Home Summary

Toni Morrison


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Home Summary

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Home is a 2012 Toni Morrison novel that tells the story of Korean War vet, Frank Money. Although he participated in an integrated army, the society where he lives now is still segregated. It follows him as he makes his way through PTSD and US society.

The story begins with a chapter written in the first person. In it, Frank describes a scene from his childhood. He remembers two horses that stood on their hind legs and began to fight. As he tells the story, he lets us know that he and his sister were not supposed to be in the field; it is surrounded by a fence, and he and his sister slipped through a hole.

Frank finds this memory beautiful and seems to enjoy telling it. However, as he does, it takes a dark turn. On the way back, they see a group of men pushing a wheelbarrow containing a dead man. They cannot see anything about the man except for one black foot. We don’t know explicitly who is now burying the man, but we understand that they are white.

Frank and his sister remained in their hiding place for several hours. His sister was too afraid to move, but Frank tried to be brave for her. After dark, he decided that it was safe enough for them to return. He thought that they would be in trouble, but there was a commotion in town, and no one noticed them. Frank then addresses the writer saying that she cannot possibly understand or get his story right.

He claims that he had forgotten about the man in the ensuing years, only remembering the stallions. The story then follows him as he is discharged from the army after the Korean War and the aftermath of the war and his experiences with racism.

While in Korea, he watched his two best friends die right in front of him. He was also responsible for killing many people, including a young Korean girl. After his experiences, he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the first year of his discharge, he drinks too much to escape his memories and struggles to maintain life in the peaceful world, living on the streets.

He cleans himself up after that year, quitting drinking and trying to find a job. He meets Lily, a woman who works at a dry cleaner where he takes his army pants and jacket. Things seem to be looking up.

His rage, however, gets the best of him. Although his drinking is under control, his bouts of anger are not, and he lands himself in a psychiatric hospital. He loses his girlfriend, and it seems as if his whole life will be spent here.

He escapes when his sister, Cee, experiences an unknown illness that threatens to kill her, and makes his way back to his hometown of Lotus, Georgia. As he crosses the country, we can see the racism in the US and how it affects his life in ways that were not present in the army.

Home is a strange thing for him. He has spent his whole life trying to get away from Lotus, but when he arrives, he and the local women are able to save Cee’s life. They both realize that this place they have tried to escape, and that is the site of one of their most feared memories, is the home they have been looking for all along.

Identity, as always, is a prevalent theme in this slim book. Frank struggles with his memories of having to flee the Klan and other racism from town to town until he settles in Lotus, a place he compares to something worse than the battlefield. During his time in the army, he is witness to terrible actions by humanity and the destructive power we have over each other. He is responsible for the deaths of many, including a Korean girl that haunts him. When he is discharged from the army, he returns to a society that is segregated and views him as less a man. These conflicting experiences give him the feeling of being alien wherever he is. He is gripped with depression, and it literally robs his world of color.

Frank searches for his place and his community, first in the Army and then in Seattle where he lives on the streets directly after his discharge. His friends die during combat, and he is alone. He wanders the Seattle streets alone as well. He meets Lily, but she is unable to understand his trauma, and even her love is not enough to overcome her misunderstandings. Only when he returns to his hometown for his sister’s sake does he find that his community was right there with the people in his town.

Morrison has a way of outlining the experiences of black people in poetic and epic terms. She frequently writes about loss and determination, of ghosts and memories; all these things are present in Home. We understand Frank’s search for himself just as we find who we are.