Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14 & 15


Milkman revisits Susan Byrd, and pressures her into revealing all of his family history. Susan Byrd then tells him the story of his great-grandfather Solomon, who flew away from the plantation all the while carrying his son Jake with him. Solomon left behind his wife, Ryna, and all their twenty children except for Jake. During his flight, Solomon accidentally brushed against some tree branches and dropped his son Jake. Jake's fall was saved by the branches, and he landed in the backyard of an Indian woman named Heddy. Heddy had one child at the time, named Singing Bird, and decided to raise Jake as if he were her own. Soon after, Heddy gave birth to a boy named Crow Bird, later known as Crowell Byrd, who became Susan Byrd'd father. In the meantime, Sing had run off with Jake on a wagon full of freed slaves heading North.

Susan Byrd tells Milkman that she did not want to discuss her family history with Grace Long in the room because Grace has a bad habit of gossiping. Susan claims that if Grace found out Heddy didn't have a husband, it would be all over the county. Having rejected her black and Native American heritage, Susan is proud of having relatives who can pass for white. Her dislike for African Americans is clear when she refers to Jake as being black like coal. Prior to his leave, Milkman thanks Susan for all the information she was able to provide him, but he does not tell her he is a relative. Milkman thinks she would not be pleased to find out she has black relatives. He never does reclaim his gold watch.

Chapter Fifteen opens after Milkman leaves Susan Byrd's house. He rejoices at his newfound family history and arrives at Sweet's home, wanting to swim in the real sea. She and Milkman go to the local quarry, where they frolic around in the water. Milkman begins bellowing out the song of Solomon, much to Sweet's surprise.

Milkman finally begins his journey back to Michigan. He sells his car, which broke down again, and instead takes a bus. On the bus, Milkman ponders about the meanings of names, and thinks about his family both in the North and South. Suddenly Guitar's warning pops into his head, which forces Milkman to think about their ruined friendship. Milkman realizes that Guitar is to some degree insane but hopes he will be able to one day look past the gold, if he doesn't kill Milkman first.

In Michigan, Milkman visits Pilate. He is excited to share his discoveries with her. Instead of a big hug to welcome him back, Pilate hits him across the head with a wine bottle. Milkman wakes up to find himself in the cellar, surrounded by Hagar's things. He realizes that Hagar must be dead, and accepts this as his fault. Pilate believes that if someone takes a life, that life becomes whose ever took it. Precisely for that reason, Pilate has held onto the bones that she keeps in her green sack. After some time, Pilate enters the cellar and Milkman informs her that she has been carrying around her father's bones. He convinces her that she must bury him. Pilate then sends Milkman home with a boxful of Hagar's hair.

Upon his return home, he discovers that Corinthians has moved out with Porter and they now share a small house on the Southside. Lena, although still cold and unforgiving, is civil to him while his father and mother remain on the same terms. Macon is thrilled to hear about Milkman's trip to Virginia, and is especially proud to hear that places have been named after his family. Macon decides that he too one day will have to visit Virginia again.

Milkman and Pilate head out to Virginia to bury Macon Dead I's bones. They finally find a spot by a ravine called Solomon's Leap, and they dig a deep hole to bury the bones in. After the bones have been buried, Pilate takes off her earring and drops it into the grave. Just then, Pilate drops to the ground from a bullet destined for Milkman. Milkman takes her limp body in his hands and sings to her as she is dying.

Once he realizes that she is dead, Milkman gets up and screams Guitar's name. The mountains echo back a response, and in the shadows, Milkman sees Guitar's figure against the dark trees. Milkman then leaps into the air, and springs at Guitar. Milkman now knows that, "If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it."


Susan Byrd's disdain for African-Americans and for Native Americans shows a lack of understanding at how rich her ancestry is. Instead of accepting her heritage, and therefore her past, Susan is only happy that her relatives are so light-skinned that they could pass for white. Interestingly, Susan is a teacher, but she does not want to learn anything about herself. As he is leaving, Milkman does not reclaim his gold watch, which Susan Byrd says Grace Long took. However, he is not at all affected by this news, thereby calling attention to his newfound lack of affection for material objects.

Pilate has carried her name in a snuffbox attached to her ear as a reminder of the importance of names. Once Milkman is aware of the history behind names, he gains a special knowledge that allows Pilate to take her name out of her ear. Pilate no longer needs her earring as a physical reminder as Milkman now has the spiritual and emotional knowledge to carry on their names to the next generation. Just as Pilate has carried her name as a physical memory, Milkman's family identity becomes an essential part of his identity.

The concept of flight not only begins the novel, but the story ends with it as well. Once dead, Pilate's body is encircled with birds, flying about her. One of the birds grabs the snuffbox out of the ground and carries it high in the air, signifying that Pilate's name and existence will live on through the generations. Milkman's belief in flight is reemphasized through his jump at Guitar. Morrison leaves Milkman's death in an ambiguous state, perhaps stating that whether he physically lives or not is not imperative. Milkman, who underwent a spiritual rebirth, will always be alive because his family name will now live on.

Milkman's final words emphasize not only his belief in flight, but his understanding of it. His ability to ride the air suggests that he has trust in the ability of how to choose his own fate. In contrast to the beginning of the novel where Mr. Smith fails at flight, we the readers are now presented with the possibility of a second chance. Milkman's jump at Guitar is optimistic as Milkman now understands how to fly. The concept of flight can be regarded as both realistic and hypothetical. Flight, throughout the entire novel, has been regarded as natural. After all, Solomon flew back to Africa. However, up until this point, no one has ever succeeded at flight. Milkman's spiritual rebirth as well as his newfound identity helps secure his survival against Guitar's revenge. However, it is up to the reader to decide whether or not Milkman wins over his opponent.