Summary of Chapter Four
Milkman has been in a relationship with his cousin Hagar for several years and grows tired of it. At first she was the one who controlled things because she was older, but as Milkman grows up, he is no longer interested. Instead of trying to work things out or talk to Hagar, he writes her a note, thanking her and telling her it is over. Hagar becomes completely deranged by this rejection. She becomes violent toward Milkman.
Guitar also is a problem as the two become more estranged over the escalating racial violence in the country. Guitar takes it all personally while Milkman tends not to feel involved. He is interested only in his own life and needs. Guitar fights with Milkman and tells him he has no aim in life. Freddie tells Milkman that Guitar has become involved with an organization concerned with revenge for racial violence against blacks. Milkman does not believe him.
Commentary on Chapter Four
Milkman becomes more distant from the needs of others, from what is happening around him, and from himself. He drinks, takes drugs, tries to forget his troubles. He cannot seem to put his life together, yet wants to get away from his family and his father's plans for him. On the other hand, he enjoys the privileges of his father's position and money. He is concerned with his image of manhood because of his lame foot, he takes on a macho, offhand way of treating women. This is at odds with his earlier sensitivity to Pilate and her family who took in the poor little rich boy and nurtured him. Now, he is callous. He obviously does not know what he is doing or which way to turn.
The pressure of both the historical times and youth are telling on Milkman and on Guitar. The news that Guitar may be turning violent is disturbing because he often shows a tender side. His name came from his childhood desire for a guitar to make music. Guitar values Pilate and her family in a way that Milkman does not. Guitar pleads with Milkman about his treatment of Hagar. Guitar also often sounds profound themes in the story and says wise things. His push towards violence as an only outlet is therefore all the more tragic. Milkman seems slow to see this bottled hate in his friend until it is too late. Milkman has a tendency to let things slide. The unaddressed unhappiness of Guitar and Hagar will prove to be turning points in his own life.