Song of Solomon

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Macon Dead II Character Analysis

The son of Jake (Macon Dead I), brother of Pilate, husband of Ruth, and father of Milkman, First Corinthians, and Magdalene called Lena. Macon is the jealous, unhappy patriarch of the Dead family. He is perpetually suspicious of his wife, Ruth, since he suspects her of having an incestuous relationship with her own father, Doctor Foster. Macon Dead II names each of his daughters randomly by picking text from the Bible. He has risen to great wealth, acts as a landlord to many of the residents of the town, and focuses on his businesses and building even more wealth. He eventually pressures Milkman, into working for him, a job that Milkman comes to enjoy, and sets Milkman on the quest to recover the gold he believes Pilate has stolen from him.

Macon Dead II Quotes in Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon quotes below are all either spoken by Macon Dead II or refer to Macon Dead II . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Power of Names Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Song of Solomon published in 2004.
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

“Boy, you got better things to do with your time. Besides, it’s time you started learning how to work. You start Monday. After school come to my office; work a couple of hours there and learn what’s real. Pilate can’t teach you a thing you can use in this world. Maybe the next, but not this one. Let me tell you right now the one important thing you’ll ever need to know: Own things. And let the things you own own other things. Then you’ll own yourself and other people too. Starting Monday, I’m going to teach you how.”

Related Characters: Macon Dead II (speaker), Milkman
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Macon Dead II, irritated with his son, Milkman, for spending so much time with Pilate, decides to give him some lessons in "being a man." Macon explains that Milkman must begin adulthood by aspiring to own as much as possible: ownership is the only way to be powerful and successful.

Macon's lessons for Milkman are a stark reminder of how many blacks in the U.S. tried to escape racism and gain independence by making money at all costs (a "tough" strategy famously exemplified by Booker T. Washington). Macon's advice seems harsh and deliberately un-spiritual, hence Macon's observation that Pilate's side of life is only fit for Heaven not Earth. Macon seems to believe that there's no point in being religious or hoping for the next world--the only way to get ahead in life is to own things. He has a point, as financial independence is one way for a black man to escape many of the racist obstacles of society, but at the same time Macon's philosophy seems devoid of any real happiness or spiritual fulfillment.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Song of Solomon quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

“In the bed,” he said, and stopped for so long Milkman was not sure he was going to continue. “In the bed. That’s where she was when I opened the door. Laying next to him. Naked as a yard dog, kissing him. Him dead and white and puffy and skinny, and she had his fingers in her mouth.

Related Characters: Macon Dead II (speaker), Milkman , Ruth Foster, Doctor Foster
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Macon Dead II tells his son, Milkman, the "truth" about Ruth and her father. Macon believes that he's seen Ruth kissing her father in a perverse, incestuous matter: he walked in on her naked and kissing her dying father's fingers. Macon interprets the incident as unambiguously sexual, suggesting that Ruth was locked in some kind of larger sexual relationship with her father.

As we come to see, however, the incident is far from unambiguous. While Macon continues to maintain that Ruth and her father were having an incestuous affair, Ruth herself maintains that her father never touched her, and in fact she was kissing her father's fingers because he was dying, and his fingers were the only parts of his body that he could still feel. Macon--whether he's right or wrong about his wife--has projected his own sexual insecurity onto the incident: i.e., he's so jealous of Ruth that he's assumed she's sleeping with her own father.

Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

He’d always believed his childhood was sterile, but the knowledge Macon and Ruth had given him wrapped his memory of it in septic sheets, heavy with the odor of illness, misery, and unforgiving hearts. His rebellions, minor as they were, had all been in the company of, or shared with, Guitar. And this latest Jack and the Beanstalk bid for freedom, even though it had been handed to him by his father—assigned almost—stood some chance of success.

Related Characters: Macon Dead II , Milkman , Ruth Foster, Guitar Bains
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Milkman and Guitar have planned to work together to steal gold from Pilate's house. Milkman wants to steal gold for a number of reasons, but above all, he wants to gain a measure of freedom and independence for himself--he thinks that with the money the gold will provide, he'll be able to travel far away and start a life for himself.

As the quotation indicates, Milkman's desire for freedom and independence is psychological as well as geographic. He's learned a lot about his family in recent months: he knows about the possibly incestuous relationship between his mother and grandfather; his other grandfather's years as a slave, etc. Milkman is, in short, haunted by his family's past, and by the nightmarish legacy of racism as a whole. For now, he thinks that the best way to escape his own past is to make money and use it to "start over."

Get the entire Song of Solomon LitChart as a printable PDF.
Song of solomon.pdf.medium

Macon Dead II Character Timeline in Song of Solomon

The timeline below shows where the character Macon Dead II appears in Song of Solomon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...son grows up with his older sisters. Ruth is married to an angry, imposing man, Macon Dead. Dead bullies his daughters and wife, and while his presence makes them quiet and... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...when her father was alive. Whenever she points out the beauty of the centerpiece to Macon, he only criticizes her cooking. Eventually she removes the bowl, exposing the water mark on... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...Ruth nursed him around the Southside of the town. Eventually, everyone calls Ruth’s son Milkman. Macon Dead never learns where Milkman gets his nickname, since Freddie never tells him, but he... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon Dead spent fifteen years wanting a son; then when he had one — Milkman —... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon walks down Not Doctor Street to his “office,” which still bears a sign that says... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
As a young father, Macon followed the same naming process that his parents used: randomly pointing to a name from... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
When Macon Dead’s son was born, Pilate was extremely interested in the child. She acted like an... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Macon arrives at his office, and meets several of his tenants: he is a landlord. A... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon thinks of the first time he met Ruth’s father, Doctor Foster. He was less successful... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
As Macon sits in his office and thinks, Freddie, the town gossip, tells him that Porter, a... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon arrives at Porter’s home and tells him to turn over his rent. Porter points his... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Macon walks by Pilate’s house, where she and her daughter survive without electricity. He remembers that... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Macon walks toward Pilate’s house and hears his sister singing along with Reba, her daughter, and... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Magdalene, called Lena, and First Corinthians are Macon Dead and Ruth’s daughters. On a Sunday afternoon drive, they sit in the back seat... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
As Macon drives the car down Not Doctor Street, some blacks in the street envy his wealth... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...but Corinthians tells her that a few blacks can afford to live there. Ruth tells Macon to slow down, and Macon angrily tells her to stop, or she can walk home. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Corinthians and Lena ask Macon if he’s going to buy a summer house. Macon replies that he might buy and... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Guitar asks if Pilate is Macon Dead’s sister, and Pilate tells him that she is one of only three Dead’s left... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...part because he’s visiting his aunt in secret, defying his father. When he returns home, Macon Dead accuses him of drinking, but Milkman insists that he hasn’t drunk anything. Macon reminds... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman asks Macon if his father treated him like a baby when he was twelve, and in spite... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman notices that Macon seems more relaxed and easy-going than usual. He asks how Macon’s father died. Macon remembers... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Milkman asks what Macon’s father’s real name was, and Macon replies by reminiscing about his father, who died when... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...gets better after he begins working for his father. He runs errands to the houses Macon is renting, which gives him opportunities to visit the wine house where Pilate lives. Milkman... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...go to a pool hall, owned by a man named Feather. Feather, who rents from Macon, tells Milkman to get out, on the grounds that he’s Macon’s son. Guitar tries to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...has more in common with FDR than with his father. While he fears and respects Macon, he deliberately tries to be different from him. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon enjoys teaching his son his business, since it means that his son belongs to him... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
The last time that Macon hits Ruth occurs when Milkman is 22 years old — and Milkman hits Macon back.... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
One example of the way Ruth provokes Macon occurs when the family is eating dinner. Ruth describes going to the wedding of Anna... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon doesn’t believe that Ruth didn’t know about communion, and shouts that Anna Djvorak doesn’t even... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon is humiliated and surprised that another man is dominating him, but is also a little... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...had encouraged him to use his middle name, Foster, instead of going by “Dr. Dead.” Macon wants his daughters to attend school, since they’ll be able to meet husbands there, but... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon enters Milkman’s room and tells him to sit down, which Milkman does. Macon explains that... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Macon then adds that after Dr. Foster died, Macon came upon Ruth lying next to her... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...her if she’s here to “spend the night” with her father. Ruth, addressing Milkman as Macon, explains that her father wasn’t a good man, but he was the only man who... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...“Sing,” which she did, beautifully. She remembered her father’s death, and thought that she and Macon were responsible for it. Nevertheless, she continued to take good care of Reba, and acted... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...gave birth to her own child, Hagar, and so Pilate decided to find her brother Macon, who she thought would help to provide for them. She finds him, and is able... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...the money to be “free.” As it is, he still lives at home, working for Macon. At times, he begs for some money, so that he can leave town, but Macon... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman meets Macon for lunch, where Macon tells him about his teenage years with Pilate. After the death... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Homeless, Macon and Pilate survive on fruit and live in a cave, in which at one point... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Racism Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...and Guitar will steal the gold and split it three ways, leaving a share for Macon. Macon thinks that he and his son will split the gold down the middle, but... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...her back into the car; she cries, and he takes her to his home, which Macon owns. The narrator notes that this is the same home where Porter had urinated and... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...drives Corinthians back to her house, where she walks in to hear Milkman arguing with Macon. Macon is angry that Milkman has included Guitar in their scheme to steal the gold,... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...who had been lynched years ago. After Milkman was released from his cell, Pilate meets Macon and tells him a different story about the bones: after their clash in the cave,... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...place where she shows him a tree. Years ago, she had taken Milkman out of Macon’s car to urinate, and planted some twigs she found there. In the years since then... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Furious, Lena tells Milkman that for years, Macon has been treating his daughters like jewels to be shown off, and then humiliating both... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
...cheerfully accepted money from the foreman, and bought her children candy. He reminds Milkman that Macon has evicted him from his home. (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
...bus to Danville, where he realizes how difficult it will be to find the cave Macon told him about. He asks a man if he knows where Circe lived, and the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
...family for whom Circe worked for many years delivering babies, were the people who murdered Macon’s father. No trial or investigation was ever held, because the Butlers were influential in the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
While Milkman waits the four days for the trip, he meets other men who remember Macon Dead and Macon’s father as powerful, successful men who overcame racism and poverty. They’re delighted... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...calls herself Circe, tells Milkman she knew he’d come one day. Milkman tells Circe that Macon is now 72 years old. Circe seems both interested and uninterested; she tells Milkman that... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Circe mentions Macon’s mother, a woman named Sing who was of black and Native American descent and bragged... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...wanted to help the dogs and preserve the house. Before Milkman leaves, Circe tells him Macon’s father’s real name: Jake. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Milkman asks the hunters if they knew Pilate, Sing, or Macon’s father. Vernell, remembers Sing as a light-skinned girl; he reveals that her last name was... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...body Pilate found when she returned to the cave wasn’t that of the old man Macon killed — it was the body of her own father, whose bones she has been... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...when Smith jumped off the hospital roof. When Milkman tells his father what he’s learned, Macon is indifferent to the fact that Solomon flew, but he likes to hear that people... (full context)