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Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison

Chapter 11

Chapter 10

Chapter 11, page 2

page 1 of 2


Milkman buys a cheap car and reaches Shalimar, his ancestral home in Virginia, where his car breaks down next to Solomon’s General Store. Walking past women who remind him of Pilate, Milkman enters the store and is told by its proprietor, Mr. Solomon, that an unnamed friend of his drove by earlier, leaving a message that “your day is here.”

Milkman realizes that the man was Guitar, and wonders why Guitar’s message contained the executioner’s call of the Seven Days. Milkman goes outside Solomon’s store, and sees children playing a game and singing a song about Jay, the only son of someone named Solomon. Seeing the children evokes in Milkman memories of his own dreary childhood, which was marred by grieving over his inability to fly. When Milkman goes back inside the store, he finds himself burned by hostile stares from local men. After a few heated words, Milkman ends up in a fight with one of them, who is named Saul. While defending himself with a broken bottle, Milkman is cut with a knife on his face and left hand.

Older men in Solomon’s Store compliment Milkman’s bottle-swinging prowess and invite him to join them on a hunting trip. Though Milkman has never held a rifle in his life, he responds with bravado and agrees to come along. The men—Calvin, Luther Solomon, Omar, King Walker, Vernell, and Small Boy—strip Milkman of his suit, dress him in military fatigues, and hand him a Winchester rifle. The hunting party reaches its destination, Ryna’s Gulch, late at night. The wind echoes in Ryna’s Gulch eerily and local legend claims that the sounds come from a woman crying in the ravine. As the other men plan out the details of the hunt, Milkman notices a strange car speed past them.

The hunters divide into pairs, Milkman partnered with Calvin. They trek through the woods stalking a bobcat for several hours until Milkman becomes exhausted and stops to rest, leaving Calvin to continue the hunt alone. Lying in the dark under the Virginia sky, Milkman loses himself in thought. He comes to understand that he has always taken his privileged status for granted, that he has mistreated people who have loved him, such as Hagar, all the while indulging in self-pity. Away from his wealth and distinguished parentage, Milkman is forced to evaluate himself honestly and to see what he is actually capable of on his own.

Milkman’s ruminations are interrupted when Guitar appears behind him and starts choking him with a wire, repeating again the Seven Days’ trademark phrase, “your day has come.” Milkman sees colored lights and hears music. His life flashes before him, but it consists of only one image—that of Hagar bending over him “in perfect love, in the most intimate sexual gesture imaginable.” Milkman relaxes, surrendering to Guitar’s murderous hands and breathes what he thinks is his last breath. Suddenly feeling invigorated, he manages to fire his Winchester rifle and scare Guitar off just as the men from the hunting party return, with a bobcat as their prize. The hunters, unaware of the recent attempt on Milkman’s life, make fun of him for accidentally firing the rifle. Unaffected by their comments, Milkman walks on the earth “like he belong[s] on it,” for the first time not limping.

The following day, over breakfast, Milkman finds out that his grandmother, Sing, was an Indian, the daughter of a woman named Heddy. Another of Heddy’s descendants, Susan Byrd, lives in the area and Milkman decides to visit her. Before heading to Susan’s, however, Milkman spends the night with a local prostitute, a beautiful woman whose personality is echoed in her name, Sweet. Sweet bathes Milkman and makes love to him, bringing him much pleasure in the process. In return, Milkman bathes Sweet, makes her bed, and scours her tub, while she makes him gumbo, puts salve on his neck, and launders his clothing. After giving Sweet fifty dollars, Milkman leaves, saying that he will see her that night.

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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.