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Free Study Guide for Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

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SONG OF SOLOMON: FREE CHAPTER SUMMARIES / ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 13

Summary

Hagar stands in Guitarís room a long time after Milkman leaves. She cradles her breasts "as though they were two mangoes thumbed over in the marketplace and pushed aside." Guitar came in and found her like that. He carried her downstairs and drove her home. On the way, he talked quietly to her of her love for Milkman. He told her she couldnít expect anyone to love her when she didnít value herself. She couldnít think of her lover belonging to her. He compares this kind of love to the clouds around a mountain. The clouds surround the mountain, but donít cover its head. The mountain is free standing and the clouds are close by but not suffocating. Guitar says he understands being left. His father died when he was four. His mother ran away from him and his siblings. His aunt took care of them for a while and then his grandmother did. He was never able to accept the love of any but one woman and she left him for another man. Hagar doesnít show any signs of having heard him.


Pilate and Reba came out to get her and they put her in bed. She doesnít show any sign of life. They try to give her all kinds of things but nothing arouses her interest. Reba, who has always won things when she didnít expect to, tries to win things and fails. Finally, Reba brings home a mirror and Hagarís interest is peaked. She says over and over again "No wonder." She thinks itís no wonder Milkman didnít want her because she looks so bad. She makes Pilate and Reba get a bath ready for her and iron her dress. Reba sells her diamond and they give her all the money they have. She goes to the department store and buys clothes, hose, make-up, and then makes an appointment for a hair style. While waiting for her appointment, she walks around town and doesnít realize sheís wet with rain until her shopping bag splits. She finally gets home completely wet with all her purchases ruined. She rushes into the bedroom and puts make up on her wet face and her ruined clothes on her body. When Pilate and Reba see her, she sees in their faces that she has failed in her attempt to make herself over into something Milkman would like.

She lies down with a fever and asks Pilate why Milkman doesnít like her hair. Pilate tells her of course Milkman likes her hair because itís the same hair he has. Hagar says Milkman likes light skin, wavy hair and a pointed nose. She dies.

Ruth goes to Maconís office to get the money for the funeral. He tries four times to give her a less than adequate amount, but she stands firm until sheís satisfied. At the funeral, sheís the only one present except for the winos who pay homage to Pilate by attending her granddaughterís funeral. When the sermon is over, Pilate comes in the door demanding "Mercy." She begins to sing and Reba follows her and sings with her. They sing "In the night time / Mercy / In the darkness. / Mercy." Then Pilate goes to the coffin and sings a lullaby to Hagar: "Whoís been bothering my sweet sugar lumpkin? / Whoís been bothering my baby?" When she finishes, she says to all the people present "My baby girl." She is "identifying Hagar, selecting her away from everybody else in the world who had died." She finishes with a shout "And she was loved!"

Notes

Hagarís end is painfully sad. As Guitar tells her, she has given her whole self away as if it were worth nothing if Milkman didnít value it. When Hagar wakes up after three days to the realization that she is not pretty enough for Milkman, Morrison brings in the theme of internalized racism. Hagarís mad rushes to kill Milkman in the first place were inspired by the sight of Milkmanís arm around a light-skinned African-American woman with copper colored hair. The racist message, promulgated in one form of media after another, is that white is beautiful and black is ugly. The light-skinned woman is closer in looks to the European standard of beauty and therefore is supposedly more beautiful than Hagar. Hagar takes this message to heart and believes it. Her last act is the desperate attempt to make herself beautiful with all the promises of cosmetics and clothes. In her failure to use these instruments to shape herself into something different is the failure of that consumer promise to combat the hurts of racism with cosmetics and clothing. Pilate tries to tell her Milkman canít hate her hair if he doesnít hate himself since he too has African features. This message is too little too late to save Hagar.


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