Summary of Chapter Nine
First Corinthians, the older sister of Milkman, has been given a college education as befits her middle-class status. Her parents educated her to become the wife of some aspiring black attorney or minister, but none were found. Rather than have no life at home, she tells her parents she has found work as a secretary and personal assistant to the state poet laureate, Michael-Mary Graham, a demanding woman who condescends to share her books with First Corinthians. In fact, First Corinthians is the woman's black maid and has to hide the fact that she speaks French and knows more about literature than her employer. While going to work on the bus, she meets Henry Porter, one of her father's tenants, and they are attracted, yet when he invites her to his room, she refuses. He understands that she is ashamed of him because she has been raised as a lady. He calls it off, and once she realizes what it means, that she will be alone, she is desperate for the affair. She stays with him at night and one morning when she sneaks home, she overhears her father and Milkman arguing about the robbery at Pilate's house.
Guitar and Milkman were caught by the police and discover in the police station that the bag contained human bones, not gold. Macon and Pilate are called to the police station. Macon tries to throw his weight and money around to get his son out of the situation, blaming all on the lower-class Guitar. In fact, only Pilate is able to turn the situation around and free her nephew. She puts on a role with the police, playing a stupid old superstitious woman who carries her dead husband's bones with her. The police laugh and let everyone go.
Instead of coming to his senses, Macon insists that Pilate left the gold in the cave. Milkman stays drunk, refusing to understand what he has done. Meanwhile, he sees Guitar more clearly, bent on his hateful mission of revenge and also sees that Porter is a member of the Seven Days. One day his other sister, Magdalene, called Lena, fights with Milkman telling him he is a parasite, causing the whole family pain. For instance, his report to his father that Corinthians is having an affair with Porter has caused Macon to break it off and to get Porter fired and evicted. She tells Milkman to leave, and he does.
Commentary on Chapter Nine
First Corinthians is the name of the seventh book of the New Testament of the Bible. It is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the new Christian church at Corinth, Greece, to inspire them. The most famous passage of the book from 1 Corinthians 13 is on love, expressing that one could have money and even spiritual perfection but without love, one is nothing. This theme expresses First Corinthians' personal trial to have the right to be in love with a man she chooses.
One of the most pathetic scenes of this chapter is when First Corinthians understands that her pretense of being a high-class lady is out of line with her personal need for love and a relationship. She throws herself on the hood of Porter's car, clawing at the windshield, in a gesture of life and death. Suddenly, her father's ideas about class and money mean nothing in light of living at home as an unfulfilled spinster.
When Milkman discovers his sister is going with Porter, he tells his father about it because he knows Porter is a member of a black terrorist organization. His intervention is not understood, and Corinthians is miserable. Magdalene has never liked her brother and tells him off, the last straw, finally sending him on his journey. Magdalene is the name of the chief female disciple of Christ. In this story Lena is the oldest daughter who stays at home to help her mother and take care of her baby brother. She is generally passive and submissive except in this explosive scene where she tells Milkman he is spoiled and a drag on the family.