The novel Song of Solomon has several recurring themes, including that of sexuality. Morrison effectively demonstrates these sexual themes relating to both sexes. Unlike in her other novels, both the men and women are “searching for love, for valid sexual encounters, and above all, for a sense that they are worthy.”(Bakerman 318) While Song of Solomon gives men a more prominent place, Morrison also shows the desires of women to break away from established society and to create an individualistic life.
Pilate is one of the most apparent characters in her journey to explore her sexuality and womanhood. She is portrayed by Morrison as a strong and a somewhat rebellious woman. She establishes something extraordinary during that time, economic independence. In the process “she rejects the traditional image of woman by cutting off her hair...and wearing clothes functional to her way of life.”(Mickelson 316) Even though this is all true, Morrison never lets us forget that Pilate is a woman planted in the reality of black society. Ruth also yearns to escape the shackles that hold her down as a married woman. In the opening scenes of the novel, Ruth shows us her trivial concerns dealing with a stain on the table. Ruth “... talked endlessly to her daughters and her guests about how to get rid of it - what might hide this single flaw on the splendid wood...She had tried them all.” (Morrison 11) As insignificant as they were, these were Ruth’s concerns. Yet the stain has a deeper meaning symbolizing the scar that Ruth has, but fervently attempts to cover up, from her married life. We learn that Her husband never loved her and they haven’t been intimate in years. “When Ruth was naked and lying there as moist and crumbly as unbleached sugar, he bent to unlace her shoes. That was the final delight, for once he had undressed her feet, had peeled her stockings down over her ankles and toes, he entered her and ejaculated quickly. She liked it that way. So did he. And in almost twenty years during which he had not laid eyes on her naked feet, he missed only the underwear.” (Morrison 16) As she dealt with the rejection of her husband, Ruth searched for sexual satisfaction elsewhere, eventually turning to her son, Milkman. “He was too young to be dazzled by her nipples, but he was old enough to be bored by the flat taste of mother’s milk, so he came reluctantly, as to a chore, and lay as he had at least once each day of his life in his mother’s arms, and tried to pull the thin, faintly sweet milk from her flesh without hurting her with his teeth.” (Morrison 13) Ruth recognized that the breastfeeding was wrong, but let her desire cloud her better judgement. Milkman is used as a pleasure toy until the abuse is discovered. Ruth is once again left in a state of sexual deprivation. Most novels deal only with women and revolutions but Morrison “...deals not only with the woman who breaks away from the established society...but with the black man who yearns to fly...” Milkman is avidly searching for a woman and a sense of security, and as opposed to the women, his search is surprisingly successful. The audience never questions Milkman’s ability to love, yet we see the problems he has recognizing it. Hagar, who was only considered a “lady friend”, was an important individual in Milkman’s life. They had an indescribable bond, yet they never pursued a relationship beyond a physical one. “Everybody who knew him knew about Hagar, but she was considered his private honey pot, not a real or legitimate girlfriend - not someone he might marry.” (Morrison 91) Not until he meets Sweet, does he learn about love and passion. The relationship that the two develop is both sexually and emotionally fulfilling. Here he learns that love is a mutual feeling necessary for a healthy relationship. Guitar on the other hand is guided by a different type of love, a love for the black race. He is so devoted to the black cause, he turns violent, randomly murdering whites. This love is driven by the void created when his father died and although Guitar’s love sharply contrasts that of Milkman, they both use love to fill a gap in their life.
Song of Solomon uses sexual themes to explain a search on which every character embarked. Milkman, Pilate, Ruth, and Guitar, among others, are looking for love and sex to take the place of all that is missing in their lives. Sex is used as a solution to such various problems as loneliness and insecurity. We learn through this novel that sex and love are individually complex yet somehow always connected. Topics including flight, sexuality, and religion are discussed throughout the entire book. Morrison subtly conveys different lessons and morals with these themes through names, symbols, etc. Ultimately, this novel deals with initiation and exploration in society. She combines these subjects with the conditions of blacks in society to create a story of people and their trials in life.