Song of Solomon
How we cite our quotes:
But Guitar believed it, gave it a crisp concreteness, and what’s more, made it into an act, an important, real, and daring thing to do. He felt a self inside himself emerge, a clean-lined definite self. A self that could join the chorus at Railroad Tommy’s with more than laughter. (1.8.184)
Milky has gone through life as though he were in a padded room, with nice padded walls and soft padded corners, much like the clouded kingdom where Carebears dwell. The privilege of his life has kept him from having to work too hard, to feel too much, to think too much. But here, it’s as though Milky is let loose upon a room with no padding, with real edges and angles and sharpness for the first time. He has a tangible goal, feels the danger of it, feels the possibility of it, and feels a real desire to want to reach, to want to work for it. Guitar is yet again an incredible professor of life, guiding Milkman towards self-awareness and self-actualization.
He was only his breath, coming slower now, and his thoughts. The rest of him had disappeared. So the thoughts came, unobstructed by other people, by things, even by the sight of himself. (2.11.277)
Rocked by the epic trek through the Blue Ridge Mountains, Milkman’s body is exhausted. Yet, through the exhaustion, steeped in nature, without the weight of things, objects that he owns, Milkman’s physical body floats away and all that is left is life-giving, blood-pumping self-reflection. This is a sublime moment, meaning Milkman’s physical self sublimes, vaporizes, leaving only his spiritual self behind. His body returns, however, when he is being killed.
"You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself." (2.13.306)
Guitar is very much a feminist at this moment, again proving wise beyond his years. Here he’s addressing a woman who embodies the predicament of almost every woman in the Dead lineage for at least four generations, a predicament that originally forced the creation of the song that children still sing in Shalimar. Here Guitar tells Hagar (and the women before her and around her) that she must love herself, must cultivate her own self before being able to love anyone else.