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Free Study Guide for Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

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Milkman gets to Susan Byrdís house and is greeted by Grace Long, a woman Susan works with in her teaching. Grace is flirtatious and talkative, but Susan is standoffish. Susan tells Milkman her father, Crowell Byrd, had a sister named Sing. She says the last time her father saw his sister Sing, she was in a wagon headed for Massachusetts to a Quaker school there. Susan also says her grandmotherís name was Heddy. The family tried to contact Sing after she was supposed to have gotten there, but they never heard anything of her again. Grace says many of the members of the Byrd family tried to pass for white, hence their reluctance to know about the African American branch of the family.

At one point, Grace leaves the room and Milkman is able to speak to Susan in private. She apologizes for not being able to help him. He says sheís been helpful in that sheís shown him where he was wrong in his guesses about his familyís past. She smiles and asks him if this search is very important to him. He shrugs the suggestion off and says it is only a passing interest. He leaves with some cookies Grace has given him.

As he walks back to town, he thinks about how he feels about the people of Shalimar. He doesnít feel close to them, but he feels connected to them in a strong way. He realizes he has never felt that back home in Michigan. Somehow this connection reminds him of his feeling when he used to be around Pilate. He realizes that Susan had been right after all. He does feel a strong need to find out about his familyís past. He puzzles over the confusing details of what heís learned. As he gets near the road leading to town, he realizes he left his watch at Susan Byrdís. He knows Grace kept it as a way to ensure that he come back to see her. She has left a note in the cookies with her name and address on it.

Suddenly he sees Guitar sitting on the road. He asks Guitar why he tried to kill him the night before. Guitar tells him he took the gold. Guitar says he got nervous when Milkman left alone, so he decided to follow him. When he got to Danville, he saw Milkman loading what he thought was the gold onto a freight truck. Milkman tells him he was only helping a man load it. Since this kind of helpful spirit hasnít characterized Milkman in the past, he knows Guitar wonít believe him. Guitar thinks Milkman shipped the gold here to Virginia for some reason. Milkman canít convince him otherwise. Guitar says his plan is to wait until Milkman retrieves the gold before killing him.

Milkman spends that night at Sweetís house. He dreams he is flying. When he wakes up, he feels the sense of weightlessness of his flying dream. He gets to the store and Omar tells him he found a belt for his car. He notices the town is bustling at six in the morning. He sees children already playing the ring game he noticed the day before. Today, he hears them sing a verse from a song he had always heard Pilate singing except they sing "Solomon donít leave me here," substituting the name for "Sugarman" of Pilateís version. He feels homesick for Pilate. He even thinks of his mother with regret and sadness. He can imagine how hard it would be on him if he had to live his whole adult life deprived of sex. He also begins to feel ashamed of himself for what he did to Hagar and what he said to her the last time he saw her.

He watches the children and begins to get excited that the words of the song contain hints about his own familyís past. When the children sing "Jay the only son of Solomon," Milkman thinks Jay might indicate Jake, his grandfatherís original name before he was named Macon. Then he thinks of the name of several of the men in town, Solomon, and the name of the town itself, Shalimar. The song also includes a line about a Black woman who fell on the ground and thrashed around. He realizes the story must indicate that Solomon left her and she was distraught over his leaving. Another name in the song sounds like Reiner, which sounds like the place name of the land formation outside of town, Rynaís gulch. Then he becomes excited at hearing the line "Heddy took him to a red manís house." Heddy is his great-grandmotherís name, Singís mother. Milkman decides to go back to Susan Byrdís house and ask her more questions. As he goes into the store, he catches a glimpse of his face in the mirror. He was "as eager and happy as he had ever been in his life."


The search for the gold has now become a search for his family origins. Milkman gains energy and happiness as he finds connection to a community, an origin for his family. Sadly, just as heís finding value in life other than a search for escape, Guitar comes after him to kill him, not realizing that he has changed so significantly.

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