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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Shalimar (SHAL-ee-mahr). The ancestral home of Solomon and Ryna, Jake (Macon Dead), and Sing (Singing Bird). According to legend, Solomon could fly. Close by are Ryna’s Gulch and Solomon’s Leap. The mysteries of Pilate’s behavior, and Macon’s, are found here, and memorialized in a children’s song. Here Milkman finds his truth. Pilate finds peace as they bury their father’s bones in the land of his birth. She discards the burden symbolized by the earring she has worn all her life. As Milkman jumps from Solomon’s Leap, he knows he can soar. He has found truth, a connection through time and place that is forever unbroken by earthly bonds.

Dead home

Dead home. Michigan home of the well-off family of Macon Dead, his wife, Ruth Foster Dead, and their two daughters, Magdalene, called Lena, and First Corinthians, located at 12 Not Doctor Street in a large city. It is a home filled with nice things, including a polished mahogany table and fresh flowers. They have a certain social status. Ruth is the daughter of the late Doctor Foster. Her husband Macon is a man of property and pride. His self-worth is tied to what he owns. Yet their home is truly a “dead” house. There is no life, no love within its walls. The Dead home is haunted by past secrets. Ruth is sad and loveless. Macon is angry and dissatisfied; he equates money with freedom. The daughters are troubled and frustrated, and Milkman is puzzled and angry at the rigid structure, and at his lack of personal peace and contentment in the constantly changing world of the 1960’s. The Dead home has a history, but it lacks roots.

Pilate’s house

Pilate’s house. Home of Pilate, her daughter Reba, and Reba’s daughter Hagar; a small house backed by pines, without gas or electricity. The house has no modern conveniences and smells of wine and spices, and sometimes peaches. It is disorganized, not well kept, and lacking status; yet this house on Darling Street is rich with music, love, and history. Here one finds connections to the land in the trees, the grapes, the earthy attitude of Pilate, and the thread of affection and loyalty that binds the three generations of women together. There is mystery here as well, in the green tarp hanging from the ceiling. Pilate calls the contents her “inheritance.” She speaks of personal and spiritual substance. She has much though she lacks wealth. Her home embraces her physical and emotional history. Her music and her joy connect her to people and places beyond the confines of her meager walls. She has found peace.

Hunter’s Cave

Hunter’s Cave. Scene of what Pilate and Macon believed was a murder. In fact, the bones Pilate retrieves and carries with her, literally and figuratively through the years, are those of her own father. Her history is always with her no matter where she travels.

Lincoln’s Heaven

Lincoln’s Heaven. Homestead of the original Macon Dead located outside of Danville, Pennsylvania, a town 240 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. For Macon Dead, land ownership was a tangible symbol of his freedom. His farm is small, with room for crops and fruit trees, a pond, and a rich forest of mahogany and pine. To a hard-working man, a former slave, unable to read, stripped of his dignity and even his given name by the oppression of slavery, this rural setting in Montour County was his own personal heaven on Earth.

Literacy was not required to work the land. He could provide for his family and put down roots. He owned this land and would protect this emblem of freedom to the death. His love for his land would be passed on to his son and grandson, but their understanding of this inheritance would be tarnished by the money, the grit and greed of the cold, and often heartless, city skyline. As the generations progressed, ownership became for Macon and Milkman not a sense of pride, but an occasion for greed and profit. The spirit of Macon (Jake is his given name) will speak to Milkman and to Pilate until they understand their...

(The entire section is 9,066 words.)