The Gullah Presence in African American Literature

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Song of Solomon – Meaning Behind the Name.

February 6, 2011 by audreymc · 6 Comments · Song of Solomon

As I read Song of Solomon, I  became interested in the function of names in the story.  It appears that Toni Morrison used names as a connection to the history of the community and its residents and as a window into the personalities of  the characters.  For example, Not Doctor Street was used by South-side residents to “keep their history alive”(Morrison 4). The official name of the street is Mains Avenue; however, when the first Negro doctor moved to their area in 1896 his patients began calling it Doctor Street.  The day after Dr. Smith’s death, the street was called Not Doctor Street.   The unofficial name of (Not) Doctor Street was a way for the residentsof Southside Michigan to commemorate the historical achievement of Doctor Smith and permanently marking the community’s  place in  Michigan’s African American history.

In addition of creating and maintaining a connection to one’s history, names are also a window into a character’s personality. Generally, name are often considered as a way to keep track of the players in the story.  Now names have a deeper purpose of providing insight into the character and their role in the story.  As mentioned in a previous blog, Macon Dead Jr.’s name seems to accurately describe his personality.   He is void of emotion for his family and community and only shows emotion when it pertains to money and acquiring wealth.  While his sister Pilate is named after a man who committed a cruel act of killing Jesus. Pilate seems to be a  strong and loving character not a cruel character as her name suggests.

Have you ever wondered about the history of the street names in your neighborhood and how that name connects  community and the residents?  Have you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of your name and if it is an accurate depiction of your personality?

My name is Audrey and it is a feminine and masculine given name of Old English origin meaning “noble and strength” I like to think I am a noble and strong person so I will agree with that depiction of my personality.   What’s the meaning behind your name?

6 Comments so far ↓

  • maraj

    I had the feeling that Morrison’s naming of Pilate was more a play on words, as opposed to a direct reference to Pontius Pilate.

    Pilate is perhaps meant to call to mind the actual word “pilot.” In essence, Pilate facilitates Robert Smith’s flight in the beginning of the novel by singing the song– which I think is Morrison’s parallel to the “Kum…yali, kum buba tambe” the words uttered by Toby in “The People Could Fly” so that the slaves could take flight.

    I cannot be certain yet because I haven’t gotten deep enough into the novel, but I think Pilate will probably be essential in Milkman making some type of flight of his own. He seems to be growing further away from his own nuclear family, and does take a great liking to Pilate (who we discussed in class as being a representation of the ancsestor) and this is setting up a reason perhaps for him to leave in search of his past or something greater for himself.

  • lauranw

    I understand where you’re trying to go with the meaning of Pilate’s name, but in the book Macon said that his father picked Pilate’s name but just putting his finger on a word in the Bible and then copying it to give to the nurse because he couldn’t read. But, I do agree that Pilate wil play a crucial role in Milkman’s life as we continue our reading.

    And, I don’t know the “true definition” of my name but I was named after my mother whose name is Laura Ann. She just took out an “a” and an “n” and got my name, “Lauran”.

  • endia

    My question is do you think that the name of the novel is an illusion to religion and Christianity? Because that is what I gathered from the title of the novel.

    • tiffanyw8

      I think you’ll get your question answered toward the end of the novel. However, the King Solomon in the Bible did have a flying carpet. Another allusion to flight. Maybe.

      I think my mom just like Tiffany lamps for me. I’m not sure.

  • kelliew3

    My first name is Kellie and it is Irish for female warrior. My sister, who is eleven years older than me was really feeling this song by O’Bryan named “Kelly’s eyes”. She suggested the name to my mother before I was born. Even though my mom had no knowledge of what my name meant, I think my name is very befitting. I am a fighter and I am strong willed. That sounds like warrior to me.

  • katrynaw

    When we first start the novel we gain knowledge that Pilate recieved her name by her father piecing it together in the Bible. Pilate within itself shows that she is the driver of her own path when we also find out that she lives alone, no man, and does not pay for things that we consider nessecites today. Morrison did a good job “trying” to cover up her meanings behind the names and title of the novel. Ha, we have somewhat broken it down.

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