Sing, Unburied, Sing

by

Jesmyn Ward

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Michael Character Analysis

Michael is the father of Jojo and Kayla. He is white, and comes from a racist family. However, Michael himself is not racist, and after Michael’s cousin murders Given he begins a relationship with Leonie. Michael used to work on an oil rig, but was left unemployed after an explosion on the rig, which killed 11 of his coworkers. Unable to find another job and traumatized from the explosion, Michael begins using drugs and producing crystal meth, which eventually lands him in Parchman. Michael loves his children, a fact indicated by his tattoo of Jojo’s name. However, he has serious shortcomings as a father, mainly due to the fact that he is too engrossed in drugs and his relationship with Leonie to pay much attention to Jojo and Kayla.

Michael Quotes in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The Sing, Unburied, Sing quotes below are all either spoken by Michael or refer to Michael. 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:
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Sing, Unburied, Sing published in 2017.
Chapter 7: Leonie Quotes

This is a miracle, I think, so I close my eyes and ignore Given-not-Given, who is sitting there with a sad look on his face, mouth in a soft frown, and think of Michael, real Michael, and wonder if we had another baby, if it would look more like him than Michaela. If we had another baby, we could get it right.

Related Characters: Leonie (speaker), Kayla (Michaela), Michael, Given
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10: Leonie Quotes

We are all sinking, and there are manta rays gliding beneath us and sharks jostling us. I am trying to keep everyone above water, even as I struggle to stay afloat. I sink below the waves and push Jojo upward so he can stay above the waves and breathe, but then Michaela sinks and I push her up, and Michael sinks so I shove him to the air as I sink and struggle, but they won't stay up: they want to sink like stones. I thrust them up toward the surface, to the fractured sky so they can live, but they keep slipping from my hands. It is so real that I can feel their sodden clothes against my palms. I am failing them. We are all drowning.

Related Characters: Leonie (speaker), Jojo , Kayla (Michaela), Michael
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11: Jojo Quotes

I actually cried, Michael told the water. He seemed ashamed to say that, but he went on anyway. How the dolphins were dying off, how whole pods of them washed up on the beaches in Florida, in Louisiana, in Alabama and Mississippi: oil-burnt, sick with lesions, hollowed out from the insides. And then Michael said something I'll never forget: Some scientists for BP said this didn’t have nothing to do with the oil, that sometimes this what happens to animals: they die for unexpected reasons. Sometimes a lot of them. Sometimes all at once. And then Michael looked at me and said: And when that scientist said that, I thought about humans. Because humans is animals. And the way he looked at me that night told me he wasn't just thinking about any humans; he was thinking about me.

Related Characters: Jojo (speaker), Michael (speaker)
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sing, Unburied, Sing PDF

Michael Character Timeline in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The timeline below shows where the character Michael appears in Sing, Unburied, Sing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...and has only met Big Joseph twice. Big Joseph is the father of Jojo’s father, Michael, who is in prison. Back in the narrative, Pop tackles the goat and slits its... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...Jojo then recalls happier times in his childhood, when he still called Leonie “Mama” and Michael “Pop,” before Leonie started using drugs. Jojo explains that Michael was imprisoned three years ago,... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...Leonie hates the fact that the rest of the family call Kayla “Kayla,” rather than Michaela, because she named her after Michael. Leonie arrives at the house—she has bought a cake... (full context)
Chapter 2: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
After Leonie (who narrates this chapter) gets off the phone with Michael, she goes to work an extra shift at the Cold Drink, a nearby bar. When... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
The next day Leonie and Pop argue about Leonie bringing the kids to pick Michael up from Parchman. When Leonie got her period for the first time, Mam told her... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...Leonie has to tell Mam if she’s going to take the kids to pick up Michael. When Leonie tells her, Mam asks if Misty is coming too. Misty’s boyfriend Bishop is... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...went hunting with his white teammates, even though Pop warned him against it. Given bet Michael’s cousin that he could kill a buck with a bow before Michael’s cousin could hit... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Leonie drives up to leave a note at Michael’s parents’ house to say she is going to pick Michael up. After Michael’s cousin had... (full context)
Chapter 3: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...The man is working with buckets, beakers, and tubes; Jojo recognizes the smell from when Michael lived with them and realizes that he is cooking meth. Jojo goes back inside the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...Parchman. Misty pointed out that it would pay for the trip and allow Leonie and Michael to get a place of their own. Even though Leonie agreed, she resents how easy... (full context)
Chapter 5: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...falls out of her bag, and Al picks it up. Jojo learns that Al is Michael’s lawyer, and seemingly Bishop’s as well. Leonie cooks the blackberry plant and mixes it with... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...car to continue their journey. Before long, they are at Parchman and suddenly reunited with Michael, who embraces Leonie before anyone else. In the parking lot, Michael and Leonie kiss passionately... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Michael greets the kids, introducing himself to Kayla, and Jojo feels tense. Back in the car,... (full context)
Chapter 7: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...has happened to Jojo, though she doesn’t know what. They return to Al’s house, and Michael thanks Al for everything he has done to help him. Al replies that it’s his... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Michael and Leonie have sex, which Leonie describes as a transcendent, sacred experience. After they are... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Leonie got pregnant with Jojo when she was seventeen, a year after she and Michael got together. Ever since then the children have been “between” them, and they are only... (full context)
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Leonie falls asleep in the car and wakes up to Michael shaking her, telling her that the police are behind them. They quickly swap places, as... (full context)
Chapter 8: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...of driving, the group stops at a gas station. Leonie is still bent over, and Michael gives Jojo money to buy milk and charcoal for Leonie’s stomach. At first Jojo refuses,... (full context)
Chapter 10: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...wakes up in immense pain, yet with a feeling of relief because she is with Michael. He explains that he fed her milk and charcoal and that she vomited a lot.... (full context)
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Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
They arrive back home to find Mam and Pop gone, and Michael decides to drive them over to visit his parents. Leonie feels anxious and protests, but... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...gives Kayla back to Jojo, unable to look at either of them. They drive to Michael’s parents’ house in silence. Big Joseph answers the door and hugs Michael. Michael’s mother Maggie... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Michael head-butts Big Joseph and they begin to wrestle one another. Leonie feels panicked but also... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...Pop sitting on the porch. As they get out of the car, Leonie notices that Michael is a little hesitant. Pop tells Leonie that she should go and see Mam. Inside,... (full context)
Chapter 11: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
In the morning, Kayla wakes Jojo up, saying “eat-eat.” Michael is cooking bacon in the kitchen, wearing one of Jojo’s t-shirts. Michael asks Jojo if... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He brings water to Mam and tells her that Michael hit Kayla. Mam sighs and says that Leonie “ain’t got the mothering instinct.” Jojo says... (full context)
Chapter 12: Richie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Richie sees Leonie tell Michael that she has something to do, and for a second he sees Given, but, just... (full context)
Chapter 14: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Later, Michael finds Leonie on the porch. She tells him that Mam is dead and that she... (full context)
Chapter 15: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Time has passed, and Leonie and Michael only come home to stay for a couple of days in each week. They are... (full context)