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Free Study Guide for Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

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Guitar is sitting with Milkman in Maryís one afternoon several days after Milkmanís encounter with Hagar. He tells Milkman he found Hagar standing in the middle of his room and he took her home. He wants to know what Milkman did to her to hurt her so badly. Milkman is shocked that Guitar is accusing him when he considers himself the victim in the matter.

Milkman asks Guitar why heís been so judgmental lately. He asks Guitar what heís been up to lately and why, for example, he was so much with Empire State last Christmas. After some persuading, Milkman convinces Guitar to tell him what heís been doing. Guitar says he is a member of an organization called the Seven Days. It consists of seven African-American men who take responsibility for one day of the week. If an African American is murdered by European Americans, one member of the Seven Days kills a random European American. Milkman is horrified to hear Guitar so dispassionately talk about killing people. Guitar says it is very uncomfortable to kill someone when he has no passionate emotion about that person, but that it is the only way to even things up. According to Guitar, every African American killed equals as many as five generations killed.

Guitar explains that European people are not natural. He believes every single European-American man, under the right conditions, would participate in a lynch mob. Heís not sure of white women, but he remembers seeing a photograph of white mothers holding up their babies to look at the burning body of a lynched man, so he thinks white women would also be likely to participate. He says African Americans, on the other hand, would never participate in a lynch mob.

Guitar reveals that his day is Sunday. He says before the members of the Seven Days kill someone, they say "Your day has come." They try to kill the person in the same manner the African American was killed. Guitar says Robert Smith was a member of the Seven Days. It became too much for him so he killed himself. Porter is also a member. It had started getting to him for a while there, but then he got some rest and now heís okay. Members of the Seven Days canít marry or have children.

Milkman canít understand why they donít find the actual perpetrators instead of killing innocent European Americans in retaliation. He uses the Jews as an example, pointing out the legal procedures the Jews go through when they hunt down and find Nazi war criminals. Guitar points out the African Americans are poor and therefore donít have "the money, the state, the country to finance [their] justice." Milkman thinks Guitar sounds like Malcolm X. Guitar says he is not interested in Malcolm Xís organization. Unlike Malcolm X, who renamed himself as a means of distancing himself from the name the slave holder gave his ancestor, Guitar says he owns the fact that his slave time past is part of his heritage, part of who he is. He says, "slave names donít bother me; but slave status does." Milkman wonders what is to stop members of the Seven Days from killing African Americans. Guitar says they donít kill African Americans. Milkman points out that Guitarís logic is flawed. Instead of saying, "I would never kill you," he can only say "We donít off Negroes." Milkman wonders if there are many young men among the Seven Days, since young men have a habit of changing the rules.


Here, the beginning of the novel in the suicide of Robert Smith, the insurance sales person, is explained. Robert Smith was a member of the Seven Days. He is thus connected to Guitar Bains, Milkmanís friend who seems to be becoming Milkmanís rival. According the Guitar, the philosophy behind the Seven Days is a rational one: seven men take responsibility for one day of the week. When an African American is killed by European Americans, one of the Seven Days kills a European American.

Guitarís philosophy has some elements in common with that of the Nation of Islam, which has asserted a kind of race theory that people of European descent are evil and unnatural. Guitar uses a race theory which is structurally much like the race theories developed by people of European heritage for the last two hundred years in regard to people of African heritage.

The very notion of "race" is only that old. It was developed as ideological support for European imperialism. As European nations claimed the land, people, and resources of other lands, European ideologues created a theory of race as a rationalization for that appropriation. They asserted that there were separate "races" of people and named them, initially at least, Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid. These categories quickly proved inadequate and other "race" categories were developed. In developing the notion of "race," Europeans developed a convenient theory to support their appropriation of other lands, a necessary theory since they based their morality in large part on a prohibition against stealing or murdering. If conquered people were qualitatively different--and inferior--from European people, European people didnít have to operate with them according to the same rules which applied to themselves.

When Guitar takes up a race theory about the evil and unnaturalness of whites, he is using the same kind of strategy of thought used by his oppressors.

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