Character Analysis Guitar Bains


As Milkman's mentor, best friend, and confidant, Guitar, "the golden-eyed boy," is Milkman's counterpart and alter ego. To Milkman, he is the "wise and kind and fearless" boy who "not only could liberate him, but could take him to the woman [Pilate] who had as much to do with his future as she had his past." As indicated by his symbolic name, Guitar is instrumental in helping Milkman learn to fly. In essence, he provides the musical accompaniment to Pilate's blues song that holds the key to Milkman's spiritual growth.

Like Pilate, Guitar knows that if Milkman wants to fly, he must first relinquish his extra baggage, including his illusions of independence, his arrogance, and his materialistic values. As he tells Milkman when the two discuss the white peacock's inability to fly, "Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." Thus Guitar shares Pilate's innate wisdom; however, he lacks the ability to make rational decisions and the wisdom to temper his knowledge with love and compassion. Although he advises Milkman to give up the materialistic things that prevent him from flying, Guitar is also unable to fly because he has not given up his own psychological baggage that weighs him down, such as his hatred of whites. Both Pilate and Guitar share a tragic past: Both have witnessed the deaths of their fathers at a very young age. But although Pilate copes with her grief, goes on with her life, and keeps her father's memory alive, Guitar is unable to cope with his grief. Instead, he allows his grief to control his life.

The youngest and most extreme member of the Seven Days, Guitar's background, politics, and leadership status recall the young Malcolm X. The novel draws numerous parallels between Malcolm X and Guitar: Guitar — born in 1925 — lives in an unnamed town in Michigan; Malcolm X — born in 1925 — lived in both Lansing and Detroit, Michigan. Macon refers to Guitar as "that red-headed nigger"; Malcolm X's nickname was "Detroit Red." Guitar has a gift for rhetoric and loves to debate history and geography; Malcolm X was noted for his outspoken views on history and geography. Guitar's racial politics and membership in the Seven Days parallel Malcolm X's political views and his membership in the Nation of Islam (also known as the Black Muslims). And the gruesome circumstances surrounding the death of Guitar's father parallel the events surrounding the death of Malcolm X's father. But while Malcolm X ultimately expanded his views on race, Guitar is unable to move past his limited views and feels compelled to adhere to the Days' strict moral code — even if it means killing his best friend.