Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon is the coming-of-age story of Milkman, an African American man who grows up in Michigan during the forties, fifties, and sixties. Milkman goes on a search for gold, but ends up finding his heritage and the meaning and significance of his own life. During the course of the novel, several characters act as either aids or hindrances to Milkman: Ruth and Macon hinder his progress by providing false, conflicting, confusing, or upsetting information, whereas Pilate and Susan Byrd aid him by supplying the raw information to base his hypotheses and conclusions on.
Ruth and Macon, Milkman's parents, provide information that confuses Milkman; moreover, the information that Milkman receives from them is largely ambiguous in nature. Milkman's family life, which largely shapes his personality, is unruly. From the start of Milkman's life (and even before), Macon and Ruth aren't in agreement about certain key facts: did Ruth have an affair with her father or didn't she? The distrust between Milkman's parents causes at least part of Milkman's loss of identity.
With encouragement, support, and love in his early years, Milkman could have been a better person. The neglect, animosity, and other strange treatment that Milkman receives from his parents not only turns his personality for the worse, but also hinders his reaching adulthood. The reader can see that Milkman never really becomes an adult until he is well into his thirties. The treatment that Milkman receives from his parents stunts his growth and keeps him from reaching his ultimate objective, maturity.
Macon's equivocal (and partly incorrect) information leads Milkman down the wrong path. In the literal sense, Macon gives Milkman false information about the location of the gold; in the figurative sense, Macon makes Milkman care too much about money and not enough...