In contrast to the economic interpretation of “flight,” Morrison suggests a more internal, spiritual meaning for the word. One can fly by involving oneself in one’s community and one’s friends; paradoxically, devotion to others yields more
freedom, not less. Pilate devotes herself to Milkman and her daughter and granddaughter; Milkman later thinks that she can fly without leaving the ground, as if her love and sympathy give her a kind of independence that her brother, obsessed with his businesses, will never achieve. Whether Milkman achieves this second kind of flight is unclear. At the end of the novel, he seems to “fly” at Guitar
, but we don’t know if he’ll kill his old friend or greet him with love. If we choose to believe that Milkman will do the former, we’re subscribing the old principle of “an eye for an eye” – this would be a failed flight, by Pilate’s definition. If, however, Milkman learns to overcome hatred and the desire for revenge – in essence, a kind of payment – then perhaps he’s moved beyond financial concerns and achieved the flight that’s eluded him all his life.