African American Studies For generations, we have seen writers publishing some of their great works containing mythical storyline and stories of great spirits. In this paper, we will compare and contrast two of the greatest books in American history, Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewin and The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Both of the books are based around the story of a single male character, whose lives are described from the very beginning of their childhood. Arrowsmith is about a boy named Martin arrowsmith.
From his early age, he has a devoted love towards pure science and his curiosity for finding the truth and solving ysteries (Lewis, 1952). In the book, the Song of Solomon, the starting of the story is deeply emotional and sad. The book tells the story of a young black boy name Macon Dead III. The story starts off by describing the horrifying scene of the suicide of an insurance agent name Robert Smith, who jumps from the Mercy hospital. At the same time, and at the same hospital, a black woman named Ruth gives birth to Macon Dead II, and he becomes the first black child to be born in that hospital.
The book later shows the boy take the name of Milkman, as he was breastfed throughout his childhood. In both the books, the two young characters are rather shown as confident individuals. Martin is very anxious towards science and truth and his point of view only grows over time without any confusion or doubt (Lewis, 1952). He sees the world around him seeking for money, wealth and power, but he doesn’t give into greed. His ambitions are acute and strong.
It reflects on his attitude much more when he gets admitted into medical school, and his classmates show repulsive behavior towards him but still he doesn’t give away his values and ambitions. In the Song of Solomon, Milkman is hown a man of ethics and good manner. Even though he is born in a racist society, he doesn’t give in to any act of hate. He only acts upon his instinct and does what he fancies right. This is shown when the character goes to visit his aunt, Pilate, even though he was strictly forbidden not to by his father (Morrison, 1977).
His honesty and courage is remarkably described in the book. One event shows Milkman pushing his father and threatening to kill him because he hit her mother, Ruth (Morrison, 1977). So, both of the character’s path to integrity was different. Where Martin developed solid sense of himself hrough the interest of science, Milkman developed his ethics through understanding and interacting with his surroundings. For me, Milkman’s process of getting to know himself and developing is sense and instincts appears much more realistic than Martin.
Where Martin’s scenario is good in its own way, Milkman’s approach seems much more logical, as he is seen to be constantly interacting with different people and learning different things in order to truly understand what he wants for himself. Both of the novels influences the American dream, meaning that if one works hard, he will be rich and happy. Martin in Arrowsmith, is a struggling character. He always works hard. Throughout his medical life, he kept studying without changing his moral values and ambitions, even though he was hated by most of his classmates and had no friends (Lewis, 1952).
Through hard work, he becomes the director of public health and pursues his dream of helping people and inventing cures. But he is soon devastated by coming face to face with the commercial world. His way of honesty is hated by everyone, as he starts to shutdown big companies for manufacturing hazardous products (Lewis, 1952). He makes powerful enemies. But all these threats and hate doesn’t derive him from his ambitions. He tries to preach the truth and help people but he becomes depressed by seeing how people lusts over money and wealth.
Martin is shown as a character who has no interest for wealth and power (Lewis, 1952). He soon gets employed by a research institute and develops the cure of strep throat and Plague (Lewis, 1952). But still he is unwilling to publish this under his name and gain wealth and happiness, and this makes his bosses very angry at him. He is then sent on a Caribbean island, which is infected with plague. And he was given the job to est the cure on only half of the island’s infected population as this was the only way to make sure if the cure works (Lewis, 1952).
In the process, his wife Leora dies of plague, and he ends up giving the cure to the whole population. Yet again, his unwillingness to make wealth made him vulnerable and week (Lewis, 1952). He marries again to a wealthy woman, but even then, being surrounded by wealthy and powerful people disgusted him. At the end, he gives up everything to return to a homemade lab and pursue science for his own sake only (Lewis, 1952). Arrowsmith, is a book that resembles the American ream in a failed way. Martin works hard and gets a shot at all the fame and wealth in the world but gives all of it up only for his ambition and morals.
This shows that his morals and his love for science means much more to him than achieving the American dream. Where, in the Song of Solomon, the scenario is completely different. Milkman is a guy who has good ethical values and a very curious mind, but he is also willing to do anything for being wealthy. When he finds out from his father that his aunt Pilate is hiding gold, he along with his friend Guitar, goes to steal the gold from her (Morrison, 1977). After one failed attempt, Milkman doesn’t rest. He goes back to his native land in search of the gold. His character is shown to have mixed ambitions (Morrison, 1977).
On one hand, he wants to get the gold and be rich, but on the other hand, he is very curious and wants to discover the truth about his family and their past. At the end, when he sees his former lover Hagar, die because of him (Morrison, 1977), he gives up his lust and submits to the truth. He helps Pilate to get rid of the past and bury the bones of her father but in the end, Pilate ends up taking a bullet from Guitar, hich was meant for Milkman. Out of devastation, Milkman submits to the sorrow and leaps towards Guitar (Morrison, 1977), either with motive to attack him or leaping towards his own death.
The book has a narrow perspective of the American dream. On one side, we have Guitar who wants to do anything to become rich, and on the other hand, we have milkman who has ambitions to be wealthy, but not to an extent where he has to give up his ethical values for it. In my opinion, neither story do a good job in terms of fulfilling the American dream (Morrow & Carter, 1987), but in comparison, The Song of Solomon is much ore preferable to me because of its realistic nature. Also, Milkman shows a better process of maturing, because the character goes through a lot of development process.
At young age, he is passionate and keen. In the teens, he becomes repulsive and stands up for himself and others (Morrow & Carter, 1987). Then, he becomes greedy and at the end he submits to truth and commitment. On the other hand, Martins character in Arrowsmith has only a little development. The book only develops the story, but the character remains same from the beginning till the end, as Martin never changes his vision or ambitions. So, Morrison does a better job of describing the process of maturing in the Song of Solomon.
Morrison describes good life through struggle or journey, as we see Milkman going through a lot of different events and scenarios that gradually leads to the climax. But, Lewis describes good life only through martins love for science and how after devastating and depressing events, his love never dies. Conclusion In my opinion, Arrowsmit is a book that tells the story in a very sad and depressing way, where Song of Solomon describes the story through ups and downs, and struggles, and has an amazing character depth.