Quest For Gold In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, the relationships between whites and blacks are a main theme. Throughout the whole novel Morrison adds her own opinions toward the race problems that the characters of Not Doctor Street experience. Poverty is another big issue in the novel and many of the main characters struggle financially. Money becomes a means of escape for many of the characters, especially Milkman and Guitar.
For both men their quests for gold leaves them empty handed, but their personalities changed. Milkman’s quest was to be independent, especially since he was still living with his parents. Milkman however, was not poor. His family was considered one of the most financially comfortable black families in town. He was the spoiled son and it was galling but easy to work for his father, easy to waited on hand and foot by his mother and sisters, far easier than striking out on his own.
So his idea of freedom was not really one of working to support himself, but simply having easy money given to him, and not having to give anything to anyone in return. It was his father Macon Jr. who informed Milkman of the possibility of Pilate having millions of dollars in gold wrapped in a green tarp that was suspended from her ceiling.
The hidden gold was in Milkman’s opinion his only ticket out of Not Doctor Street, his way of having his own possessions, being free from his parents lending hand. For Guitar it was a way to escape and fund his Seven Days mission. Though gold was the initial desire, Milkman was able to forget about his quest for money, because his quest for his family history eventually brought him more wealth and happiness than the gold ever would have. When Milkman gives up in his search for gold, he puts himself on a path to discovering his own self, who Milkman was apart from his family.
This discovery is what allows him to “fly” or fall from the cliff at the end of the novel. Guitar however was not able to forget the gold; he believes Milkman has betrayed him so he sets off to follow and to murder his best friend. Poverty led many people like Guitar to join the Seven Days, a racial group that avenges injustices committed against African-Americans by murdering innocent whites. Why if racism and injustice towards blacks rather than economic injustice motivated the group, are all of its member’s poor? Initially Milkman wanted so much to find meaning in his life, and to gain his independence.
Well into his twenties he finds himself still living with his parents, and doesn’t see much of a future to look forward to. The fact the Milkman is constantly wishing to get out on his own, and find easy money proves how ignorant he is to what is actually occurring all around him. With his given money Milkman does not realize the struggle many of his fellow African Americans are going through each day. He doesn’t see the struggle, or he just doesn’t seem to worry himself with anyone other than himself. He wants to live on his own, away from his family, but he doesn’t wish to work hard to gain independence, he would rather sit and sulk in self-pity than to stand and make it on his own. As a member of a wealthy African American family, Milkman has it easier than most to succeed, he just doesn’t put forth the effort. Milkman sees no hope in independence, or a future on his own, that is until Macon Jr. tells Milkman of the gold Pilate is hiding in her shack.
The hidden gold will give him the independence and feeling of importance he both needs and desires. For Guitar the gold would make him able to buy the explosives needed to blow up the church and kill four innocent white girls for the Seven Days group. When the gold in the green tarp proves to be a bunch of rocks and a human skeleton, the police return the tarp to Pilate, who tells Macon Jr. that she never took the gold, but instead came back to the cave three years after she and Macon Jr. parted to collect the bones of the dead white man.
Pilate claimed that it was Macon Dead I who ordered her to come back to the cave. She claimed that he told her that she could not “fly on off and leave a body.” Once Milkman hears the gold is still in the cave he sets off in search of it, heading to Pennsylvania.
This was the first time Milkman had left his home on his own, and he had never felt so alive. “The airplane ride exhilarated him, encouraged illusion and a feeling of invulnerability. High above the clouds .
. . it was not possible to believe that he had ever made a mistake, or could . .
.. This one time he wanted to go solo.
In the air, away from real life, he felt free, but on the ground . . .
the wings of all those other people's nightmares flapped in his face and constrained him”(Morrison 220). Milkman tells Guitar that any gold he finds he will split with him. However, Guitar believes.