Song of Solomon Chapter Questions

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Chapter 4 Quote: “Explain that he wanted her to get something really nice for herself, but that his gift-giving was compromising her. That he was not what she needed. She needed a steady man who could marry her. He was standing in her way. And since they were related and all, she should start looking for someone else.” (pg 98) Milkman knew that it would kill the both of them to break of their relationship. He wanted to give her something that would make her not feel committed to him anymore, hence a letter and money. I find it very intriguing that he didn’t have enough courage to tell her in person. They have gone through so many memories in a matter of 12 years. It seems like he didn’t want to know her anymore. She was one of the best things to happen to Milkman. The author uses language to describe how Milkman felt about giving Hagar up. He wasn’t someone who could be “steady” for her, and he was “compromising” her by staying in the relationship. The author uses this to show that even though there were a lot of happy memories, Milkman couldn’t see himself with Hagar anymore. My question is will the breaking up of Milkman and Hagar alter the way they both live their lives?

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Chapter 5: “But I didn’t think I’d ever need a friend because I had him…The only person who ever really cared whether I lived or died…He was not a good an, Macon. Certainly he was an arrogant man, and often a foolish and destructive one” (pg 124) I find this quote interesting because it reveals the relationship Ruth had with her father, and what she thought of him. She knew that her father was not a good man in what he did, but she saw him as a protector and as a caring person for her well-being. This is why she leaned on him as a friend and as support. Although Ruth neither denies or talks about their sexual relationship, she talks about her emotional connection to him. Ruth’s tone can be seen as remorseful and lonely as she gives flashbacks into her life as a young girl with her father. Her tone shifts to regretful in the 3rd paragraph as she states that she wasn’t able to save her father and she knows that Milkman’s father never told him about his want to kill him.

Chapter 6: “There is a society. It’s made up of a few men who are willing to take some risks. They don’t initiate anything; they don’t even choose. They are as indifferent as rain. But when as Negro child, Negro woman, or Negro man is killed by whites and nothing is done about it by their law and their courts, this society selects a similar victim at random, and they execute him or her in a similar manner if they can. If the Negro was hanged, they hang; if a Negro was burnt, they burn; raped and murdered, they rape and murder.” (154) the author uses the motif of “blood for blood” to show that Guitar is the type of person who is willing to keep the balance between the white and black folk. Milkman finds out that Guitar and 7 other people are in a group called the 7 days. For every murder of a black person, they murder a white person in the same exact manner. Morison uses repetition to show that whatever happens to white people will happen to black people as well. At the end of the chapter, the story prevails that Guitar is murdering because it has become a habit and soon he will start killing people of his own race, and maybe even Milkman. Why does Guitar use the example of Adolf Hitler to argue with Milkman about why these white people are killing innocent black people?

Chapter 7: “Deep down in that pocket where his heart hid, he felt used. Somehow everybody was using him for something or as something. Working out some scheme of their own on him, making him the subject of their dreams of wealth, or love, or martyrdom. Everything they did seemed to be about him, yet nothing he wanted was part of it” (pg 165). This is a big realization point for Milkman, as he understands his existence with everyone else. He begins to look back at his encounters with his family and friends, and realizes the meaning of their conversations. This is a significant turning point for Milkman’s life as he is coming-of-age and growing from his surroundings. Macon claims that the green sack contains the gold that he and Pilate took from a man they found in the cave, that Macon killed. Macon claimed that the gold could have been used to get things to care for themselves. His argument is strong in that he wants the materials because of his growing anxiety in safety, even though it makes him seem greedy.

Chapter 8 “He’d always believed his childhood was sterile, but the knowledge Macon and Ruth had given him wrapped his memory of it in septic sheets, heavy with the odor of illness, misery, and unforgiving hearts. His rebellions, minor as they were, had all been in the company of, or shared with, Guitar. And this latest Jack and the Beanstalk bid for freedom, even though it had been handed to him by his father—assigned almost—stood some chance of success.”(180) Milkman and Guitar wanted to steal gold from Pilate’s house. Milkman and Guitar both have valid reasons for stealing the gold. Milkman wanted the gold for the reason that he wanted to have more independence, and he was going to sell the gold so that he can use the money to go far away and start his life over again. I am very intrigued about this quote because it shows that the author wants to create a psychological setting for Milkman. He has gained a lot of knowledge about his family in the upcoming months, and he finds out about horrible events including the incest of his mom and grandpa. He wants to leave town because he is almost haunted about what has happened within his family. He is also scared because of the growing racism that is happening around him. My question is If Milkman were to leave and start a new life, where would he go?

Chapter 9: “Amanuensis. That was the word she chose, and since it was straight out of the nineteenth century, her mother approved, relishing the blank stares she received when she told her lady guests what position her daughter had acquired with the State Poet Laureate. “She’s Michael-Mary Graham’s amanuensis.” The rickety Latin word made the work her daughter did (she, after all, wasn’t required to work) sound intricate, demanding, and totally in keeping with her education.” (187) In this quote, it talks about the first Corinthians, the daughter of Ruth and Macon Dead II. Corinthians goes to college and starts to live a very wealthy life. After getting a good education she seems to not be able to find work, and thus she starts working as a housemaid. After a little bit of time, she works as an amanuensis which is a literary secretary. Miss Graham is the wealthy white woman, and Corinthians enjoys having the job title of being a secretary because it is old fashioned. But, after time it goes to show that Corinthians is concerned with how other people will think of her. She doesn’t want to be seen as a failure with having a good college education. The author suggests that by Corinthians not being capable of getting work, it creates a new frustration with racism. Even though this woman went to a good school, as long as she is black, she will not have a proper chance of receiving a job. My question is how long will it take for a white person to give Corinthian a chance at having a job?

Chapter 10: “Look. It’s the condition our condition is in. Everybody wants the life of a black man. Everybody. White men want us dead or quiet—which is the same thing as dead. White women, same thing. They want us, you know, ‘universal,’ human, no ‘race consciousness.’ Tame, except in bed. They like a little racial loincloth in the bed. But outside the bed they want us to be individuals. You tell them, ‘But they lynched my papa,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, but you’re better than the lynchers are, so forget it.’ And black women, they want your whole self. Love, they call it, and understanding.” (222) At this moment in time, Milkman is being chased by Hagar who was his lover for 12 years. Through this quote, the author uses persuasive language to show that all Americans who are white want to make the lives of black people miserable. White people automatically assume that black people are scary and that they shouldn’t be able to speak, or even be alive. Guitar further continues to argue about monogamy and marriage should happen quickly, and if that happens then they won’t have to worry about racism. But Guitar rebuttals his own sentences by saying that women are too needy and that he has no real respect for black women. He only sees them as being sexual objects. The true intention of Guitar’s speech is that he wants to make Milkman feel better about wanting to ignore Hagar. Milkman finds it clear that Guitar has the wrong views of how he views women. Why is Guitar giving Milkman all of this advice, even though he sees black women as just objects in a game?

Chapter 11: “it sounded old. Deserve. Old and tired and beaten to death. Deserve. Now it seemed to him that he was always saying or thinking that he didn’t deserve some bad luck, or some bad treatment from others. He’d told Guitar that he didn’t “deserve” his family’s dependence, hatred, or whatever. That he didn’t even “deserve” to hear all the misery and mutual accusations his parents unloaded on him. Nor did he “deserve” Hagar’s vengeance. But why shouldn’t his parents tell him their personal problems? If not him, then who? And if a stranger could try to kill him, surely Hagar, who knew him and whom he’d thrown away like a wad of chewing gum after the flavor was gone—she had a right to try to kill him too.(276-277) Milkman seems to have realized his own selfishness. Milkman spent most of his life telling himself that whatever happened within his family was something that he didn’t deserve. He is a victim in all of it, and relates it back to a black man being in a racist town. Milkman claims that he is meant for something bigger and better. He realizes that through the studies of himself, he sees that his beliefs are altered in a wrong way. The author creates Milkman as a character who was essentially brought up in the wrong family, but he recognizes that he is not entitled to anything except for that he has to accept the problems that have occurred. He isn’t the only one who is experiencing pains like this. It seems to me that he should have some pain because of the way he treated Hagar through their relationship. Everything good that happened to Milkman has been given to him as a quote on quote gift, but the bad things are his fault and not because of a corrupt world where racism occurs. Why does it take this long for Milkman to realize that he is at fault for the bad things that have happened to him?

Chapter 12: “Guitar looked at the cookie again, then back into Milkman’s eyes. Nothing changed in his face. Milkman knew it sounded lame. It was the truth, but it sounded like a lie. A weak lie too. He also knew that in all his life, Guitar had never seen Milkman give anybody a hand, especially a stranger; he also knew that they’d even discussed it, starting with Milkman’s not coming to his mother’s rescue in a dream he had. Guitar had accused him of selfishness and indifference; told him he wasn’t serious and didn’t have any fellow feeling—none whatsoever. Now he was standing there saying that he willingly, spontaneously, had helped an old white man lift a huge, heavy crate. But it was true. It was true. And he’d prove it.” (296) Milkman confronts Guitar, who has now become his sworn enemy. Since there was really no gold, Guitar believes that Milkman has run away with all of the gold and has become greedy. Guitar’s reason for needing the gold is so that he can fund a secret society, but since Milkman betrayed him, he now wants to kill Milkman. Guitar finds him at the train station helping an old man with something, and he thinks that Milkman is smuggling the gold onto the train. The author creates irony in this scene because it depicts Milkman being a good Samaritan, but it is too late because of the developed feelings of Guitar. Guitar will never believe the truth of Milkman because he never helps people, so why would he start now and do it at a train station. This passage to me is a defining moment for Milkman because it shows how he has changed within a matter of a couple of days. Milkman has become a stronger person because of traveling the country. The author shows the reader that he creates an antithesis of himself from before he started to travel, but Guitar is too blindsided by his hatred so he doesn’t believe anything. Did Milkman see something or experience something during his travels that could have made him act and think in a different way from his past self?

Chapter 13: “Look at how I look. I look awful. No wonder he didn’t want me. I look terrible.” Her voice was calm and reasonable, as though the last few days hadn’t been lived through at all. “I need to get up from here and fix myself up. No wonder!” Hagar threw back the bedcover and stood up. “Ohhh. I smell too. Mama, heat me some water. I need a bath. A long one. We got any bath salts left? Oh, Lord, my head. Look at that.” She peered into the compact mirror again. “I look like a ground hog. Where’s the comb?”(308-309) It is found out that through the time Milkman and Hagar were apart, Hagar is still in love with Milkman. On the contrary, she is still mad at him for abandoning her, so she results in improving her looks. Through this quote, it is shown that Milkman left her because she is ugly. The author creates a paradox because her calmness, later on, gives off a more frightening vibe. As Milkman did before, Hagar blames herself for her own pain and now she is miserable because of her way of thinking. Milkman has become a better man over time but it seems that it is too late to save Hagar from her own fate. Why is it too late to save Hagar if Milkman has already become a better person? Can’t he reconnect with her when she needs the most support?

Chapter 14: “You don’t hear about women like that anymore, but there used to be more-the kind of woman who couldn’t live without a particular man. And when the man left, they lost their minds, or died, or something. Love, I guess.”(323) This particular quote grasped my attention quickly. It brings up the topic of Milkman and Hagar. The chapter talks about how Solomon or Shalimar was the father of all of the flying African children. When he left Ryna with twenty one children, she would eventually scream for her husband. She went insane and ended up dying with a broken heart. This story coinsides with the story of Milkman and Hagar. Hagar based all of the bad things on herself even though Milkman came to the realization that all of the bad things happened because of him. It was still too late for Milkman to come back, and Hagar died knowing that she was never pretty enough for Milkman. This quote reiterates the problems Milkman and Hagar have through their complicated relationship. Was this quote supposed to be directly related to Hagar and Milkman?

Chapter 15: “Milkman stopped waving and narrowed his eyes. He could just make out Guitar’s head and shoulders in the dark. “You want my life?” Milkman was not shouting now. “You need it? Here.” Without wiping away the tears, taking a deep breath, or even bending his knees—he leaped. As fleet and bright as a lodestar he wheeled toward Guitar and it did not matter which one of them would give up his ghost in the killing arms of his brother. For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”(337) At the end of this novel, Guitar is still furious with the actions of Milkman. Pilate dies in the process of Guitar trying to murder Milkman. In the quote, Milkman asks Guitar if he wants to take his life, and without fear Milkman runs straight towards Guitar. Morrison ends the book with a note of ambivalence, so there is more than one interpretation of the ending. A couple of things are made clear through the end of the novel though. Milkman has become a better man, and by doing so he finds forgiveness for Guitar and his crimes. I find that the most important word in the quote is “surrender” because Guitar has lived a life where it is a weakness to surrender to anything. The Black community has surrendered to the white community, therefore they have surrendered, and it makes Guitar have a certain mindset including wanting to retaliate to the whites when they kill someone. With Milkman giving up all of his desires of bloodshed, wealth, and power, he becomes “light.” He learns by doing that he is able to surrender to the air and he can fly with it. Why did Toni Morrison create an ambiguity in the ending of this novel?

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Song of Solomon Chapter Questions. (2019, Aug 08). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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