Chapter 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Mercy Hospital have an unofficial name, and what is that name?

2. What is the name of the poor section of town?

3. What does Robert Smith wear to help him fly?

4. What does the narrator say Milkman thinks of himself after he learns he can’t fly?

5. Why does Dr. Foster want a centerpiece on his dining room table, and what does it signify?

6. What fairy tale does Ruth compare nursing her son to? What is the significance of it?

7. What are the two names of Macon Dead’s office?

8. How is Pilate named?

9. How are pine needles significant in Pilate’s life? What do they symbolize?

10. Why does Macon go to Pilate’s house?

Answers
1. Mercy Hospital is called “No Mercy” Hospital by the black residents because they are not permitted to enter the hospital.

2. The name of the poor part of town is Southside.

3. Robert Smith wears “wide blue silk wings.”

4. Milkman “lost all interest in himself” when he learned he couldn’t fly. “To have to live without that single gift saddened him and left his imagination so bereft that he appeared dull even to the women who did not hate his mother.”

5. Dr. Foster sees the centerpiece as a symbol of wealth and refinement to distinguish his family from “the people among whom they lived.” He wants to show his superiority over the lower classes.

6. Ruth compares the nursing of Milkman to the spinning of gold in Rumpelstiltskin because it gives Ruth a feeling of possessing a magical form of power.

7. The names of Macon Dead’s office are “Office” and “Sonny’s Shop.”

8. Pilate’s father chooses her name randomly from the Bible, based on the shape of the word’s letters, because he is unable to read.

9. Pilate sleeps on pine needles in her mattress, and she likes to chew them. Pine needles symbolize nature.

10. Macon goes to Pilate’s house because there is no music in his own home. Macon says “he wanted just a bit of music—from the person who had been his first caring for.”