From Feet to Wings: The Importance of Being Bare-Footed in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
AbstractIn her novel Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison uses the motif of shoes repetitively. Based on this, I argue in my article entitled “From Feet to Wings: The Importance of Being Bare-Footed in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon” that in her use of the shoe motif, Morrison departs from many Western folktales where more often than not shoes entail power and transformation. Morrison’s subversion of the shoe metaphor underlines the magical and transformative power her characters become endowed with once they step out of their shoes. This becomes significant since when feet become liberated from shoes, characters like Pilate and Milkman – who I focus on – learn how to sing and learn how to redraw the physical map of their ancestors. As a result, their bare feet transform into wings and they fly. The theoretical frameworks I draw upon in my article are Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the chronotope, Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject and Freud’s analysis of the sexual significance of shoes and flight. These theoretical frameworks combined highlight the inseparable connection between shoes, maps, and flight. Space, time, and the self converge with the result of offering a new perspective. Shoes, I maintain, represent space and largely inform gender and identity throughout the novel. Critics writing on Morrison’s novel focus separately on the metaphor of shoes, flight, and singing. What my article offers is a comprehensive view that connects these motifs together in conjunction to maps. My paper also traces the transformation from feet to wings and examines it against the background of the western tradition. Thus, my article brings a new reading to Morrison’s Song of Solomon in particular and to African American literature in general that synthesizes several motifs previously considered separately, and adds a new dimension to the gendering of space.
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