Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon Summary and Analysis of Chapters 12 & 13


The following day, Milkman locates Susan Byrd's brick house and introduces himself. Reluctantly invited in, Milkman receives a warmer greeting from her friend, Grace Long. Although Susan Byrd is related to Sing, she claims that Sing was her aunt who left Virginia unmarried. Milkman is disappointed that his search has led him to a dead end, and hurriedly leaves Susan's home. Prior to leaving, however, Grace insists that he take some butter cookies with him, along with her address hidden inside the box.

On his way back to Shalimar, Milkman realizes that his family history is of great interest to him. Walking along, he finds Grace's address inside the box and smiles, until he notices that he left his gold watch back at Susan's house. Suddenly, he encounters Guitar leaning against a persimmon tree, waiting for him. Angry, Guitar accuses Milkman of finding the gold and shipping it to Virginia. Guitar is convinced of Milkman's betrayal, and claims that Milkman is trying to sabotage the Seven Days society. He promises to kill Milkman, but on his own schedule once he acquires the gold. Milkman realizes that he is not afraid but he is curious as to why Guitar would leave him a warning at Solomon's store. Guitar replies, "It's the least I could do for a friend."

Once again Milkman visits Sweet's home to sleep in her perfect arms. The following morning, he walks over to Solomon's store to have his car fixed. While waiting for King Walker, the man who was going to install his fan belt, Milkman takes a walk. He reflects on how silly it was to hate his family. He now feels homesick for Pilate, for his mother, for his father, and for his sisters. Milkman recognizes his mother's emotional and sexual starvation as part of who she is, and understands the depth of hurt she endures. He also begins to comprehend his father, a man who loved his own father, and who now showed his love by loving what his father died for: land. Milkman realizes that his father's love of property and wealth is a sign of grieving, of paying respect, to his own father, Macon Dead I. Most importantly, Milkman acknowledges the pain he caused Hagar, and feels ashamed of his actions.

All the while, he walks through the town, and notices that once again the children are playing some round games and singing that same song, "Solomon don't leave me here..." Paying closer attention to the lyrics, Milkman deciphers the words, and realizes that the song is about a man named Jake, who was raised by Heddy, and whose father's name was Solomon. Milkman excitedly realizes that the song talks about his family tree. He also comes to the conclusion that Susan Byrd gave him false information, and he decides to go visit her again.

In Chapter Thirteen, Guitar comes home to find Hagar standing listlessly in his room, thinking of Milkman. He drives her home, all the while telling her that she must not waste her life because of Milkman. During the car ride, Guitar tells Hagar how everything he loved in his life left him. He tells her of his father dying at age four, of his mother running away, of being raised by his grandmother and uncle, who are both near death now. Guitar mentions that because of all that, he now cannot commit to being in a relationship with a woman. And, the one time he did get involved with a woman, she deceived him. Yet Hagar pays no attention to his talk; her eyes are empty.

Hagar does not speak for several days. Pilate and Reba do everything to cheer her up but nothing works. Cooking special foods and buying presents does not wake Hagar up from her depressed trance. Then, one day, Pilate hands Hagar a pretty gold and pink compact, which Hagar peers into and sees her own reflection. She is suddenly struck by what must be the reason Milkman does not love her. She mutters, "No wonder," several times, and states that she is a mess. Hagar browses through her closet to discover that she has nothing to wear, and makes up her mind to go shopping.

Reba pawns her two thousand dollar diamond ring that she won for a mere two hundred dollars, and hands the money over to Hagar. Hagar goes on a shopping spree, buying everything from a garter belt to nylons to a slip. She then goes to the beauty salon, and emerges with a new hairdo. On her way home, Hagar is caught by a massive thunderstorm that destroys her new hairstyle and causes her shopping bags to rip open with their contents spilling onto the street. Hagar, though, is in an oblivious state and does not pay attention to anything surrounding her. She rushes home, and eagerly dresses herself in her new clothes. And yet, when she shows herself to Reba and Pilate, they are less than thrilled with her appearance. Hagar then sees that her hair is wild from the rain, that her pantyhose are ripped, and that her face make-up is clumpy. She begins to cry, and cries for so long that her eyes soon permanently dry up and she develops a high fever. In her delirium, Hagar cries about Milkman only liking wavy, penny-colored hair. After a few days, Hagar dies.

Pilate and Reba cannot afford a funeral because they spent their last dollars on getting Hagar what she wanted. It is Ruth who finally obtains the money from Macon. Few people attend the funeral. In the middle of the ceremony, Pilate enters the funeral home, followed by Reba, and they both begin to sing a hymn entitled, "Mercy." At the end of the ceremony, Pilate identifies Hagar as her baby girl, endlessly repeating the words for all the attendees. In the end, Pilate expresses her grief through proclaiming loudly to the skies, "And she was loved."


Oral tradition plays an important role in the history of African Americans. During slavery, African Americans often included acting, gestures and singing into their storytelling, thereby creating it into an art. Storytelling also emphasizes repetition, rhythm and short phrases, making the story easily repeatable and memorable. Milkman discovers the importance of oral tradition when he realizes the meaning of the children's song/game. This also allows Milkman to come in direct contact with his roots, through an old African American tradition. Thus, Milkman finally accepts his black heritage.

The song of Solomon not only immortalizes Milkman's ancestry, it is also an important statement about African American social circumstances. In the song, Solomon abandons Ryna to fly back to Africa, and leaves her with twenty-one children. The theme of abandonment and flight is very prevalent throughout the entire novel. Guitar's mother flees after her husband's death, unable to bear the burden of raising her children alone. Pilate leaves behind Reba's father, lest he discover she does not have a navel. Milkman leaves behind Hagar, who bestowed upon him unconditional love. The theme of abandonment was also apparent in African American society; oftentimes, the male had to leave in order to search for work. Many times, as revealed through the Great Migration, families were torn apart as family members went North in search of work. Thus is the case with Milkman's family, as his father eventually traveled North and left his Southern homeland behind.

Hagar's death, indirectly caused by abandonment, has roots in her lack of a positive self-image. Hagar is convinced Milkman will love her if she changes her physical appearance, and so she goes on a wild shopping spree. Her plan does not work and Hagar dies believing Milkman would love her if she had silky, copper-colored hair. Hagar herself has kinky, at-times wild hair, and feels she does not meet the standards of beauty perpetuated by society, especially a white society. While she is dying, the narrator states she is in her Goldilocks bed, thereby making another reference to the fairy tale world. Hagar's death can also be compared to Sleeping Beauty's coma-like trance, who awaits her Prince Charming. Hagar however dies when she realizes Milkman will not come and rescue her with love.

Hagar's funeral is an odd ceremony when compared to typical African American funerals. Many African Americans believe that life is arduous, and that death allows for freedom. Most times, a reverend delivers words of comfort, and traditional hymns are sung. Pilate ignores ritual rites, enters halfway through the service, and sings a lullaby. Her indifference to tradition shows that she cannot be easily consoled, and also, it accentuates her independent character.

The final paragraphs of the chapter emphasize three colors, emerald, red, and black. All three colors evoke special significance, especially in the Christian religion. Green, a symbol of eternal life, shows hope that Hagar's soul will rest. Red carries connotations of fire and blood, as well as charity. Black signifies death.