Home To Harlem Summary and Study Guide

Claude McKay

Home To Harlem

  • 74-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 21 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with over a decade of teaching experience
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Home To Harlem Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 74-page guide for “Home To Harlem” by Claude McKay includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 21 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance and Primitivism.

Plot Summary

Home to Harlem, Claude McKay’s 1927 novel set in the Harlem underworld, is the story of Jake Brown, an attractive African American who deserts the US military during World War I in France because he is forced to be a menial laborer rather than a soldier.

Jake makes his way home as a ship’s cook, embarking in London, where he spent the remainder of the war living with a white girlfriend. When he reaches Harlem, Jake encounters his old war buddy Zeddy Plummer (who finished his military service) and a sex worker. He falls in love with her but can’t find her place again.

Jake works casually and spends most nights carousing in Harlem, but he constantly fantasizes about a life with the woman he met on his first night back.For a time, Jake lives with Rose, a cabaret singer who offers to make him a kept man, an offer he rejects. Their relationship ends after the two have a violent confrontation. Jake decides to get way from Harlem

Jake takes a job as a cook on a Pennsylvania Railroad dining car and meets Ray, a waiter on the car, former college student, and Haitian exile. Ray is uptight and sensitive. He wants to become a writer capable of chronicling the Harlem underworld.The two men’s friendship is sealed one night when Jake cares for Ray after he overdoses on drugs in a moment of overwhelming emotion.Later that year, Jake becomes ill and is forced to retreat to Harlem to recover.Ray, eager to escape a conventional life, ships out on a Pacific freighter.

When spring comes, Jake is well and runs into the woman whom he met on his first night back in Harlem. Her name is Felice; unbeknownst to Jake, she was involved with Zeddy after their encounter. The couple’s happy reunion is interrupted by a violent confrontation between the two men over Felice.Jake pulls a gun on Zeddy, but Zeddy calls him out as a cowardly deserter in front of everyone. Fearful of Jake being imprisoned for desertion, Jake and Felice leave for Chicago for a fresh start.

The gritty realism, frank representation of sex, and the presence of the jazz and blues that were central to Harlem’s identity make McKay’s novel an important contribution to the literature of the Harlem Renaissance.

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Chapters 1-3