“'A nigger in business is a terrible thing to see. A terrible, terrible thing to see.'”Chpt. 1, p. 22.
Mrs. Bains has begged her landlord Macon Dead II for more time to pay her rent, but he refuses to help her. He is thought by the poor in his slums as becoming white in his heartlessness.
“Near the window, hidden by the dark, he felt the irritability of the day drain from him and relished the effortless beauty of the women singing in the candlelight” Chpt. 1, p. 29.
Macon Dead II walks by Pilate's house in the dark, attracted by the singing of Pilate, Reba, and Hagar. He is hidden because he is ashamed of his sister's poverty and unorthodox lifestyle and yet attracted to her at the same time.
Sugarman done fly away
Sugarman done gone
Sugarman cut across the sky
Sugarman gone home.Chpt. 2, p. 49
Milkman hears Pilate, Reba, and Hagar sing this song in their house, but later he will hear the children of Shalimar, Virginia, sing another version with the name “Solomon,” Milkman's ancestor, the flying African who flew away from slavery. Milkman sings this to the dying Pilate, substituting “Sugargirl” for “Sugarman.”
“'Pilate can't teach you a thing you can use in this world. Maybe the next one, but not this one. Let me tell you right now the one important thing you'll ever need to know: Own things.'” Chpt. 2, p. 55.
Macon Dead tells his son Milkman that he needs to learn how to make money and be a capitalist to be in the world, and he will show him how.
“'You stupid, man. Real stupid.Ain't no law for no colored man except the one sends him to the chair.'” Chpt. 3, p. 82.
Guitar gets angry and hysterical as he, Milkman, and the men of the barbershop listen to the news about the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi by four white men who were acquitted but confessed later. It turns out that several of the men in the barbershop belong to the black vigilante group called the Seven Days, and this scene shows why it will not be hard for them to recruit Guitar. The law does not protect African-Americans, so they decide to take it into their own hands.
“'Listen, baby, people do funny things. Specially us. The cards are stacked against us and just trying to stay in the game, stay alive and in the game, makes us do funny things. Things we can't help. Things that make us hurt one another.'” Chpt. 3, p. 87.
Guitar tries to clue Milkman in to the state of being black. Milkman is upset about having hit his father and the things his father told him about his mother. The speech also predicts why Guitar will feel justified in killing for the sake of justice, even going after his friend, Milkman.
“. . . all he knew in the world about the world was what other people had told him. He felt like a garbage pail for the actions and hatreds of other people . . . he had never acted independently.” Chpt. 5, p. 120.
Milkman waits for Hagar to show up to kill him with her knife because he realizes that his life is inauthentic, and he does not mind dying. This shows he is ready to leave his home behind to find out things for himself.
“'It's about trying to make a world where one day white people will think before they lynch.'” Chpt. 6, p. 160.
Guitar tells Milkman he belongs to the Seven Days and tells him it is to stop the genocide going on, for any white person is a potential killer of blacks.
“'He meant that if you take a life, then you own it. . . You can't get rid of nobody by killing them. They still there, and they yours now.'”Chpt. 9, p. 208.
Pilate tells Milkman why she carries the bag of bones she believes to be the white man's they killed in self-defense in the cave. She thinks the ghost of her father is telling her that she cannot leave such a thing unfinished and neglected. She realizes that killing the body does not kill the spirit.
“. . . his self—the cocoon that was 'personality'—gave way . . . There was nothing here to help him—not his money, his car, his father's reputation, his suit, or his shoes . . . all a man had was what he was born with.” Chpt. 11, p.277.
Milkman is on the night hunt for the bobcat in Virginia with the local men, and his social personality disappears in the primal situation where he discovers himself and begins to feel competent and authentic for the first time. The men do not care who he is in the city. He has to find the strength to respond to the needs of the moment.
Song of Solomon : Top Ten Quotes