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.
Writing thesis statements
Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story in two sentences and 6 words. He, apparently, claimed it to be the best short story he ever wrote. In these two sentences we can find a whole world of drama. It reads:
For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.
This “short story” can serve as an example of the kind of condensation a thesis statement should have. A thesis statement provides the core idea or argument that you spend the pages of your paper unfolding. In Hemingway’s statement we are not told what has actually happened but it contains a direction, a central idea, that will be unfolded throughout the story. Gordon Harvey from Harvard University points to this as well. He defines a thesis in the following way:
Thesis: your main insight or idea about a text or topic, and the main proposition that your essay demonstrates. It should be true but arguable (not obviously or patently true, but one alternative among several), be limited enough in scope to be argued in a short composition and with available evidence, and get to the heart of the text or topic being analyzed (not be peripheral). It should be stated early in some form and at some point recast sharply (not just be implied), and it should govern the whole essay (not disappear in places). [Our underlining].
Keeping Harvey’s definition in mind you can start working on creating your thesis. The following steps can help you do this.
- Determine what kind of paper you are writing:
- An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience. A paper in music theory or history could be an example of an analytical paper.
- An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience. A paper in music education could be an example of an expository paper explaining a particular pedagogical approach to music, for example.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided. A review of a musical performance would be argumentative.
- Your thesis statement should be specific - it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
- The thesis statement usually appears somewhere in the first paragraph of a paper. You might want to avoid the somewhat formulaic “in this paper I argue that...“ though keeping that line in mind is a good idea because, basically, that is what you are saying.
- Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Different genres demand different thesis statements
- Analytical thesis statement
This paper would present an analysis of the source material used. This could be a literature review, for example.
Example of an analytical thesis statement:
Chopin greatly admired the music of J.S. Bach, and his Preludes reflect the influence of The Well-Tempered Clavier.
This paper would discuss and analyze relations between Chopin’s Preludes and Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.
- Expository (explanatory) thesis statement
This paper would explain the material the thesis promises to explore.
Example of an expository thesis statement:
The approaches to teaching music to children developed by Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze are different and unique.
The paper would go on to explain, compare and contrast the three approaches.
- Argumentative thesis statement
This paper would present an argument and present enough evidence to support the claim and convince a reader.
Example of an argumentative thesis statement:
Playing Mozart’s music on the fortepiano, the instrument as it existed in his own time, conveys a very different impression of his music than playing it on a modern piano.
This paper would go on to present evidence to support this claim.