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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Corinthians gets a job as the maid of the cityís poet laureate, Ms. Michael-Mary Graham. She tells her mother she is Ms. Grahamís amanuensis, her secretary. Ruth tells her friends the news and her friends are too shy to ask what the word means, but assume it involves some kind of intellectual endeavor. Corinthians loves to work for Ms. Graham where she can earn her own money, have a set of duties that give her a sense of self-respect, and get out of the house she has lived in for forty-four years.
Corinthians went to Bryn Mawr to college and then lived in France for a year before returning home. Everyone thought she would marry very well because of her fatherís money and her own accomplishments. There were no available Black men her age to marry, though. When there were such men, they found her too refined or too educated to serve their careers as an ambitious wife would. Ruth was shocked to realize Corinthians would not marry a doctor. She tried to avoid the further shock of recognizing the fact that Corinthians and Magdelena would never marry at all.
When Corinthians took the bus home from work, she began seeing a man sitting in the seat next to her. He sat there for weeks before he dropped a card in the seat as he got up to leave. It was an old- fashioned, clichéd card that asked for friendship. When she saw him again, she smiled at him and they began talking regularly on the bus rides home. He was a yard man in the neighborhood where she worked and she knows he lives in one of her fatherís rent houses. His name is Porter. After a while, they began to go out in the evenings to drive-in movies and diners. They never admitted it, but they were hiding from other people for fear of being seen together.
One night, Porter asked her to come to his room. She told him she couldnít and said she couldnít tell her father about him yet. He drove her home and told her to leave. As she walked to her house, she realized he wasnít going to come back for her. She couldnít stand the idea of being lonely again. She ran all the way back to the car and banged on the window for him to let her in. When he didnít, she threw herself on the hood of the car and planned to hang on no matter how fast he drove. He got out and helped her off the car and into the seat. They went to his apartment and made love. When she got back home late that night, she heard her father and brother discussing something in the kitchen.
Macon and Milkman were discussing the event of the robbery. Milkman and Guitar had been stopped by police as they drove away. They were taken to the police station and thatís where they found out the bag contained not gold but bones and rocks. Macon had come to the jail and bribed the officers to release the two. They insisted, however, that Pilate come to verify the story. Milkman was shocked and ashamed when Pilate came into the jailhouse looking like a little, frail, muddle-headed old woman. She had behaved in a way that made the officers laugh at her and think her powerless. Milkman had noticed Guitar looking at Pilate with complete hatred as they dropped her off at her house.
On the way home, Pilate sat in the front seat and told Macon the story of how she went back for the bones. She said she had waited a day and a half to come to the entrance of the cave and then she found he was gone. So she left also and didnít come back for three years. She came back because her father had appeared to her and told her she couldnít just leave a body. She told Macon she agreed with that idea. She believes that when a person takes another personís life, she is responsible for it. It weighs on her unless she does right by the dead person. She had decided long since that it was better the carry the bones around with her than to leave them behind, because she would be carrying the memory of taking the manís life anyway. She told the police, however, that it was her lynched husbandís bones and that she had never been able to afford to bury him.
Milkman stayed drunk for a couple of days and then went looking for Guitar. When he got to Guitarís place, he saw Guitar outside the door guarding it. Then he saw the other of the Seven Days get into an old buick, the same car he had seen Corinthians riding in when she was being dropped off in front of the house. He had smiled at her for having a clandestine affair at her age, but when he saw that she must be having an affair with one of the Seven Days, he decided it was dangerous for her.
When Milkman came home one night slightly drunk, Magdelena called him to come to her room. He was impatient to go to bed, but went with her reluctantly. She told him to look out the window at a maple tree outside. Itís dying and she wants him to see how important that fact is. She tells him she planted that maple tree years ago on the Sunday that he urinated on her. She tells him the story of the Sunday drive when she had been chosen to take him up the hill on the roadside to urinate. She had picked flowers and when she got to him, he had urinated on her. She had hated him for that and wished him dead, but she had also planted the flowers in the yard. They hadnít lived, but the maple tree had sprouted there and grew. Now it was dying. Magdelena says he had been urinating on the three women of the house as long as he has been alive and she will not stand for it any more. She says he has never noticed all they do for him or his own privilege which comes from no other merit than the fact that he has a penis. She tells him she knows it was he who told Macon that Corinthians was seeing Porter. Now Corinthians has been forced to quit her job and is not allowed to leave the house. Magdelena tells Milkman he "has pissed [his] last in this house." Milkman leaves her room thinking to himself that she has given him good advice.
Book one ends with Magdelena telling Milkman that he has been treating the women in the house like they were servants to him all his life. She has found out that Milkman told Macon that Corinthians has been having an affair with Porter. Macon has forced Corinthians to quit her job and remain at home. Magdelena tells Milkman to leave them alone and he walks away thinking he should take her advice. Even though Toni Morrison writes this novel with a male protagonist, she employs the points of view of women to uncover Milkmanís male privilege. Milkman has lived his life at home being treated like a prince, never recognizing the work it took on the part of his mother and sisters to enable that life or the fact that he only got that life by virtue of his gender, not his merit. Magdelena has been a very minor character up until this point in the novel. She has been almost wholly silent. Here, Morrison brings her out to give Milkman the truth of his life. This technique of bringing a previously silent character to life at a strategic point in the life of the protagonist is Morrisonís own invention. The force of Magdelenaís words arises as much from her previous silence as her present eloquence.