Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Solomon: the owner of Solomon’s General Store in Shalimar, Virginia. He is no relation to the immediate Solomon family or Pilate’s imaginary husband, Mr. Solomon
Children: a group of youngsters in Shalimar, Virginia who play a game and sing the song about Solomon that reveals the Dead family’s origins
Saul: Shalimar resident who comes to blows with Milkman
Omar: Shalimar resident who invites Milkman on the hunting trip
King Walker: the gas station owner and ex-star pitcher of the black baseball leagues who helps outfit Milkman in hunting gear for the hunting trip
Luther Solomon: a Shalimar resident who goes on the hunting trip. He is not related to Mr. Solomon
Calvin Breakstone: Milkman’s partner on the hunting trip. He tells Milkman about Ryna’s Gulch
Small Boy: a Shalimar resident who goes on the hunting trip
Ryna (Ryna’s Gulch): Solomon’s wife; Ryna’s Gulch is named after her. Legend has it that when the wind hits the ravine, it sounds like a woman crying
Vernell: the woman who prepares breakfast for the men after the hunting trip. She gives Milkman information about Sing and about Heddy Byrd
Heddy Byrd: an American Indian; She is the mother of Sing(ing) Byrd (or Bird) Dead. She is Macon Dead II’s grandmother and Milkman’s great-grandmother
Susan Byrd: Milkman’s cousin. She is an American Indian who tells Milkman about his family history
Sweet: she is Milkman’s lover in Shalimar. It is the first time Milkman has a loving and reciprocal
Milkman arrives in the all-black town of Shalimar, Virginia. He is surprised by the small-town atmosphere, the customs of the people, and the facial features of the women, which resemble African features rather than those of black women in the North.
The children sing a song “about Jay…son of Solomon” and play a game that reminds Milkman of his alienation from other children as a youth because of his clothes (he was forced to wear a “velvet suit” to school) and his wealth.
Stopping at Solomon’s store, Milkman is told that someone is looking for him. The man is driving a car with Michigan license plates and leaves a message which exact words should be “Your Day has come.” Milkman thinks Guitar must be in trouble.
Milkman is the recipient of hostility from the townspeople. He is unaware that his behavior is superior, condescending, and inhumane. He treats the women of the town like sex objects, there merely for his pleasure. He flashes his wealth in a town where many of the men are unemployed, and therefore resentful of Milkman who treats them like “anonymous, faceless laborers.” He doesn’t even ask their names or introduce himself to them. Milkman perceives himself as “the object of hero worship” in Danville, and is perplexed by his cool reception in Shalimar.
After getting in a fight with the younger men of the town, Milkman accepts an invitation to accompany the older men on a hunting trip. He boasts of his hunting prowess, although he has never handled a gun before. He accepts the invitation as a dare, but also because “he had stopped evading things, sliding through, over, and around difficulties.”
During the hunt, Milkman gets left behind. Alone in nature, he is disoriented by the sounds, distances, and the code of behavior he is supposed to follow: “…here, where all a man had was what he was born with, or had learned to use….” Milkman hears the sobbing sound the wind makes as it blows through Ryna’s Gulch. Alone in the darkness, he reassesses his actions and the impression he makes on others. Milkman begins to take responsibility for his behavior. Stripped down in the woods without his possessions, without “his money, his car, his father’s reputation, his suit, or his shoes,” to buffer him from reality, he is forced to commune with his “true” self. While out in the woods, Milkman realizes that there is another way to communicate besides through language; something more basic than language. He...
(The entire section is 1,812 words.)