Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5


While Milkman and Guitar's quarrel over Alabama and Honore creates some distance between the two friends, it also serves as a cleansing for the both of them. And so, when Milkman arrives on Guitar's doorstep to spend the night at his home, he is warmly received and invited for some tea or coffee, since Guitar no longer drinks alcohol. As he is preparing the tea, Guitar rambles on about oppressed peoples and geographical differences between the Northerners and the Southerners.

Hagar, possessed by her maddening love for Milkman, has taken to prowling at night in hopes of catching him helpless enough to kill him. Thus, Milkman spends the night by Guitars' house, half hoping she will kill him. As he lies in bed that night, Milkman recalls how one week earlier he had spotted and followed his mother sneaking out of the house at night to board a bus and then a train, only to arrive at Fairfield Cemetery, where Dr. Foster was buried. As his mother enters the cemetery, Milkman waits at the entrance and confronts her about her relationship with her father.

Silent for forty-five minutes while waiting for the train, Ruth finally states that she loved her father because he was the only one that cared whether she lived and how she lived. Ruth also tells Milkman that Macon killed her father by throwing away all his medication, and that he tried to kill Milkman while he was still in the womb but did not succeed thanks to Pilate. Ruth explains that she and Macon did not have any sexual relations after the birth of Lena and Corinthians until Pilate moved to town. Pilate took control of the situation, created an aphrodisiac that Ruth put in Macon's food, and Milkman was conceived. Milkman then demands to know the truth, if she truly was in bed with her father when he was dead, and also, if she nursed him until he was too old and why. Ruth acknowledges that she laid down next to the doctor in her slip, only to kiss his beautiful fingers good-by, and she claims that while she did in fact breast-feed Milkman past infancy she also prayed for him on her knees.

Milkman continues to lie in Guitar's bed as he hears Hagar break the window in attempts to enter the room. It takes her a long time to raise the window and climb in, but Milkman refuses to even move let alone look at her. In his mind, he wishes her dead but she slowly comes at him and lowers the big butcher knife she is carrying. The knife bounces off Milkman's shoulder blade into his neck, but it is a poorly angled, weak blow. Milkman gets up, looks her in the eyes and after making some cruel remarks to her, leaves.

Ruth finally finds out that Hagar has been trying to kill Milkman as often once a month for the past six moths, and she is livid with fury at the woman who is trying to take away her single passion left in this world. Determined, Ruth boards a bus to visit Pilate, and in the meantime reflects on the last time she went to visit Pilate, over thirty years before. Ruth had lastly seen Pilate when she had come by her house for help on controlling Macon's rages against her pregnancy. Macon, long unaffected by the aphrodisiac, was furious at Ruth for becoming pregnant and was trying to force her to have an abortion. Scared for the life of her unborn child, Ruth reached out to Pilate, who created a voodoo doll of Macon and placed it in his office.

On Pilate's porch, Ruth threatens Hagar and the two begin discussing their love for Milkman. Pilate overhears the two women bickering and tells them that Macon is his own person and whatever he needs, neither one of them have it. Afterwards, Pilate invites Ruth inside and offers her some peaches, and tells Ruth her story of being born without a navel and the negativity she had encountered because of it.

Pilate's tale ends with her deciding to move her daughter, Reba, and her granddaughter, Hagar to her brother's town. Unfortunately, after this relocation, Pilate finds Macon to be inhospitable and unforgiving but she does not move on for Ruth's sake.


There is an overall theme of males abandoning women prevalent throughout the novel, and it is emphasized in Chapter Five. Hagar's reaction to Milkman's abandonment discloses her vulnerable nature, and her need for a male presence in her life. Hagar's love for Milkman is overwhelming; as a woman who cannot control her actions, Hagar ultimately becomes dominated by Milkman even after he leaves her. Hagar's submissiveness into her role reflects the male dominated society of that time. Hagar relies on Milkman for her emotional survival, and in fact, she cannot live without him. Her reliance on a man may be interpreted on two levels. Firstly, it is a reference to the overall theme of the novel that many women love too deeply and too strongly, and are then left behind with only their sorrow. Secondly, Hagar's male-based survival may be a reminder for women to support themselves financially without a male. Ruth, as another example, is dependent on Macon Dead II financially and will not leave her loveless marriage so as not to lower her social status.

Ruth and Hagar, although very different on most accounts, share the problem of loving Milkman. They are both consumed with love for him, and need him for their own secret reasons. For Ruth, Milkman marks her winning fight with Macon over their love life. For Hagar, Milkman is the sole emotional support of her existence. Both women think they need Milkman for their survival, and Hagar eventually does. As long as the women remain selfish in their want of acquiring Milkman, they will both remain oppressed.

Pilate, on the other hand, does not rely on men either financially or emotionally, and as a result, she is the novel's strongest female character, in terms of spiritual and emotional endurance. Pilate, unlike other female characters, is strong and powerful. She supports herself financially by making wine. She is suspected to have supernatural powers as a result of her non-existent navel. Pilate is named after Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader who ordered Jesus' crucifixion, and who was an evil and powerful man. Although not evil, Pilate certainly embodies some very positive attributes of power. Ironically, as the only strong and independent character in the novel, Pilate has a male name.

Toni Morrison engages a socio-historical debate in her writing of Song of Solomon. Presenting two social groups on different ends of the spectrum, she shows the readers the differences in typical African American ideology. The differences of attitude between Milkman and Guitar represent the two most common black ideologies in terms of achieving true freedom. Milkman, laid back in attitude, is a stark contrast to Guitar, whose hostility commands the use of physical force. Milkman himself compares Guitar to Malcolm X, even to the point of suggesting that Guitar adopt a similar sounding name. Malcolm X, who encouraged force when necessary, wanted to combat what he regarded as white "oppression." Guitar's character embodies Malcolm X's beliefs to the fullest, even taking them to an extreme level as a member of the Seven Days society.