Summary of Chapter Seven
Milkman knows he is drifting in his life and asks his father if he can travel for a year. He accidentally mentions to his father Pilate's green bag that she hangs from her ceiling. Macon suddenly believes this bag contains gold and tells Milkman the rest of the story about his father's death.
After the Dead children witnessed the death of their father, they ran to the nearby home of their midwife nurse, Circe, who delivered them. She is a maid in this huge mansion and has to hide the children and feed them secretly so they will not be discovered by the white employer. The children are murder witnesses in danger. Pilate pierces her ear and uses her mother's snuffbox with her name, Pilate, written on a scrap of paper inside, as an earring she never takes off. After two weeks, the children leave and wander on their own. They notice a man who looks like their father following them. He leads them to a cave where they spend the night. The next day they notice an old white man is also sleeping there. Macon is terrified and kills him. They find the man has a stash of gold. Pilate argues they cannot steal it, and Macon wants it. They fight and go their own ways, but Macon always believes Pilate took the gold since he had to leave the cave first. Now Macon tells Milkman that if he breaks into Pilate's house and takes the green bag, he will give him half the money and let him go travel on his own.
Commentary on Chapter Seven
Milkman is tested and seems to be falling further and further away from himself or a moral direction. He begins to be infested with his father's love of money and belief that it will solve everything. He is even willing to break into his aunt's house and rob her, though she has been like a mother to him. This chapter and many future chapters of Milkman's quest appear more and more mythical in terms of the telling, the names, and the adventures.
The children are led by their father's ghost to a cave for shelter. There are reminiscences of Homer's Odyssey, with the mention of caves, bones, treasure, and the nurse, Circe. Circe was the name of the witch who turned Odysseus's men into animals, a reference that is expanded upon when Milkman later visits her and sees her surrounded by the dogs she breeds. The children fight over the gold but not over the corpse and what to do about it. Eventually, Macon sends his son back to the cave for the gold, but Pilate comes back for the bones of the dead man to atone for the sin of killing him. Morrison's story gathers power from blending historical settings and events with mythic storytelling about quests, gold, and villains. Guitar and Milkman had argued about what was important in life and now they set out on a journey to act on their beliefs. Guitar believes in causes and sacrifice, while Milkman looks out for himself. Both want money to achieve their desires.