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Analysis

What’s Up With the Ending?

Guitar puts his gun down. We just got so worked up when that happened. This ending is highly and brilliantly ambiguous. We know these facts to be true:

  • Milkman and Pilate bury Jake’s bones on Solomon’s Leap, thus putting to rest Jake’s ghost and bringing full circle four generations that were once disconnected.
  • Pilate puts her snuffbox earring on top of Jake’s grave.
  • Milkman hears a shot and Pilate falls,
  • Milkman cradles Pilate and sings to her.
  • Pilate dies in his arms staring at something beyond his shoulder.
  • A bird swoops down and picks up Pilate’s snuffbox earring.
  • Milkman can’t see Guitar, but waves wildly at him to get his attention
  • Guitar puts his gun down
  • Milkman jumps off of Solomon’s Leap.
Because Guitar puts his gun down, we understand that he’s not ready or planning to kill Milkman just yet. But whether or not Guitar plans to kill Milkman, or whether Milkman plans to kill himself does not matter, we are told. What matters is that when Milkman leaps, he learns how to fly.

Milkman learns how to "ride" the air by surrendering to it, by letting it take control. By ending the novel here, all we know is that Milkman flies away, and thus the myth of Solomon’s Leap is perpetuated. Morrison ends the novel where it does, leaving us with many questions unanswered and forcing us to imagine what happens next, to develop our own explanation of Milkman’s leap.

In this way, we are like the children in the epigraph, deprived of our father/protagonist, remembering him in our own ways. We screamed when we turned the page to find no more chapters. And that, friends, is the sign of a good book. A really good one.

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