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Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison

Chapter 10

Chapters 8–9

Chapter 10, page 2

page 1 of 2


Milkman speaks to Guitar and tells him that he intends to go to Montour County, Pennsylvania, to look for the gold in the cave. He says that he will go alone but that he will split any treasure he finds with Guitar. Guitar suspects that Milkman might cheat him. He reminds Milkman that he needs the money to carry out his Seven Days mission and to help support Henry Porter, who has been evicted in the aftermath of his affair with First Corinthians. Their conversation ends on a sour note.

Milkman takes a plane to Pittsburgh, relishing the flight, and then takes a bus to Danville, Pennsylvania, the town nearest Lincoln’s Heaven. In Danville, he finds an old friend of his father’s, Reverend Cooper, who tells Milkman that he knows his “people.” As Reverend Cooper tells Milkman stories about his father’s boyhood, Macon Dead I, and Circe, Milkman feels a warm glow. He realizes that Macon Jr. had a close relationship with Macon Dead I and loved him. Reverend Cooper also tells Milkman that the Butlers, the wealthy white family that employed Circe, were responsible for Macon Dead I’s murder.

Milkman makes his way toward Lincoln’s Heaven, and stops by the now run-down Butler mansion on the way. He walks inside and is startled by a rotting stench that quickly turns into a pleasant ginger scent. He sees a spiraling staircase and remembers seeing such a staircase in his childhood dreams. An ancient woman, “colorless” with age, stands at the top of the staircase and hugs Milkman. She confirms that she is Circe, his father’s midwife. At first, Circe mistakes Milkman for Macon Jr., and is disappointed when she discovers that she is looking at the wrong Macon Dead.

Circe tells Milkman that Macon Dead I’s real name was Jake, that his wife’s name was Sing, and that they came to Pennsylvania in a wagon from a place in Virginia called Charlemagne. Circe adds that the deceased owners of the mansion, the Butlers, earned their wealth by robbing and killing poor, independent farmers such as Macon Dead I. She also reveals that a month after his burial, the murdered Macon Dead I’s body floated out of its grave during the first rain and was deposited by hunters in the same cave where Macon Jr. and Pilate stayed. Under the pretense of wanting to find and bury his grandfather’s bones, Milkman procures directions to the cave (called Hunter’s Cave) from Circe. He offers to help Circe leave the Butlers’ rotting mansion, which she occupies alone with a pack of weimaraner dogs. But Circe is determined to stay in the house of her hated masters because she wants to make sure it rots to the ground.

Macon leaves the Butler mansion and trudges through the thicket toward Hunter’s Cave, ruining his expensive suit and shoes, and damaging his gold watch. He is driven by an unquenchable desire to find the gold. When Milkman reaches the cave, all he finds inside are some boards and a tin cup.

Milkman goes back to the highway and hitchhikes to the Danville bus station with a man named Fred Garnett. Milkman offers to pay the man for the ride, but Garnett does not take Milkman’s money and drives away, offended. Milkman then goes inside the bus station’s diner, where he helps a man load a huge crate onto a weighing platform. Milkman decides that Pilate must have taken the gold with her to Virginia and resolves to follow in her footsteps.

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by GrammarJunkie18, August 16, 2014

In your character analysis of Ruth Dead, you wrote that "Ruth relies on Pilate for financial support." I'm not sure what you meant to say - maybe "Ruth relies on Pilate for emotional support" or "Pilate relies on Ruth for financial support." Either way, please correct. Thanks.

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