Milkman: Love and Robert Smith

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Various possible motives explain Robert Smith's suicide, including Porter's drunken suggestion that Smith's suicide was motivated by love that became a burden too heavy to carry: "`I'll take hate any day. But don't give me love. I can't take no more love, Lord. I can't carry it. Just like Mr. Smith. He couldn't carry it. It's too heavy. Jesus, you know"' (26). At one level, this is simple projection, Porter's boozy effort to read his own thwarted love for First Corinthians-a relationship that Macon Dead breaks up-in the blank spaces of Robert Smith's secret life. Nevertheless, Porter's conjecture about a love too heavy to support opens up the text in several possible ways: first, the public knowledge about Robert Smith's life is that there's no love in it (8-9), which may be a consequence of its being "too heavy to carry." But, more interestingly, if Guitar's own motivation for his involvement in the Seven Days is assigned to Robert Smith, then the idea of love being too heavy to support becomes thematically important. Guitar's response to Milkman's insistence that there's "'no love"' in a life that makes you a killer and prevents you from marrying and having children is, "'What I'm doing ain't about hating white people, It's about loving us. About loving you. My whole life is love"' (emphasis added 159). However, for Robert Smith a love that kills may easily become a love too great to bear. Milkman's death is also an expression of love, but not the dangerous expression of self-centeredness that justifies murder and that prevents the peacock from flying: "`Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down"' (179). Milkman's ability to transcend the spirit-killing relationships to crass materialism, family, history, and language that make him earth-bound is inferable from not only the novel's final, equivocal imagery but also an earlier scene that parallels it. In chapter twelve, Milkman dreams of...
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