Song of Solomon | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Song of Solomon | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

In Part 1, Chapter 7 Milkman talks to Macon about leaving the family business and getting his own job. Macon asks Milkman to stay because he needs him now more than ever to help run the business. In response Milkman asks his father to let him use some of his money now to stake him for a year. Milkman says doing this would be better than keeping it stowed away, like Pilate has done by keeping her inheritance in a green sack. When Milkman mentions the green sack, Macon's tone changes from pleading to intense curiosity. Milkman matter-of-factly says the sack is hanging from Pilate's ceiling and supposedly contains her inheritance. Also he says the sack contains something hard, like bricks.

Milkman meets his father in the park, where they start to eat barbecue. Milkman reflects on how family members and friends use him for their own purposes. Macon, Ruth, and Guitar all seem to be working out their own schemes and placing Milkman in the center of them. These schemes, however, have nothing to do with what Milkman really wants. Now his father's latest scheme seems to involve Pilate's sack. Although curious about this scheme, Milkman feels no excitement or hope about it.

Macon explains about the sack by giving Milkman more details about his childhood with Pilate. After his father died, 16-year-old Macon and 12-year-old Pilate went to the midwife who delivered them for shelter. The midwife, named Circe, hid the children in a storage room within a mansion where she worked for a wealthy white family. Circe didn't want to tell her employer about the children for fear they might want to kill them. After all, the white people who killed Macon's father to get his land knew that two kids witnessed the killing. For two weeks Macon and Pilate stayed cooped up in the room. During this time Pilate fashioned an earring out of a small box that contained a piece of paper with her name on it. The children soon became restless and ran away.

Macon and Pilate headed toward Virginia, where their folks came from. Along the way the children saw a man who resembled their dead father at various spots. Then they saw their father at the mouth of a cave, beckoning them. The children were more afraid of the spooky forest than their father and so entered the cave. When they did so the specter disappeared. Macon and Pilate stayed near the cave's entrance and fell asleep.

Near dawn Macon saw a scary-looking white man in the back of the cave. The man chased terrified Macon, who grabbed his knife and stabbed the man, killing him. When Macon went to get the man's blanket, he noticed little bags in a hole. Macon opened a bag and found gold nuggets inside. He imagined a life of safety and luxury. Pilate didn't pay attention to Macon but instead saw a vision of her father, who soon disappeared. She then ran around the cave calling for her father. Macon told her they had to leave with the gold. Pilate claimed they couldn't take the gold because it would be stealing. As Pilate and Macon fought about the gold, she grabbed the knife and held Macon off. He retreated out of the cave and waited for Pilate to appear. When Macon heard the barking of hunting dogs, he moved away from the cave for three days. When he returned Pilate and the gold were gone.

Sitting in the park with Milkman, Macon insists that Pilate took the gold and is keeping it in her sack. Macon tells his son, "Get it. For both of us. Please get it, son. Get the gold."

Analysis

In Part 1, Chapter 7 Morrison develops the theme of searching for identity by contrasting the identities of Macon and Pilate. During most of their childhood, Macon and Pilate had many similarities. They both were raised in a rural setting and became used to the freedom of that life. Also Macon and Pilate have developed a close bond. When Macon discovers gold, though, all of this changes. Macon becomes obsessed about what this gold can provide. He is more than willing to turn his back on his rural roots and live a life of safety and comfort. Morrison states, "Life, safety, and luxury fanned out before him like the tail-spread of a peacock." The author contrasts this image with the dusty boots of Macon's father. Macon now couldn't care less about seeing his father and the rural life his dusty boots represent.

In contrast when Pilate sees her father she becomes ecstatic and ignores the gold. Her father soon disappears, but Pilate focuses on trying to get him back, calling his name. As far as the gold is concerned, Pilate doesn't want to take it because doing so would be stealing. A schism forms between brother and sister, and each develops a separate identity. As Morrison has shown in previous chapters, Macon continues his pursuit of wealth and thereby continues to separate himself from the black community and his roots. On the other hand Pilate pursues a very different course. She develops her own unique identity based on her rural black heritage. Pilate disregards money; Macon covets money. Pilate heals; Macon abuses.

Also Morrison continues to develop the theme of the relationship between the living and the dead by showing the influence of the dead on the living. Because of the death of old Macon, Pilate and Macon become orphaned and wander to Virginia. But the influence of the dead doesn't stop here. Old Macon's ghost convinces Pilate and Macon to enter the cave, where the siblings find the gold and fight about it. A dead person sets Pilate and Macon on their respective paths in their lives. Pilate keeps a close connection with her dead father and her other ancestors. On the other hand Macon tries to separate himself from his.

In addition the separation of Macon and Pilate reinforces the theme of abandonment of women. Macon leaving Pilate could be seen as an abandonment because he's her older brother and thus responsible for caring for his sister, especially considering that their parents are dead. Because of his greed for wealth, however, Macon neglects his family duty.

Morrison also continues to develop Milkman's identity. At the beginning of the chapter he expresses an urge to escape his confining life working for his father, feeling the consequences of his own passiveness. He is unwilling to be aggressive (except for hitting his father) and so has passively received the burdens of his father, mother, and Guitar; Milkman correctly sees these people as using him for their own ends. Macon and Ruth each want Milkman's support. Guitar is trying to get Milkman to accept his being a murderer for a cause. Milkman feels like a pawn in the personal chess game of each of these people. Milkman wants to escape, and at this point he thinks he needs some of his father's money to do so.

The theme of racism undergirds the events in Macon's story. Macon and Pilate face a precarious situation because racists killed their father and threaten to kill them. Also racism affects the fight between Macon and the white man in the cave. Because of his contact with white racists, Macon fears the man wants to kill him and Pilate. This assumption might not be true. The man, after being stabbed by Macon, mouths the words "What for?" The hatred and fear of racism leads to death.

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