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JOHN N. DUVALL Doe Hunting and Masculinity: Song of Solomon and Go Down, Moses . . . not Lucius Quintus @c @c @c, but Lucas Quintus, not refusing to be called Lucius, because he simply eliminated that word from the name, not denying, declining the name itself, because he used three quarters of it; but simply taking the name and changing, altering it, making no longer the white man's but his own, by himself composed, himself selfprogenitive and nominate, by himself ancestored . . . —William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses Surely, he thought, he and his sister had some ancestor, some lithe young man with onyx skin and legs as straight as cane stalks, who had a name that was real. A name given to him at birth with love and seriousness. —Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon e are not surprised when we discover traces of classical mythology, slave narratives, or biblical poetry in Song of SoIomon .x Yet to speak of the way a text of Toni Morrison and one of William Faulkner enter into dialogue is to run a decided risk ofa racism that conjures up vivid images of domination in our American past. Are you not, after all, implying that without this white, Southern male's seminal text, that of the African-American woman would never have come to fruition? But in positing an intertextual relation between Song of Solomon and Go Down, Moses, I am not granting the latter any privilege as master text.2 The critical dialogue in which Song ofSohmon engages Go Down, Moses suggests rather that Morrison's novel reclaims Arizona Quarterly Volume 47 Number 1, Spring 1991 Copyright O 1991 by Arizona Board of Regents issn 0004- 1610 96John N. Duvall Faulkner's in ways that question the male-centered world of the hunt and that refuse the gambit of tragedy. In 1955, as a master's student at Cornell, Toni Morrison completed her thesis, "Virginia Woolf's and William Faulkner's Treatment of the Alienated." The thesis stands as a piece of intellectual autobiography that provides a glimpse into the development of her novelistic imagination . Morrison's sixteen-page Faulker chapter focuses on Thomas Sutpen and Quentin Compson.3 In Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury, Morrison sees "elements ofGreek tragedy," such as "the fall of a once great house" and "old family guilts inherited by an heir"; moreover , "the fact that incest plays such an important part ... is evidence that Faulkner patterns these histories after the Greeks."4 Morrison's characterization of Absalom and The Sound and the Fury also accurately describes Isaac McCaslin's alienation from his past as he comes of age in a defeated South and discovers in the ledgers the horror of his grandfather's incest and miscegenation. Her own character, Milkman Dead, in Song of Solomon, similarly comes of age alienated from his family history, almost as a result, one might say, ofpatriarchs such as Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, whose forced mixture of the races in Mississippi results in the lighter-skinned African Americans accorded special status in Milkman Dead's Michigan. In other words, Ike's family problem, as he confronts the racism of the white community, is too much history; Milkman's difficulty in seeing the racism within the African -American community (at least in Part I) is not enough. But while Go Down, Moses is another tragedy (inasmuch as Roth Edmonds repeats his great-great-great-grandfather's incestuous miscegenation, the act that motivated Isaac's repudiation in the first place), Song of Solomon , although similarly structured by intergenerational repetitions, finds Milkman ultimately breaking free of certain destructive cycles of the Dead family and patriarchal social organization. A number ofother parallels invite a consideration ofthese two narratives together. In both novels, the male protagonists apparently come to some transcendent moment while hunting, for hunting is something more than the literal stalking of animals; the hunted animals in both are totemic substitutes for characters. Both novels blur boundaries between the natural and supernatural worlds. But perhaps most important , the creation of the adult subjectivity of Isaac McCaslin in Go Down, Moses and Milkman Dead in Song of Solomon serves as the site of conflict and competition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 95-115
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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