Summary of Chapter Thirteen
The narrative turns back to Hagar's story, as she tries to understand why Milkman rejected her. She decides it is her appearance and her poverty. She wants to go shopping for new clothes, makeup, and nicer things. Pilate and Reba sell their most precious things to get money to buy clothes for Hagar to bring her out of the tailspin of her depression. Nothing works. Hagar goes down and down into a paralysis, even though Guitar gives her an important bit of advice, telling her that she cannot let her self-esteem be centered in another person. Hagar is unable to recover, even with her mother and grandmother trying everything they know. She dies. Ruth goes to Macon and insists that he pay for the funeral. He does. The funeral features Pilate and Reba singing to their Hagar to prove that she is loved. They sing for mercy.
Commentary on Chapter Thirteen
This is a sad and tragic chapter that closely follows Hagar's decline. The mother and grandmother give everything they have to try to save her, even selling Reba's diamond, but it is not enough. This is another commentary on the ineffectiveness of material wealth to solve problems. A complete makeover is an external and temporary try, as Hagar finds when the rain destroys her packages and makeup. Her deep depression is a soul matter. This chapter is a study of a young woman's problems of losing herself in unbalanced relationships. Milkman admitted to himself that Hagar's desperation made him seem cool in the male world of sexual competition. Here is a woman desperate to kill for his love. In reality, it is not a pretty thing to contribute to another's downfall. Milkman may have told Hagar to plunge the knife into her own genitals as an angry or dramatic thing to say, but she took it to heart. Macon is forcefully told by Ruth he must pay for the funeral, for it is partly his aggressive and uncaring value system that is responsible for Milkman's behavior.