“Gold,” he whispered, and immediately, like a burglar on his first job, stood up to pee.
Life, safety, and luxury fanned out before him like the tailspread of a peacock, and as he stood there trying to distinguish each delicious color, he saw the dusty boots of his father standing just on the other side of the shallow pit.
This quotation, from Chapter 7, describes how Macon Jr. discovers gold treasure in a cave after killing the white man. The quotation describes a crucial turning point in Macon Jr.’s life. Before his father is murdered and before he attempts to kill the white man, Macon Jr. is a simple, kind-hearted farm boy. Macon Dead I’s murder, however, ends Macon Jr.’s idyllic childhood. Gold promises a resolution to all of his recent traumas. Finding the gold in the cave is a turning point in Macon’s life, after which he believes that wealth will solve his problems. Although he sees the dusty boots of his father standing on the other side of the treasure pit, Macon Jr. does not speak to him, and seems to ignore him altogether. Gold becomes more important than Macon Jr.’s love for the man he cares about most.
The comparison of gold to a “tailspread of a peacock” indicates that the promise of luxury is false. The peacock’s tail teases with a temporary display of beauty, and quickly disappears. Likewise, wealth does not heal Macon Jr.’s wounds. Instead, it makes them permanent. The moment that Macon Jr. discovers the gold is the moment when he begins his transformation from hard-working farm boy to soulless landlord.