How does Toni Morrison use gothic tropes in Home to express the African American's experience of home?
The very first chapter, which contains a memory that Frank Money has of his childhood when he was with his little sister, uses a number of different gothic tropes to explore the unsettling and uneasy relationship that African-Americans have with home, which is a word that is profoundly challenged and explored in terms of its meaning in the novel. What is so gothic about the memory of Frank Money in the first chapter is the emphasis on death and violence. Firstly, he remembers a battle he and his sister witness between two stallions:
Their raised hooves crashing and striking, their manes tossing back from wild white eyes.
What strikes Frank as a child, and what he remembers years after is their tremendous violence as they battle, but also the dignity with which they fought. On the way home, Frank and his sister hide as they see a group of men, presumably white, push a dead body in a wheelbarrow. The body is not seen by the children, but the only part of it they catch a glimpse of is the "black foot with its creamy pink and mud-streaked sole." The children watch as this body is thrust into a grave and filled. The combination of both stories and the way that they are juxtaposed in this short first chapter is very gothic with its focus on violence, and in particular the second story with a dead body and the mystery surrounding it. The implication is that life is made up of struggle, but home will always be marked by the memory of the "black foot" being buried by white men. In other words, home is not really "home" for African-Americans, thanks to the experience of racism and violence that they have endured in the past and continue to endure in the present. The unsettling, gothic opening of this novel reinforces this impression.