Song of Solomon

Guitar Bains Character Analysis

Milkman’s childhood friend, and later a member of the Seven Days, a group that enacts violent revenge on whites it perceives to be guilty. He despises whites of all kinds, and resents Macon Dead II for charging his family too much rent. He comes to desire Pilate’s gold as necessary to fund his group, and believes that Milkman seeks the gold in part to deny Guitar from getting it. Guitar thus tries to kill his friend and does murder Pilate, and the novel ends with Milkman having to make a choice whether to avenge Pilate’s death and kill Guitar or to forgive him.

Guitar Bains Quotes in Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon quotes below are all either spoken by Guitar Bains or refer to Guitar Bains. 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

They had picture-taking people and everything waiting for the next person to walk in the door. But they never did put my picture in the paper. Me and Mama looked, too, didn’t we?” She glanced at Pilate for confirmation and went on. “But they put the picture of the man who won second prize in. He won a war bond. He was white.” “Second prize?” Guitar asked. “What kind of ‘second prize’? Either you the half-millionth person or you ain’t. Can’t be no next-to-the-half-millionth.” “Can if the winner is Reba,” Hagar said. “The only reason they got a second was cause she was the first. And the only reason they gave it to her was because of them cameras.”

Related Characters: Ruth Foster (speaker), Guitar Bains (speaker), Hagar (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

“Since I was little. Since my father got sliced up in a sawmill and his boss came by and gave us kids some candy. Divinity. A big sack of divinity. His wife made it special for us. It’s sweet, divinity is. Sweeter than syrup. Real sweet. Sweeter than…” He stopped walking and wiped from his forehead the beads of sweat that were collecting there. His eyes paled and wavered. He spit on the sidewalk. “Ho—hold it,” he whispered, and stepped into a space between a fried-fish restaurant and Lilly’s Beauty Parlor.

Related Characters: Guitar Bains (speaker), Milkman
Page Number: 61-62
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

“There is a society. It’s made up of a few men who are willing to take some risks. They don’t initiate anything; they don’t even choose. They are as indifferent as rain. But when a Negro child, Negro woman, or Negro man is killed by whites and nothing is done about it by their law and their courts, this society selects a similar victim at random, and they execute him or her in a similar manner if they can. If the Negro was hanged, they hang; if a Negro was burnt, they burn; raped and murdered, they rape and murder.

Related Characters: Guitar Bains (speaker), Milkman
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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“How come it can’t fly no better than a chicken?” Milkman asked. “Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” The peacock jumped onto the hood of the Buick and once more spread its tail, sending the flashy Buick into oblivion. “Faggot.” Guitar laughed softly. “White faggot.”

Related Characters: Milkman (speaker), Guitar Bains (speaker)
Related Symbols: Flight
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

“Look. It’s the condition our condition is in. Everybody wants the life of a black man. Everybody. White men want us dead or quiet—which is the same thing as dead. White women, same thing. They want us, you know, ‘universal,’ human, no ‘race consciousness.’ Tame, except in bed. They like a little racial loincloth in the bed. But outside the bed they want us to be individuals. You tell them, ‘But they lynched my papa,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, but you’re better than the lynchers are, so forget it.’ And black women, they want your whole self. Love, they call it, and understanding.

Related Characters: Guitar Bains (speaker)
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

It sounded old. Deserve. Old and tired and beaten to death. Deserve. Now it seemed to him that he was always saying or thinking that he didn’t deserve some bad luck, or some bad treatment from others. He’d told Guitar that he didn’t “deserve” his family’s dependence, hatred, or whatever. That he didn’t even “deserve” to hear all the misery and mutual accusations his parents unloaded on him. Nor did he “deserve” Hagar’s vengeance. But why shouldn’t his parents tell him their personal problems? If not him, then who? And if a stranger could try to kill him, surely Hagar, who knew him and whom he’d thrown away like a wad of chewing gum after the flavor was gone—she had a right to try to kill him too.

Related Characters: Milkman, Guitar Bains, Hagar
Page Number: 276-277
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

Guitar looked at the cookie again, then back into Milkman’s eyes. Nothing changed in his face. Milkman knew it sounded lame. It was the truth, but it sounded like a lie. A weak lie too. He also knew that in all his life, Guitar had never seen Milkman give anybody a hand, especially a stranger; he also knew that they’d even discussed it, starting with Milkman’s not coming to his mother’s rescue in a dream he had. Guitar had accused him of selfishness and indifference; told him he wasn’t serious, and didn’t have any fellow feeling—none whatsoever. Now he was standing there saying that he willingly, spontaneously, had helped an old white man lift a huge, heavy crate. But it was true. It was true. And he’d prove it.

Related Characters: Milkman, Guitar Bains
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

“Yeah. That tribe. That flyin motherfuckin tribe. Oh, man! He didn’t need no airplane. He just took off; got fed up. All the way up! No more cotton! No more bales! No more orders! No more shit! He flew, baby. Lifted his beautiful black ass up in the sky and flew on home. Can you dig it? Jesus God, that must have been something to see. And you know what else? He tried to take his baby boy with him. My grandfather. Wow! Woooee! Guitar! You hear that? Guitar, my great-granddaddy could flyyyyyy and the whole damn town is named after him. Tell him, Sweet. Tell him my great- granddaddy could fly.”

Related Characters: Milkman (speaker), Guitar Bains, Solomon
Related Symbols: Flight
Page Number: 328
Explanation and Analysis:

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Milkman stopped waving and narrowed his eyes. He could just make out Guitar’s head and shoulders in the dark. “You want my life?” Milkman was not shouting now. “You need it? Here.” Without wiping away the tears, taking a deep breath, or even bending his knees—he leaped. As fleet and bright as a lodestar he wheeled toward Guitar and it did not matter which one of them would give up his ghost in the killing arms of his brother. For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.

Related Characters: Milkman (speaker), Guitar Bains, Solomon
Related Symbols: Flight
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:

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Guitar Bains Character Timeline in Song of Solomon

The timeline below shows where the character Guitar Bains appears in Song of Solomon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
The Power of Names Theme Icon
...free him by taking him to a woman who will shape his future. The boy, Guitar, tells Milkman that he’s been inside Pilate’s house, and takes him to see Pilate, Milkman’s... (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... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Pilate asks Guitar where he gets his name, and Guitar explains that his mother took him downtown when... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
The conversation turns to wine making, and Guitar asks Pilate if her wine is any good — surprisingly, Pilate replies that she has... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
One day — one of the few days when Milkman has opportunities to see Guitar anymore — Milkman and Guitar go to a pool hall, owned by a man named... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Guitar mentions that he doesn’t like to eat sweet foods, and Milkman is amazed. Guitar can’t... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...separate person with thoughts and emotions. Milkman leaves the house and goes in search of Guitar. He is angry that his father told him about his mother, and feels that he... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman finds Guitar in Tommy’s Barbershop. Everyone in the shop is listening to a radio report about a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman and Guitar walk to a nearby bar, Mary’s, where Milkman asks Guitar where his name comes from... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Racism Theme Icon
...Tommys are closing up their shop, Milkman asks them about their mention of saddle shoes. Guitar, who is still standing in the shop, tells Milkman that there’s information he doesn’t need... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...she is. Milkman senses that Ruth is in danger: she won’t be able to breathe. Guitar asks Milkman why he didn’t help his mother in the dream, but Milkman can only... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Milkman thinks that Guitar no longer enjoys music or drinking; the only things he likes anymore are sports and... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...and Freddie is surprised that Milkman doesn’t believe him. He then advises Milkman to ask Guitar why he’s spending time with Empire State, a mentally unstable janitor, and hints that Guitar... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Six months have passed since Milkman argued with Guitar. Milkman lies in Guitar’s bed, thinking about being stabbed by an icepick. Five hours earlier,... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
As Milkman and Guitar talk, it becomes clear that Guitar has traveled through the North. Guitar muses that the... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman asks Guitar if he can have Guitar’s room for the night. Guitar doesn’t believe that Milkman would... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Milkman sits in Guitar’s room, thinking about his mother. He hears footsteps, and knows that Hagar is coming to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Milkman is talking to Guitar about the latest of his many encounters with Hagar, who is still trying, clumsily, to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...whites,” but his examples — John F. Kennedy, Albert Schweitzer, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt — Guitar dismisses. Guitar concludes that he may be arrested for his crimes, but he doesn’t care... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Racism Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Guitar thinks about the four black girls who were blown up in a church. To avenge... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Guitar and Milkman try to think of a way to get Reba, Pilate, and Hagar out... (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Guitar wants to run into the house and steal the gold, while Milkman wants to get... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...walks in to hear Milkman arguing with Macon. Macon is angry that Milkman has included Guitar in their scheme to steal the gold, but Milkman points out that since the sack... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Pilate had been called down to the police station, where she confirmed that he and Guitar had stolen the sack — Milkman says that they did so as a joke, to... (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...has done for him — made him food, shown him beauty, etc. He thinks about Guitar and realizes that he has murdered and will murder again. Shortly thereafter he sees a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
...to Danville. He flew in a plane, which dazzled him, though he was saddened that Guitar wasn’t coming with him. Guitar had wanted to join, but Milkman told him that it... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...he learns that someone from Michigan drove to Shalimar looking for him; Milkman realizes that Guitar must have come to the store, and thinks that he must be in trouble. (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
As Milkman walks outside the General Store thinking of Guitar, he sees children playing and chanting a nursery rhyme about Solomon. He remembers that he... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...nearby gas station called King Walker’s. Milkman sleeps in his car that night, dreaming that Guitar is looking down on him. The next morning, he goes to meet the other hunters,... (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...his hand between his neck and wire, and he fires his gun into the trees. Guitar, who has been trying to murder Milkman, runs away, startled. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...on the ground. Milkman claims that he tripped and his gun went off, not mentioning Guitar. The hunters laugh and display the bobcat they’ve caught. They leave the forest and travel... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The day after Guitar tries to kill him, Milkman travels to Susan Byrd’s home. He thinks that Guitar won’t... (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
As he walks away from the house, thinking about his family, Milkman runs into Guitar, who is casually trimming his nails, and seems to have been waiting for Milkman. Stunned... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
...the events of the previous chapter. Hagar has given up her attempts to kill Milkman. Guitar, who has returned from Virginia, finds Hagar waiting at his home. He tells her to... (full context)
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Guitar’s thoughts turn to his own life. Everything he has loved left him, he tells Hagar:... (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Guitar drives Hagar back to Pilate, and Pilate and Reba treat her with great sympathy, cooking... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...by to see him, Milkman isn’t perturbed, though he assumes that it must have been Guitar. Together, Sweet and Milkman walk to the nearby river, with Milkman chanting the children’s nursery... (full context)
The Power of Names Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
...his father, and even Reverend Cooper and his friends. He also tells Sweet that if Guitar is still in Virginia and looking for Milkman that she should tell him about Solomon. (full context)
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...tries to convince himself that when he returns to Michigan, he’ll be able to convince Guitar to be friends with him again — Guitar will see that no crate has arrived,... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Milkman understands that Guitar is the one who shot Pilate, and was in fact trying to shoot him. He... (full context)
Memory and Storytelling Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Mercy and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Milkman, weeping, runs toward Guitar, asking, “You want my life? You need it? Here.” He jumps into the air, and... (full context)