He has not previously shown any great desire or motivation to seek out on his own the reasons for who he is, why he is here, and what came before him.
In the process of his discoveries, Milkman also learns that his grandfather, Macon Dead, after he was killed, had his shallow grave dug up and had his body dumped into Hunters Cove. That kind of information can be very disturbing, and it was. But meanwhile, Milkman shows his naivete about race relations in America — and the history of bigotry and Jim Crow dynamics that were part of America prior to his maturation — in the dialogue that follows (Morrison, pp. 231-232). “Did anybody ever catch the men who did it — who killed him?” Milkman asked Reverend Cooper in the parsonage. “Catch?” The reverend asked, “his face full of wonderDidnt have to catch em. They never went nowhere.” “I mean, did they have a trial, were they arrested?” Milkman asked.
“Arrested for what?” The preacher returned. “Killing a nigger? Where did you say you was from?” The preacher felt the need to educate Milkman, which is Morrisons way of also educating the reader and contributing to Milkmans character development. “And nobody did anything?” Milkman asked, wondering “at his own anger.” “Wasnt nothing to do,” the reverend replied. “White folks didnt care. Colored folks didnt dare” (Morrison, pp. 231-232).
In this portion of the book Milkman appears as a symbol of innocence; how could a man not know how vicious the racist society had been in the recent past? One could say he symbolizes a new generation looking back naively upon the previous generations and he is incredulous at the brutality and hatefulness he learns about.
In describing Milkmans mother — and her strong desire to have another baby with Macon, Milkmans father — a fascinating psychologically bizarre picture is framed. Ruths son Milkman had “never been a person to herhe had always been a passion” (Morrison, p. 131). The reason for this is that Macon tried to get Ruth to abort the baby, and even “punched her in the stomach” trying to get her to abort (Morrison, p. 131). She of course wanted the baby. And she wanted the sensual love from her husband that she once enjoyed. For this reason — that she can no longer expect sex from her husband and hence no more children — it casts a shadow over the life of Milkman, the individual whose father tried to destroy him before he was born and whose mother breast fed him well into his childhood. But it also makes him a very interesting and provocative character that — while he found out a lot about life his father could never have taught him — never did find his pot of gold.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Alfred a..