Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
Reverend Cooper: the Reverend of Danville, Pennsylvania who Milkman goes to visit to learn about his family’s past. Milkman finds out information about where the cave Pilate and Macon lived in is located from the Reverend
Esther Cooper: Reverend Cooper’s wife
The Butlers: the rich white family Circe works for. They killed Macon Dead I (Jake) in order to take possession of his property
Singing Bird (Sing): Pilate and Macon’s mother. She is a woman of mixed races, including American Indian
Nephew: the nephew of Reverend Cooper. He is called Nephew because he is the Reverend’s only nephew. He drives Milkman to visit Circe
Jake: the original first name of Macon Dead I
Fred Garnett: driver of the 1954 Chevrolet who gives Milkman a ride toward Danville. Garnett is insulted when Milkman tries to pay him for the Coke and the ride that Garnett gives him
Old man in station house: the man who Milkman helps lift a crate. Guitar later tells Milkman that he is sure the crate is filled with the gold Milkman has kept for himself instead of sharing it with Guitar
Relieved to leave behind “Lena’s anger,” “Ruth’s stepped up surveillance” and Macon’s “bottomless greed,” Milkman begins his journey to Danville. Enthralled by an exhilarating airplane ride to Pittsburgh, Milkman “felt free…away from real life” where “the wings of all those other people’s nightmares (had) flapped in his face and constrained him.”
Before his journey, Milkman and Guitar continue to debate race issues, and Guitar lectures Milkman on how “Everybody wants the life of a black man.”
On his journey, Milkman finds that the scenery his father raved about, because of its beauty, is repetitive and boring.
Milkman stands out in the “tiny farming town” of Danville in his “beige three-piece suit,” “beautiful Florsheim shoes,” and gold Longines watch. He is surprised by the community’s friendliness and Reverend Cooper’s affection for Milkman because Reverend Cooper “knows his people.” Milkman is impressed by “southern hospitality.”
His family history is more palpable to him now that he is physically in the place where it transpired. Milkman is amazed at the townpeople’s high regard for his paternal grandfather and, especially, for his father. He does not recognize Macon as the spirited country boy the Danville clan loved, but he is proud and moved by the stories.
Milkman decides to go look at the Dead family farm and instead ends up at the Butlers’ mansion. Milkman is surprised to find Circe alive. The ancient lady lives among a pack of dogs that have, to Circe’s pleasure, destroyed the mansion. Circe hopes only that someone will find her body at her death and bury her before the dogs eat her remains. Although Circe’s appearance reminds Milkman of the fairy tale witches in his nightmares, he tolerates her embrace. From Circe, Milkman learns the names of his paternal grandfather and his paternal grandmother (Jake and Sing) and the location of the cave where he believes the gold is buried.
In spite of Milkman’s exposure to a wealth of family information, his top priority is still the recovery of the gold in Hunters Cave. On his trek to the cave, Milkman battles the woods, creeks, and slopes of the outdoors. He begins to appreciate the difficulty and complexity of nature, not because of any sympathy with or understanding of nature, but only as an obstacle that obstructs him from reaching his goal.
When Milkman finds the cave empty, he lets out an anguished cry, and limping from the cave, he vows to continue his journey to Virginia where he concludes Pilate must have taken the gold.
The text continues to be structured by the flight motif which for Milkman “encourages illusion and a feeling of invulnerability.” Milkman continues to equate flight with power, but power achieved not through knowledge but through escapism. As Milkman sits in the “glistening bird, it was not possible to believe he...
(The entire section is 2,183 words.)