Study Guide

Song of Solomon Part 1, Chapter 7

By Toni Morrison

Part 1, Chapter 7

  • Chapter Seven opens with all this talk about what it means to live in a landlocked place, and how the Great Lake people get the itch to wander on account of the pseudo-oceans that are fed by a river that empties into the great blue Atlantic.
  • Apparently the ocean is a big deal, psychologically speaking.
  • Milkman is one of these itchy people, and just when he’s giving his dad notice, the green bag gets in the way.
  • Oh yes, it’s a powerful green bag. One that hangs from Pilate’s ceiling and that has given Milkman’s head many a bruise, or many a "hickey" as he calls it. But we thought hickies were very different.
  • Macon perks up like an Eggo waffle when he hears about this green bag, and he tells his son to go get some BBQ and meet him in the park for lunch.
  • On the park bench, Macon tells the story of the green bag. Here is his story:
  • Six days after Macon and Pilate’s dad is shot, they go in search of Circe, the midwife who helped bring them into the world. She works for a white family of "gentlemen farmers" in a big house nearby.
  • Circe is really glad to see them and hides them in two rooms in the attic, bringing them food and emptying their chamber pots for two weeks.
  • Macon and Pilate are really depressed. They are used to being outdoors, and feel like prisoners inside the big ornate house. After two weeks, they sneak out of the house and wander about in the glorious Pennsylvania wilderness.
  • But after a few days, they start to see their dad’s ghost everywhere, and the woods that they love so much and that they know so well begin to feel like a haunted place.
  • One evening they see their dad’s ghost standing by a big, dark cave. The ghost beckons them inside. They could either stay the night in the creepy woods, or follow the ghost into the pitch-black cave. Hmmm. What to do, what to do.
  • Macon and Pilate choose to follow the ghost. Not our first choice, but, hey, what do we know?
  • They fall asleep in the cave, and in the early morning, Macon has to, um, go number 2 (on account of all the wild fruit he’s been eating) and does so in the back of the cave, away from their sleeping nook.
  • Just as he’s finishing up, he sees an old white man stirring from sleep. The man starts to come toward him. Macon is totally freaked out. He grabs a rock and throws it at the old man.
  • The man keeps coming toward him, until Pilate screams. Momentarily distracted, the man doesn’t see Macon whip out a knife and stab him in the back.
  • Macon goes to grab the man’s green blanket in order to cover up the dead body, and, in doing so, he uncovers a shallow pit filled with little bags. The bags are filled with solid gold.
  • Macon is thrilled beyond all comprehension, knowing that he will live well for the rest of his life on the treasure at his feet.
  • Pilate, on the other hand, is furious at Macon for even thinking of stealing the money. Having just killed a white man, everyone will be looking for the two of them, and, if the authorities see that the gold is missing, they will think that Macon and Pilate killed the white man for the money.
  • Macon and Pilate spar. Pilate pulls a knife on her brother, the very knife soaked in the dead man’s blood, and Macon backs out of the cave.
  • Macon waits for his sister to come out of the cave all day, but she never comes out.
  • He hears a search party in the distance, and bolts like lightening (leaving his sister), terrified that the authorities are coming after him.
  • Three days later he returns to the cave only to find the dead body, but no gold and no Pilate.
  • This ends Macon’s story.
  • Macon connects the dots for Guitar and tells him that the bag swinging from Pilate’s ceiling is the same green blanket-thingy that covered the gold in the cage. He tells his son to go get the gold.
  • If Milkman is successful, he can have half of the gold.