Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
Milkman returns to Susan Byrd’s house, hopeful that she can further enlighten him about his family history after he has decoded the children’s song about Solomon. Susan fills in the gaps about Sing and Jake’s relationship and tells Milkman Jake was one of Solomon’s (or Shalimar’s) children; the names are synonymous. Susan also tells Milkman about the tale of the flying African: according to the legend, before witnesses Solomon flew off “like a bird” back to Africa to escape slavery, leaving his grieving wife Ryna and 21 sons behind, although he had tried to take Jake, his youngest, with him.
Chapter 14 features a conversation between Susan Byrd and Milkman which helps to assemble the final pieces of the Dead family puzzle.
Of the greatest significance in the chapter is Milkman’s revelation that his paternal great-grandfather Solomon could fly and that the town of Shalimar is the very home his family originated from. Unbeknownst to him, Milkman has been in the town of his origins the entire time he has been unraveling the mystery behind his family name and history.
The flying motif that has structured the novel reaches its near-conclusion. For Milkman, flight, which had been a possibility before the age of four, has again become a possibility. If Macon Dead I can appear as a ghost and Pilate can have no navel, then flight, too, can be a reality.
Milkman’s first revelation was his discovery of his “authentic” self, while he was only “breath” and “thoughts” in the darkness of the hunting grounds near Solomon’s Leap and Ryna’s Gulch. His identity, however, lacked wholeness and a sense of completion without the knowledge of his family name and the place of their origin. Now with these two mysteries solved and the knowledge that Solomon was a flying African, Milkman cannot wait to return to Michigan to bring the message home.