Summary of Chapter Eleven
In Virginia, Milkman tracks family history to a town called Shalimar. When he gets there, he finds that Guitar is looking for him, and he suddenly knows this is dangerous. Guitar leaves him a message that is a barely veiled threat. Milkman gets into immediate trouble in Shalimar by his way of acting like a rich city man, used to buying his way around. He does not get to know the people before trying to get information, which they consider rude. He has to prove himself by having a fight with a man named Saul. After that, some men ask him to go hunting with them, and he agrees.
The hunting at night in the dark woods for coons and bobcat is an initiation ritual for Milkman. He knows nothing of hunting or country ways. The men have loaned him clothes and weapons. He has a hard time keeping up with them and realizes that all the things he has known, such as money and his father's reputation, do not mean anything now. He has only himself to rely on for survival. He has to learn how the men communicate with one another and the hunting dogs in a language of gesture and innuendo. As he rests by a tree, Guitar attacks him in the dark, pulling a wire around his neck to choke him. Guitar runs away when the other hunters approach Milkman for his help with a bobcat they have treed. He helps to kill the bobcat, and the other men like him for himself and his way of interacting with them. He notices he has lost his limp.
As he settles in to Shalimar, beginning to let go and make friends, he finds out about his family history. His grandmother was named Sing, and she was a friend of an old lady in town, Susan Byrd, whom he decides to visit. Meanwhile, Milkman is introduced to a woman he sleeps with, a woman named Sweet, who is caring and with whom he becomes caring as a lover, a new experience for him.
Commentary on Chapter Eleven
Milkman leaves artificial city life for more authentic life in the country where he has to rely on his own wits. He begins to feel self-esteem when he performs in the hunt with the other men. He also feels accepted by Sweet and begins to appreciate the gifts given by her and the other townspeople who are essentially dirt poor but willing to share.
On the other hand, his best friend from the city, Guitar, has become a killer and is looking for him. Guitar, it turns out, has been following Milkman, thinking that he is trying to get the gold for himself. Guitar is desperate to get money for his task of revenge for the Seven Days. He thinks Milkman is a traitor and rationalizes that his father works in the world of the enemy. Guitar is getting farther from himself as Milkman gets closer to his own potential.