Study Guide

Song of Solomon Part 1, Chapter 6

By Toni Morrison

Part 1, Chapter 6

  • Guitar grills Milkman about Hagar and what he did to make Hagar so crazy. Guitar found Hagar standing frozen in his apartment after her latest attempt to kill Milkman, and so Guitar simply took her home.
  • Guitar and Milkman banter a little bit until Milkman demands to know about Guitar’s secret life and his business hiding Empire State.
  • Guitar doesn’t want to discuss it, but eventually decides to tell his best friend his deepest darkest secret. A secret that can’t be repeated to anyone, anywhere without compromising Guitar’s life. Here it is:
  • Guitar belongs to a secret society that, whenever a black man, woman, or child is killed by a white person, retaliates by murdering a white person or group of white people in a similar manner. The society is called the Seven Days and is composed of seven men, and only seven men. The Days, as they are known, are sworn to secrecy and take as long as they need to replicate a murder. They do not brag or boast of their work.
  • The society has been active since 1920 after two hate crimes were committed on two black war veterans.
  • Milkman is shocked. He wants to know why Guitar is OK with killing innocent people.
  • Guitar does not believe that there is such a thing as an innocent white person. He believes all white people are capable of killing black people because they are, as a race, unnatural.
  • Milkman says that the people who commit hate crimes are truly crazy.
  • What kind of excuse is that? asks Guitar. Since when does being crazy make it OK to kill, humiliate, and degrade another human being?
  • They discuss JFK Jr., Albert Schweitzer, and Eleanor Roosevelt – all white people who fought for human rights and who stood for moral and ethical values. Guitar holds fast to his belief that all white people, when put in a specific circumstance, are capable of killing black people.
  • Why don’t you want to be better than these unnatural white killers? asks Milkman. Because I am better than they are, replies Guitar.
  • Because he does not have fun when he murders, because he is not trying to usurp anybody’s wealth or power, and because he is not angry at anybody, Guitar feels he is better than the white people who commit hate crimes.
  • You aren’t angry at anybody, Guitar? Milkman asks.
  • Guitar feels he kills white people purely out of love for black people. His whole participation in the Seven Days is based on love. He believes in the Seven Days because of the love for his people, and because he feels strongly that a balance in numbers must be kept. If too many black people are killed, then the black population will diminish. By killing white people, he helps to maintain the balance.
  • Guitar and Milkman discuss the Holocaust and how Jewish people helped find and arrest Nazis following that horrific moment in history. Milkman feels the concept of the Seven Days is very different because the Days are killing innocent people and because the law is not involved.
  • Guitar retorts that there is no money and there is no law to go about rendering justice appropriately. He tells Milkman that there are courts in America that are still advised to ignore anything a black person has to say. Society, he claims, is not set up to provide the trials, the retribution that the Nazis faced.
  • Milkman wants to know what good all of this killing will bring. Guitar tells him the killings will improve the meaning of his life: "It’s about how you live and why" (1.6.160).
  • Guitar’s day is Sunday.
  • Milkman is scared for Guitar.
  • Guitar is scared for Milkman.