Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
Chapter 7 continues the theme of Milkman’s search for self. Milkman concludes that he needs distance from his family, and “bit” by the “wandering bug,” he makes plans to leave. Macon tries to detain him, telling Milkman “Money is freedom.”
When Milkman lets slip that Pilate has a green sack in her house with her “inheritance” in it, Macon concludes its the long-lost gold that he and Pilate discovered in a cave after their father died when Macon was 16 years old. Macon relays the story of how he and Pilate were homeless after their father was killed. Macon buried his father in a shallow grave, and Circe, the midwife, took them into her white slavemaster’s house, where she hid them.
Children of nature, Macon and Pilate suffered greatly, cooped up in a room, eating “the soft, bland food” of white people. While there, Pilate had her father’s hand-written piece of paper with her name written on it put into her mother’s brass snuff box. A blacksmith fashioned it into the earring Pilate always wears.
Fearful of being discovered, the children return to nature and ultimately are led to a cave by the ghost of their father. While in the cave, Macon kills a threatening-looking white man, and they discover gold. Pilate forbids Macon from taking the gold because it is morally wrong. But “life, safety, and luxury fanned out before (Macon) like the tailspread of a peacock.” The once loving brother and sister suffer a rift over the gold. Macon continues to hold a grudge into the present. He tells Milkman the gold must be in the green sack in Pilate’s house. The “snake” has been in possession of the gold the whole time! Macon tells Milkman if he steals the gold from Pilate, Macon will give him half of it.
The circumstances surrounding Milkman’s birth and his desire for travel recalls the mythological journey of the classical hero in Greek and other literature. The mythological hero experiences a miraculous birth, is initiated into manhood, separates from his family by taking a long journey, and then returns to share his new-found knowledge and take his place in the community.
Paramount in importance to this chapter is the lengths to which the Dead men will go for the sake of money without concerning themselves with the moral consequences. Macon is willing to direct his son to steal from his own sister. “Money is…the only real freedom there is,” he tells Milkman.
In the chapter, Milkman complains that he feels “used” by everyone, as they make him “the subject of their dreams of wealth, of love, or martyrdom.” But Milkman is a user, too. He uses Hagar and “throws her away”; he uses the place or sanctuary that is Pilate’s home, the only place he has ever really felt complete, as the scene of thievery and betrayal. Milkman repays Pilate’s love with ¬disloyalty and indifference. And his own father puts Milkman up to it.
Once Macon appreciated the land; the...
(The entire section is 774 words.)