Hagar was Sarah's handmade. Sarah had her husband, Abraham sleep with Hagar and she gave birth to Ishmael--the progenitor to the Arabic nations.

Ruth Dead: Ruth is Milkman's mother. I never really cared for the story of Ruth very much. Never saw much symbolism or importance in it. But I guess it could be important to note that Ruth gave birth to the grandfather of King David in the bible.

Magdalena Dead: In the novel they always address her as Magdalena called Lena. This is Ruth's eldest daughter and alludes to Mary Magdalene the woman who was the first to witness Christ's resurrection.

First Corinthians Dead: Now this name is the oddest. This child isn't named after a figure in the bible, but a book in the bible. First Corinthians is Ruth's second daughter, and her name alludes to the book written by Paul.

I did some research to help with this information. I knew that these names would have significance, and I understood some of them, but then I looked up the others. This resource was a great help:

At the end of the article, they mention that the men in the novel have more "physical names." I might go as far as to say that the men in the novel have more mundane names.

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