Reading Group Discussion Questions continue...
- What do you think of Morrison's portrayal of romantic relationships in the novel? The only successful, satisfying relationships she portrays exist between Milkman and Sweet, who have no commitments to each other, and between the first Macon Dead and his wife, Sing, who died in childbirth. Do you think Morrison is making a comment about "traditional" versus "non-traditional" unions? How important are marriage, sex, and love between men and women?
- Guitar is Milkman's first and, for a long time, only friend. He serves as Milkman's mentor, introducing him to many of life's pleasures, especially those to be found within the walls of Pilate's home. As they grow older, the two men seem to grow apart. And, though Guitar continues to offer Milkman guidance, his advice is rarely taken.How do these two lives diverge and why? Can Milkman still benefit from Guitar's wisdom? Or do the roles become reversed?
- What does Guitar mean when he says "everybody wants the life of a black man"? Do you think he is justified in joining the Seven Days? Why does he want Milkman's gold so desperately? And why does he end up trying to kill Milkman?
- What is the significance of flying in the novel? How does Morrison equate the act of flying with death and with freedom? The last sentence of the novel reads: "He leaped. As fleet and bright as a lodestar he wheeled toward Guitar and it did not matter which one of them would give up his ghost in the killing arms of his brother. For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it." Does Milkman die in this final scene? Why does Morrison leave it ambiguous?
- Milkman's journey south is an odyssey worthy of Homer: he is challenged physically and spiritually, faces death, and emerges a changed and happier man. Discuss this odyssey in terms of its symbolism and what Milkman learns about himself and his past. Why are these lessons so important? How does this journey help tie together the stories of Pilate, her brother, and her father?
Published on October 18, 1996