Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon Summary and Analysis of Chapter 10


Milkman informs Guitar of his plan to go look for the gold in the cave. By insisting that he should go to Montour County, Pennsylvania, by himself, Milkman arouses Guitar's suspicions that he might cheat him of the gold. Guitar reminds Milkman of how desperately he needs the money, firstly, to complete his Seven Days mission, and secondly, because Porter was evicted from his apartment on account of Macon.

After flying out to Pittsburgh, Milkman takes a Greyhound bus out to Danville, Pennsylvania. There, he locates the home of Reverend Cooper, an old time friend of his father's. Reverend Cooper, excited by Milkman's visit, exclaims that he knows Milkman's people, and then tells stories of Macon I and Macon II. Milkman feels a glow as he listens to Reverend Cooper, but is outraged when he hears that nothing was done to the Butlers, the people that killed his grandfather.

Reverend Cooper tells stories of Macon II working side by side with Macon I in the fields. Milkman then realizes that Macon II loved his father and had a personal relationship with him. Reverend Cooper reminisces about Macon I's cleverness and magnificence, declaring his farm was the most glorious for miles around. Milkman tells the reverend that Macon II is now a wealthy and successful man, and the reverend marvels at his ambition and good fortune.

The Butlers, a wealthy white family that owned the house that Circe had hidden them in as children, was now deceased, but Milkman decides to stop by the crumbling Butler estate anyways. As he enters the Butler mansion, Milkman is overwhelmed by a fierce rotting smell that changes into a spicy ginger fragrance. Inside, he sees a long hall that contains a spiral staircase, which he climbs. Atop the staircase stands an old woman with wild hair, everything in her face colorless except for the eyes and mouth. The woman is surrounded by dogs, savagely searching the apartment. She hugs him and is excited by his visit until she realizes that he is not Macon Dead II but his son. Milkman is unsure of who this woman is, and he compares her to dreams of witches he had in childhood.

Milkman discovers she is Circe, and she tells him what she knows about the Dead family history. Milkman learns that Macon Dead I's name was Jake and his wife's name was Sing. Milkman's grandmother, Sing, was believed to be a white lady, or perhaps Native American. Sing and Jake met on a wagon full of freed slaves going North from Charlemagne, Virginia. Circe also tells Milkman about Hunter's Cave, where Macon Dead I's body was dumped after it floated up from the river it was buried by. Allegedly claiming that he wanted to find his grandfather's bones to give him a proper burial, Milkman obtains directions to the cave. While taking his leave, he inquires as to why Circe remains in the mansion of her hated employers. Circe replies that she wants to make sure everything the Butlers stole and robbed to create their beautiful homes rots away to nothing. She also tells him that she has kept the dogs her mistress bred, and that they are helping her in destroying the estate.

Following the supposed scent of money through the overgrown farmland, Milkman falls into a creek and soaks his shoes, tears his clothes and destroys his expensive watch. He becomes agile in his pursuit once again, as his fixation to be a rich man returns. He finally makes it to the cave, and to his surprise, he finds nothing in it but leaves, boards and a tin can.

As soon as Milkman leaves the cave, he feels ravenous with hunger. He hitches a ride back to the Danville bus station, and after a meal consisting of six hamburgers, decides to go south to Virginia. In Virginia, Milkman believes, is where Pilate took her gold after she visited the cave. Milkman decides to follow her tracks, and perhaps someone who knows will tell him what happened to the gold.


Milkman's trip to retrieve the gold is at first a proclamation of his selfish desires. The narrator describes him to be blinded by his desire for the gold, so much so that he does not analyze situations clearly. His idea to look for the gold in Virginia is illogical, and he seems to have lost all his sensibility. However, Milkman's reasons for wanting the gold are not as materialistic as they first appear. Milkman regards the gold as his only chance to escape his father's dominating character. The gold, therefore, serves as a means to create independence for Milkman.

Macon and Milkman each want the gold for different reasons. Macon's sole motivation is greed, his desire to accumulate profit. Milkman, on the other hand, is motivated by a desire to be independent. As Milkman continues in searching for the gold, his decision to go to Virginia is illogical. Perhaps unbeknown to him, Milkman chooses to go to Virginia in search of his character. On his way to Circe's dwelling, some of Milkman's material possessions are destroyed, signifying the desertion of his old identity.

Milkman's journey to Virginia soon becomes a blend of myth and reality. Milkman's encounter with Circe is apparently real to him, but leaves doubt in the minds of readers if a woman as old as Circe could still be living. Milkman, however, treats Circe as part of the realistic world, and it is she that gives him some information about his ancestry. Circe's namesake is not biblical but is taken from Homer's Odyssey. In the Odyssey, Circe is a sorceress who lives in a stone mansion in the woods. She also helps Odysseus find his way home. The Circe who Milkman encounters is also some type of an enchantress who aids him in finding his past.

The ruined Butler mansion alludes to the fact that money is only mortal. Once dead, the Butlers are forgotten and their mansion is purposely destroyed. The Butler mansion reiterates the concept of material wealth as being superficial and useless in many areas of life. The Butlers, who stole from others to make a profit, were dehumanized in the process. Macon, who watched his father die at the Butlers' hands, now shares some similarities with the aforementioned family. Both are numb to feeling as a result of constantly pursuing wealth. The last of Butlers, commits suicide after she discovers all the money is gone. Circe, as an act of revenge, allows dogs to destroy the house, a final insult.

The beginning of the chapter refers to the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, who must have felt such a craving for the gingerbread house that they became energized by their own hunger. An allusion to Milkman's reaction to when he first sees the cave, there is an ongoing aura of fantasy within Milkman's life. As he discovers there is no gold in the cave, that aura is broken. Milkman begins to realize that what he is looking for is not material in nature, but spiritual. Milkman's experience in the cave can be a reference to the biblical story of Jesus' resurrection. Also taking place in an empty cave, those who enter the cave at first do not realize that finding nothing can mean that there is something out there.