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At the end of the novel, this theme is renewed when Milkman goes to Shalimar in Virginia to retrace his family history.Milkman asks Susan Byrd, “What was Jake’s last name? (Morrison 346).” Her response is thus: “I don’t think he had one. They must all be dead a long time now (Morrison 346).” Later she explains what she meant by flying African children, Oh, that’s just some old folks’ lie they tell around here.
Toni Morrison published in 1977 during a time when race issues were still heightened throughout the United States.
It would appear that as Morrison wrote this work, she considered a potent question: “Have I made a whole world and led you through it toward a new comprehension of our life and time, maybe all human history? While it is certainly true that this novel describes a torn and strife filled life of African Americans, there is a deeper cultural world that underlies the unique names and ideas in the novel that Price never realized in his introduction.
Ruth Dead is in a sense in bondage to the racial segregation at the time and therefore cannot give birth in a white hospital.
The traumatic event could be seen a sacrifice wherein Smith’s death allows for the freedom and life of another.
Even though it is quite young, African American literature has many complexities due to its relation to race issues, poverty, and its connection with Africa.
As its name designates, there is a certain aura of “African-ness” to this type of literature.
There was no tragic event or ritual circumcision that gave him his name although he was born after the death of Mr. Macon Dead (II) is relating to Milkman the origin of his name and remarks, I don’t remember my mother too well. This is the mindset behind Macon’s general statement.
Smith who decided to fly off the roof of the hospital. One of the most important themes in the novel, one that the book begins and ends with is the interesting notion of flying Africans. Smith who decides to put to practice the African myth of being able to fly (Morrison 9-12). Olivia Smith Storey in her article, “Flying Words: Contests of Orality and Literacy in the Trope of the Flying Africans,” explains that this idea alludes to “African born slaves flying from slavery in the Americas” (3).
Gay Wilentz alludes to another question that Morrison made in her dedication to the book that suggests the African roots within this complex novel. While none of the names within the novel are inherently African, they do follow the African tradition for naming.
She wrote, “if the fathers fly back to Africa, how will the children know their names? Much of this book is about naming and is known for the bizarre names of some of the characters; i.e. In West Africa, people are named for various reasons and often will change their name, especially after having been circumcised (Samarin 40).