Animals and nature itself have been used throughout the course of literature to symbolize more important ideas. Through such references a great amount of information can be relayed about characters, past events, current predicaments, and can help to highlight themes in a novel. Toni Morrison used such techniques in an extraordinarily effective way. The symbolic use of animals in her book Song of Solomon drew attention to history, character development, and most importantly themes. This added richness to her novel that could not have otherwise been achieved. One of the first references to animals that we see in the book is to flight.

Throughout the novel Morrison continues this theme of flying and it is a backbone to the novel itself. More importantly, flight for Morrison symbolizes freedom. The black race, at the time period in which the novel was written, was under great prejudice from the white race. Their freedom was limited at best, and though they were free of slavery, they still had not achieved social equality. This was symbolized by the flight of the doctor from Mercy Hospital. The Doctor flew to his freedom, to his own death, and because of his flight the first colored person was admitted to Mercy Hospital.

This began the theme of flight which Morrison continues to the very end of the book. The theme of flying is central to the novel itself. In fact, if the reader was not promised that Milkman would fly, there would be no reason to continue reading it. It was the climax promised in the beginning, and central to the freedom Morrison wanted to portray. There was more to Milkman's flight than death, it was his final release from what held him imprisoned, it was where his true freedom began. In his final flight, Milkman let go of all that held his down, accepted his heritage, his history, and his future, and thus he was free.

However, not all of Morrison's uses of animals in her book were carried throughout. Some, like Lincoln's Heaven, were included more as a history lesson than to reiterate themes. Solomon named his farm animals after famous historical figures simply to remember history, and to reach Macon about those historical figures. However, to Pilate, Lincoln's Heaven was indeed a paradise where she could walk around barefoot and eat what they grew.

Lincoln's Heaven helps us to understand Pilate's actions, and behaviors throughout the book. In this case, it was a lesson in character habitualness, and motivation. Though Lincoln's Heaven has few thematic contributions, through its inclusion we learn a great deal about some main characters which add richness and fullness to the novel itself. Indeed history was an important aspect of Morrison's life, as was heritage.

It has been said in order to know who you are, you must know where you came from. Morrison would certainly promote this view. Lincoln's Heaven is more than just a lesson in history, it is a lesson of heritage. Where Milkman's family came from, and the toils they went through are vital to understanding Milkman himself. Motivation is important to understanding a character's actions, just as history is important to understanding heritage. This makes Lincoln's Heaven an important part of a novel based on black pride and black heritage.

Morrison also used animal analogies to help us better understand past events. After hitting his father, Milkman goes to Guitar to cheer himself up. Guitar offers an interesting analogy to one of his hunting experiences. Guitar had been tracking a deer, and after seeing it through some brush shot it. When he went to look at his prize he noticed it was no buck, but instead an old doe.

Macon hitting Ruth was similar to how Guitar killed the doe. "A man shouldn't do that" (Guitar pg. 85) Such analogies are useful when we attempt to judge the personality of characters in a story. Ruth is characterized as helpless like the doe.

This characterization holds true throughout the story. However, if we take the analogy further, Macon is the hunter, who killed the doe by accident, though it was obvious he purposely hit her and was not ignorant. Though, it must be said, in the end we learn much more of Macon's character and we can begin to understand that perhaps he, at least partly, was not totally at fault. She led him into it, she pushed him too far, she left her tracks, and after careful consideration all parts of the analogy hold true. Morrison's analogy is very insightful in helping the reader to understand the characters of Ruth and Macon on a more personal level. Not all references to characters through symbolisms of animals are positive in the novel, however.

For instance, Macon refers to pilot as a snake. On the surface, one would think she is cunning and mischievous, however this is only the tip of the iceberg in this particular characterization. We also hear that the Hagar has an "Anaconda love" for Milkman, providing the reader with a strangling image of love. A love in which death seems to be a real possibility, and is such as Hagar attempts to kill Milkman several times. The biblical references, and seemingly to Milton are also factors in Morrison's reference to snakes.

Pilate is not inherently evil like the snake (Satan) in Genesis. However, at least to Macon, it is important that Milkman believe she is. Certainly, such a comment has an effect on Milkman's attitudes towards Pilate. These effects, however, do not stop Milkman's desire to see her. Milton also seems to be present in the impression Morrison wants the reader to understand through the reference to the snake. Perhaps, Morrison is trying to point out that Pilate is misunderstood, that she was the benefactor of an unfair situation like the snake Milton portrayed.

In any case, the reference is thought provoking and adds to the novel on more than one level. It has a negative meaning on the surface, an evil appearance through the bible, and a more introspective viewpoint from Milton. This makes the reference very diverse and meaningful in the perception of the characters of Pilate and Hagar. Morrison even includes some Greek Mythology about animals in her novel. The reference to the white bull parallels a Greek myth in which Zeus transforms himself into a white bull in order to seduce Europa, a princess he fell in love with while she was picking flowers. Although the connection is not as strong as some of the other references to animals, this seems to emphasize Pilate's love of nature.

Therefore, this is another important reference to embellish characterization. Greek mythology was a subject that Toni Morrison likely knew a great deal about, since she studies the classics, and is apparent in this novel. Shalimar tried to help his son fly like he did but failed and he fell. This is remarkably similar to the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun and fell to his death.

While there may be more references to Greek mythology than these two examples, they are the most prominent within the book. The last reference between flight, birds, and Milkman is through a peacock. This is mentioned twice within the book. The first time it's mentioned Guitar and Milkman wanted to kill it and eat it. However, Milkman thought better of the idea and decided not to. The second reference was near the end when Milkman was just about to begin his flight.

The peacock flew away, the same as Milkman. This is somewhat remarkable since peacocks are flightless birds. Though, in any case, this does provide us with a wonderful parallel between the peacock and Milkman, and also helps to emphasize and finalize the theme of flight that Morrison portrayed throughout the novel. Dogs were also used to make reference to the White race.

Towards the beginning of the book it was said that "{White people would} kill a nigger and comb their hair at the same time. But I've seen grown white men cry about their dogs" (Pg. 52) More importantly though, Circe watched the dogs of her previous white slavers. This is significant because it shows us the power that the white race still had over the black race. Symbolically, it portrayed the white man as not self-sufficient, greedy, and opportunistic animal. This also seemed to be the time in which Milkman dropped his preference of the white man and adopted a more black cultural perspective.

The last reference to animals that I will include is in the very end when Milkman goes hunting. They are chasing a bobcat and eventually kill it. The ironic thing is that normally a Bobcat is a predator, not prey. This hunt is also symbolic of Guitar's hunt for Milkman.

The bobcat may well have been hunting himself, when he found himself trapped by hunters. Similar to how Milkman was hunting for his past, and in turn was hunted by Guitar. Morrison's parallel here was one of my favorites in the book, and emphasized Milkman's dire situation while foreshadowing the fate to which he would eventually succumb. Though Morrison's use of animals encompasses a great variety of writing techniques, these references are invaluable. Whether they were parallels, characterizations, histories, or mythologies, Morrison brought her book to life with these references.

Each reference she made showed the reader more about characters, events, and history within the novel, as well as insight on Morrison herself. With these references she emphasized themes, created symbolisms, and brought the book alive. Without the use of animals as symbols she would have lost a great deal of richness from her book.