chapter  5
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
Pages 12

Song of Solomon begins with a Black man jumping off the roof of Mercy hospital, a hospital that would not accept Black patients. Coincidentally, one of the onlookers, the pregnant Ruth Foster Dead, was to be the first Black patient admitted there the next day when she gave birth to the novel’s main character, Macon Dead, III-who would come to be known as Milkman. Most of the significant characters are introduced in this scene. Guitar Bains, a young child newly arrived from the south, is told to go get a security guard. Guitar is to become Milkman’s first, best, and only friend. Guitar ultimately develops murderous intentions toward Milkman. Pilate Dead, Milkman’s aunt, is in the crowd, singing as she watches the unfolding drama. Pilate will play an important part in Milkman’s development from a child to an adult to a conscious being, secure in his identity. The song Pilate sings in that scene will be the key to Milkman understanding and accepting his identity, though it will not happen until he is in his thirties. The jumper, Robert Smith, is a current member, and Guitar is a future member, of a secret organization, The Seven Days. The two other significant characters are not in the scene: Pilate’s granddaughter, Hagar, and Macon Dead-Milkman’s father.