Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Abraham - Morrison Response

7. In King's "Letter From Birmingham City Jail" King insists that injustice anywhere is the business of all Americans: i.e., the plight of African Americans is in some sense universal. Is there a similar sense of universality in Morrison's novel--in other words, is this novel just about blacks, or about human beings generally?

[The plight of African Americans is unique and unlike any other struggle in history. However, it can be applied as universal, in that it represents a struggle that many groups have had since the beginning of time all across the world. For thousands of years races of people have been oppressed and discriminated against. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish conquistadors succeeded in eliminating nearly all native residents (the Aztecs and Incas) of Central and South America. In the 19th century, while the United States was beginning to occupy the western half of the nation, the government pushed many Native Americans off of their own land and onto reservations. The Dawes Act in 1887 gave land to individual Native Americans rather than to the tribe as a whole, upending one of their key cultural values. During World War II, Adolf Hitler adopted what he called the "final solution," a plan to narrow down the world into one "master race," which included the extermination of millions of Jews, gypsies, and people who were mentally handicapped. However, the struggle that blacks went through (and still go through) in America is unlike any other struggle of any other people in history. Until the elimination of slavery in 1863, nearly all of the southern economy was based on the enslavement of an "inferior" race. The White Southern slave-owners depended on slaves for their economic prosperity. The conquistadors killed the Aztecs and Incas for the "three G's" (gold, God, and glory) and land for the Spanish empire; the United States put Native Americans on reservations not because they depended on them, but because US citizens wanted their land; Adolf Hitler killed millions of innocent people not because they made the German economy boom, but because he simply believed they did not have a warrant to live. The African American struggle, while it can be applied as universal, goes much deeper than any other struggle.] Aside from all of that, Song of Solomon represents an odyssey of change, something experienced by many people, not just African Americans. Milkman starts his journey looking for gold, but ends up looking for his family history, something much more valuable than his initial desire. He starts his journey as someone with material values much like his fathers and a cold heart. However, by the end of the novel, Milkman changes into a caring human being after reflection and deeper investigation of his roots. Milkman's odyssey not only represents how personal change is possible, but also how there is great variety within every race. Like an innumerable amount of novels, Song of Solomon displays how a cold-hearted soul can change into a kind, compassionate person. But it also shows how every culture and race has its own differences. Not all blacks agreed on every subject during the civil rights movement (as our passionate debate showed on Monday), nor does any race or culture have the exact same values on every subject. The diversity of the African Americans in Song of Solomon shows how stereotypes of cultures can be easily proved wrong. There is a large amount of disagreement between people throughout the novel. Guitar, on one side, advocates killing innocent whites while Pilate, on the other side, is a figure of peace and love who would probably never advocate killing anybody. Macon Jr., a man who only seems to care about wealth, is disliked by much of the community. In any society there is disagreement. Upon examination, disagreement is the tell tale sign of being human. While it can lead to bigger problems, disagreement shows how every society is human. Song of Solomon is not a novel about African Americans, it is a novel with African Americans as its subject and universally applicable themes.

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