Sample Analytical Paper Topics
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel by giving you the opportunity to analyze some of the important themes of Song of Solomon. Following each topic is a sample outline to help direct you to the main points of the topic and to encourage your own ideas.
Milkman goes through several stages in the growing-up process to become a humane and morally-responsible adult. Discuss the most significant turning points in his march toward manhood in Song of Solomon. Explain their impact on Milkman’s character.
I. Thesis Statement: Milkman’s progress in becoming a morally-responsible and humane character in Song of Solomon is primarily a result of his becoming educated in his family’s past, in his understanding of nature, and in his new-found respect for women.
II. Learning about his family’s past
A. Pilate’s values as an alternative to Macon’s
B. Milkman’s father did not always have such values
C. His grandfather Jake’s importance to the Shalimar community
D. Finds out Solomon was a flying African
III. Learning from nature
A. Material possessions are useless in nature
B. Man cannot control nature
C. Nature can overpower man
D. Man can communicate with and learn about living from nature
IV. Learning about women
A. Learns Ruth and his sisters are not subservient to men, and do not exist only to nurture men
B. Hagar and other women do not exist solely for his physical pleasure
C. Pilate and Circe (and to a lesser extent, Reba) do not fit in “traditional” gender categories
D. Sweet is Milkman’s first reciprocal relationship
(The entire section is 739 words.)
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Song of Solomon” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Song of Solomon” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Function of Names in Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is a coming of age story, with the core component of Milkman’s identity being wrapped up in his name. In any character analysis of central characters in “Song of Solomon”, it becomes clear that for most, names are a reflection of their personality, and help them transform. Circe, Guitar, Pilate and even First Corinthians have names that reflect their function in the text. Compare and contrast the meanings of the names in the novel and the personalities of the characters, from a non-Biblical perspective. What can be found about Milkman from his nickname? What about the story of Solomon’s name changing, and Pilate’s habit of keeping her name in her ear? What do these thing tell us and how do they help develop the characters in Song of Solomon?Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Issue of Race in Song of Solomon
Racism is a theme that permeates Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon in many ways, both implicitly and explicitly. Not only is racial tension thick due to the setting of “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison, but it also plays a large part in moving the plot along. Milkman’s grandfather Solomon flew away from his life because of slavery, and Guitar’s grandfather died because of his white employers. While it seems as if everyone in the novel is trying to flee the grip of their families past as slaves, in reality, they are only further enslaving themselves. For example, Macon Dead tells Milkman that if he wants to be free, he must have money, and lots of it, so that he can own people, which is a direct reversal of his own past, yet it traps Macon in a position where he is enslaved to his job. Describe the links to slavery that Milkman and Guitar’s families possess, and the ways in which both men try, and fail, to escape that captivity.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Song of Solomon and the Symbol of Flight
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon begins with the flight of Robert Smith and ends with the flight of Milkman Dead. The theme of flying is one that appears quite frequently throughout the novel. From Smith to the flight of Solomon, to the figurative flight of Milkman from Michigan, it seems as if flying as a means to escape occurs very often. Pick two or three characters and compare and contrast the ways that they attempt to fly, and what their attempts mean for them. Also, compare the other characters’ flights to that of Pilate, who as Milkman states, can fly without ever leaving the ground.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Magic and Its Effects in Song of Solomon
Throughout Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon, magic plays an important role. It’s magic that allows Solomon to fly away from his troubles, and perhaps it is magic that gives Pilate her guiding presence. There is magic in the moment that Guitar finds Milkman while they are hunting in the woods, and there is also magic that brings the man into the cave with Macon and Pilate. When Milkman finds Circe’s house and discovers it’s ethereal occupant, the reader can only assume that’s magic as well. Describe the different scenes of magic in this novel, and explain how they help to move along the plot, and what specifically they mean to the story.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Meaning of Biblical References in Song of Solomon
The title of Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is a reference to a biblical book of the same name. However, the references to the Bible do not stop there. With the inclusion of various biblical names, including Magdalene, Ruth and even Pilate, Song of Solomon contains a lot of Biblical allusions. Pick one or two characters and describe in detail the way in which they either embody or starkly contrast with their Biblical counterparts. For example, is it a coincidence that the strongest character in the book is named after Pontius Pilate? What is the purpose of naming the characters after Biblical characters? What does it add to the background of the story?
There are other PaperStarter entries for more novels by Toni Morrison, including Beloved as well as The Bluest Eye and the novel Sula.
This list of important quotations from “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Morrison's “Song of Solomon” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Song of Solomon above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” (337)
“Solomon done fly, Solomon done gone, Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home." (303)
“Macon Dead never knew how it came about — how his only son acquired the nickname that stuck in spite of his own refusal to use it or acknowledge it. It was a matter that concerned him a good deal, for the giving of names in his family was always surrounded by what he believed to be monumental foolishness." (15)
“He closed his eyes and thought of the black men in Shalimar, Roanoke, Petersburg, Newport News, Danville, in the Blood bank, on Darling Street, in the pool halls, the barbershops. Their names. Names they got from yearnings, gestures, flaws, events, mistakes, weaknesses. Names that bore witness." (330).
“Let me tell you right now the one important thing that you'll ever need to know: Own things. And let the things you own own other things too. Then you'll own yourself and other people too." (54)
“What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?" (42)
“The men and the dogs were talking to each other. In distinctive voices they were saying distinctive, complicated things." (277)
His own parents, in some mood of perverseness or resignation, had agreed to abide by a naming done to them by somebody who couldn't have cared less." (17)
Source: Morrison, Toni. Song Of Solomon. New York: Plume, 1987.