Song of Solomon, a rich and empowering novel published in 1977 that focuses on black life across America, follows the path of Milkman Dead, a young black male in search for his identity. Toni Morrison's gift of storytelling clearly shines through her poignant writing, as she presents Dead's search for his culture and history, impeded by the society he lives in. Song of Solomon not only focuses on African American community life, it is also a stark depicter of everyday white oppression. The novel earned Toni Morrison a National Book Critics Circle Award and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award.
In contrast to her earlier works, Song of Solomon encompasses a wide variety of black communities across America, from the liberal Midwest to the old-fashioned and somewhat conservative South. It is a novel that arouses consciousness in the face of an African American struggle of confinement into a life of possibility. Song of Solomon is also Morrison's first novel to be written through a male protagonist view, and the narrator's extraordinary manner of weaving in and out creates an even more spellbound lure into the novel's plot. This technique follows in part from the author's interest in folk storytelling traditions; Morrison patterns the novel after a Yoruba folktale about African-born slaves who could fly back to Africa whenever they wanted. Morrison alludes to other ancient storytelling and folk art traditions as well. The title itself comes from the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) in the Old Testament, a rhapsodic love poem consisting of addresses between a lover and a beloved. The lyrics of the Song of Solomon as presented in the novel are a variant of a Gullah folktale, further emphasizing the importance of oral tradition. Interestingly, Morrison may have taken this interest in roots and history even further with the name of Solomon, as that was the name of her own grandfather, a former slave.