Summary: Chapter 6

Milkman confronts Guitar and asks him to reveal the reasons for his secretive behavior. Guitar tells him that he belongs to a secret society called the Seven Days. The organization, composed of seven black men each of whom is assigned a day of the week, kill white people at random every time that a black person is murdered and the assailants are left unpunished. Guitar says that Robert Smith and Henry Porter were both members. The Seven Days try to make each revenge killing similar to the original violence against the black victim. If he was hanged, for example, they hang their next victim. These revenge killings are performed on the same day of the week as the original murders of the black victims. Guitar is the only young man in the group.

Guitar tells Milkman that his activities are driven by the firm belief that whites are “unnatural” people who would murder and pillage in the right circumstances. The twentieth-century German leader Adolf Hitler, Guitar argues, murdered Jews because there were no blacks around. Furthermore, he continues, blacks need to take drastic measures to avenge assaults against them. Unlike Jews who survived World War II concentration camps, they do not have recourse to legal action. Guitar concludes by saying that his actions help keep the ratio of blacks to whites balanced, ensuring that whites will not gain an upper hand by means of genocide.

Milkman counters Guitar’s rhetoric by telling him that many whites have made real sacrifices on behalf of African-Americans. He also asks why Guitar does not change his name, like Malcom X did, in order to show that he refuses to accept his “slave name.” But Guitar answers that his slave name, Bains, does not bother him—only his slave status does. To no avail, Milkman begs Guitar to see him and others as human beings rather than whites or blacks. Milkman finishes his conversation with Guitar by telling him that Guitar’s murderous activities are “crazy,” that they have become a “habit,” and that since he is able to kill so callously, he might move toward killing black people, including Milkman himself.

Summary: Chapter 7

Life, safety, and luxury fanned out before him like the tailspread of a peacock.

See Important Quotations Explained

After his conversation with Guitar, Milkman goes to speak with Macon Jr. Stifled from spending over thirty years at home, he asks Macon Jr. if he can leave home for a year to travel and explore his personal interests. During the conversation, Milkman unintentionally mentions the green sack hanging from Pilate’s ceiling.

Macon Jr. interrupts Milkman and his eyes begin to gleam. He tells Milkman about the days after his father’s murder. For two weeks, Macon Jr. and Pilate hid in a manor house where Circe, the midwife, worked as a maid. While in hiding, Pilate put a brown piece of paper with her name on it in a snuffbox, attached a wire to the box, and began to wear it as an earring. After Macon and Pilate left Circe, they traveled across the countryside, encountered their father’s ghost sitting on a tree trunk, and then saw the ghost again at the mouth of a cave. The siblings followed the ghost into the cave and spent the night there. In the morning, Macon Jr. became aware that there was someone else in the cave: an old, white man. Terrified that he was seeing an apparition, Macon Jr. killed the man. Underneath the man’s green tarp, Macon Jr. discovered a treasure of gold nuggets. Macon Jr. imagined a life of luxury spread out before him “like the tailspread of a peacock,” but then they saw their father standing before them. Macon Dead I then disappeared and Pilate darted around the cave looking for him. Macon Jr. wanted to take the treasure, but Pilate urged him not to. They fought. Macon Jr. left and came back three days later, finding the dead man still there, but Pilate, the tarpaulin, and the gold were gone.

After hearing Milkman mention the green tarpaulin, Macon Jr. becomes convinced that it is full of the dead man’s treasure. He urges his son to “get the gold” so that they can share it.