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Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon


by Toni Morrison

Song of Solomon Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary

  • Milkman goes in search of Ms. Byrd, the woman Omar believes would know his people. Ms Byrd lives in a little house with a perfect lawn and a white picket fence that separates it from the wild field grass that surrounds it.
  • We smell gingerbread, and there’s a children’s swing.
  • Milkman meets Susan Byrd and Grace Long. Susan is reticent and isn’t too comfortable having Milkman around, because he’s asking questions about her aunt who he supposes to be his grandmother. Her aunt is named Sing and was the sister of her father, Crowell Byrd.
  • Grace Long has a field day with all of this, because it would seem that Milkman and Susan are related. Susan denies this claim on the grounds that, based on Milkman’s skin color, his grandmother couldn’t possibly have been as light-skinned as her aunt.
  • Then the ladies delve into a conversation about all the people they know who are black, but who are "passing" in society as white. Grace Long is odd, but she certainly knows how to flirt.
  • Milkman takes his leave of the ladies, and Grace tells him to come visit her at the "normal" school where she teaches.
  • It’s only when Milkman’s walking down the road that he realizes that Grace has stolen his watch. But she includes her address in his little cookie care package, just in case he wants to come visit.
  • Milkman encounters Guitar along the woodsy path, and Guitar is livid. He tells Milkman he saw him steal the gold and ship it elsewhere. He plans to kill Milkman for betraying him and for betraying the Seven Days.
  • Milkman is confused. Guitar clarifies that he saw with his own two eyes Milkman lift a crate onto a dolly in Danville.
  • Wait, but that wasn’t gold! Milkman was just helping an old man out. It’s a little hard for Guitar to understand why Milkman would help a man out for no reason at all, except to be nice. Guitar warns Milkman once more that his day is coming.
  • Milkman returns to Sweet’s house and finds a little bit of heaven again.
  • Distracted, he rushes over to Solomon’s general store. He puts on his Sherlockian mystery hat and begins to try to put the pieces of his family tree together.
  • And then he decides to actually listen to the song that the local children are singing. He listens to the lyrics. And guess what? They are all about his family.
  • He hears names that he recognizes, Heddy (Susan Byrd’s grandmother), Jake, Ryna, and Solomon.
  • Like Christmas morning, Milkman opens all the gifts that this simple child’s song provides. In it, he understands that his grandmother, Sing, was part Native American, and he understands a skeleton of a story: Solomon leaves Ryna, and Ryna is devastated. Ryna is the name of that gulch that wails like Moaning Myrtle. This marks the happiest time in Milkman’s life.

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