Home by Toni Morrison is a 2012 novel about Frank Money, an African-American man from Georgia who struggles after returning from the Korean War.
- After receiving a letter indicating that his sister, Cee, is in danger, Frank covertly leaves the psychiatric hospital where is he being treated. Frank makes his way to Atlanta by bus and train.
- During his journey, Frank reflects on various chapters in his life, including his failed relationship with his ex-girlfriend Lily and his harrowing experiences in the Korean War.
- Frank rescues Cee from a racist eugenicist doctor and they return to their hometown of Lotus for her recuperation.
Last Updated on October 22, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1707
Home is Toni Morrison’s tenth novel. Published in 2012, it received positive reviews and became a national bestseller. Critics praised Morrison’s use of language and the simplicity of the narrative. Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 and was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Her novels focus on the stories of black people in America, especially African American women.
Home follows the story of Korean War veteran Frank Money, an African American man who grew up in Lotus, Georgia. After the war, Frank struggles with alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Listless and sad, the only thing that can break Frank’s stupor is a letter warning him that his beloved younger sister, Cee, is in danger. Frank, revitalized, travels to Atlanta in order to save Cee. Along the way, he reflects on his experiences during the war, his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Lily, and the discrimination he faces as an African American man in 1950s America.
The novel alternates between first- and third-person narration. The third-person chapters explore stories from the lives of both Frank and the women in his life. These include stories about his sister, Cee, his ex-girlfriend, Lily, and his step grandmother, Lenore. The first-person narration is told in retrospect as Frank reflects on his experiences. These chapters distance Frank from the narrator of the third-person sections. There are also subtle inconsistencies between Frank’s first-person reflections and the third-person accounts, suggesting that truth differs depending on the type of story being told.
Toni Morrison’s novel Home opens with Frank Money narrating an event from his childhood where he and his younger sister, Cee, snuck into a cordoned-off field. They watch in awe as two stallions fight, and Frank remarks on the beauty of the horses. On their way home, they see a group of men burying a body, which horrifies Cee. Frank claims he forgot about the body but still remembers the beauty of the horses that “stood like men.”
The narrative switches to third person as an adult Frank plots his escape from a mental hospital. A few days earlier, Frank received a letter telling him that Cee is in danger and that he needs to rescue her. After successfully escaping in the middle of the night, Frank is left without shoes. After walking six blocks in the snow, he knocks on the door of a church. Reverend John Locke and his wife give Frank shoes, food, and money. They help Frank leave for Georgia to rescue his sister.
As he journeys by bus and train, Frank reflects on his post-war life. After serving in an integrated army regiment during the Korean War, Frank experiences violent episodes and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His ex-girlfriend, Lily, helped calm him. However, Frank admits that he was not the best boyfriend and that he could never keep a job. He and Lily parted on tense terms. In Chicago, Frank goes to a diner willing to serve black customers and meets Billy Watson. Billy lets Frank stay the night at his house and then takes him shopping at Goodwill for new clothes.
In first person, Frank recounts his family’s move to Georgia and Cee’s birth. When Frank was four, all of the black residents of Bandera County in Texas were told to evacuate. The Moneys were poor and did not have a car, so they abandoned most of their belongings. His mother gave birth in a church basement shortly after the evacuation and named her daughter Ycidra—Cee for short.
The story shifts back to third person and tells Cee’s story....
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After being forced to evacuate, the Moneys arrive in Lotus, Georgia, to stay with relatives. Cee’s step grandmother, Lenore, resented their presence and either ignores Frank and Cee or beats them. Cee ended up relying on Frank for everything. However, after Frank joined the army, she was left by herself.
She blames her childhood over-reliance on her brother for her running away with a boy named Prince when she was fifteen. Prince ended up stealing her grandparents’ car and leaving her destitute in Atlanta. After being abandoned, Cee begins working at a restaurant in Atlanta, too ashamed to return to Lotus. She eventually decides that she needs a better job. Her friend Thelma tells her about a couple who are looking to hire a helper. Cee applies for the job and begins working for Dr. and Mrs. Scott as an assistant. She is paid well and bonds with the other assistant, Sarah. However, unbeknownst to Cee, Dr. Scott is a eugenicist.
In first person, Frank explains his feelings about women and tells the story of how he met Lily. After returning from the war, Frank was listless and increasingly reliant on alcohol. However, after watching a little girl vomit blood in the street, he decided to stop drinking and turn his life around. He met Lily at a dry cleaner’s soon after, and the two began a relationship. Frank says that he admires the fragility of women. After being with Lily, that fragility took root in him as well. He ends by accusing the writer of the third-person narratives of not understanding him.
The third-person narration recounts Lily’s story. Lily saves up money because she wants to be a homeowner someday. After amassing enough for a down payment, she is furious when she learns that she cannot buy a house, because she is black. She meets Frank soon after and is initially charmed. However, she quickly grows disillusioned with Frank’s lack of ambition and inability to keep a job. When Frank asks her for money to go save Cee, she gives it to him, relieved to be rid of him.
Frank briefly narrates his decision to leave Lotus and join the army. He and his two friends, Mike and Stuff, felt that Lotus had no opportunities for them. The third-person narration then resumes to tell Lenore’s story. Lenore’s first husband was a gas-station owner who was murdered by someone Lenore assumes was jealous of his success. Fearing for her own life, Lenore used her husband’s insurance money to travel to Lotus. Afraid of being alone, she married Salem Money. She was briefly content, but when Salem’s relatives arrived, she felt robbed of her privacy and control. She particularly hated baby Cee, who cried constantly. Now that the relatives are gone, Lenore is mostly alone. One day, she suffers a minor stroke. From then on, her speech is slurred, and her husband claims to be unable to understand her.
In first person, Frank tells the story of a young Korean girl he used to see while on guard duty near a trash heap. She reminded him of Cee, so he let her scavenge food from the trash. However, during a shift rotation, the little girl approached another soldier. She touched his crotch and the soldier shot her in the head. Frank believes that the soldier shot her because he was sexually tempted by her.
Frank then reflects on Mike and Snuff, who joined the army with him. Both men died during the war. Frank witnessed their deaths and tried to save them, to no avail. The memories of Mike, Snuff, and the little girl from the garbage heap used to haunt Frank and make him want to drink. Now, Frank can think about those memories without being crushed by them. However, Frank also affirms that he is tired of watching people die and will do whatever it takes to save Cee.
Frank arrives in Atlanta and finds Cee. She is drugged on a table in Dr. Scott’s office and badly injured. Dr. Scott has been drugging and performing medical experiments on her. Sarah, Cee’s friend and Dr. Scott’s other assistant, sent the letter asking Frank to come. Dr. Scott is initially frightened of Frank, but is relieved upon learning that he only wants to take an employee who is “easy to replace.” Frank takes Cee back to Lotus, where she is treated by the women of the town. Frank is forbidden from seeing her since the women believe that his “maleness” will make her injuries worse. Frank spends his time repairing his parents’ old house.
Two months later, Cee fully recovers. Her time with the town women has made her stronger, more independent, and confident. Lenore’s insistence that she was a worthless “gutter baby” has been replaced with a sense of self-worth. The women also taught her how to quilt and she hopes to use that skill to make money. Dr. Scott’s experiments have left her infertile, so she is prepared to support herself since she fears that no one wants a wife who cannot give them children. Cee and Frank move in together, each with a renewed appreciation for Lotus, which had once seemed like an awful place to both of them.
In first person, Frank admits that he lied about the Korean girl’s death. Frank was the one who killed her. He was aroused by her touch and killed her out of shame. Even as Cee is able to move on with her life, the guilt of killing the little girl haunts Frank. He asks Cee about the field that they used to sneak off to when they were kids, the one where they saw the horses. She says that the fields were used for dogfights and tells Frank to ask Salem, their grandfather, for more information.
Frank asks Salem about the dogfights and Salem tells him that they were more like “men-treated-like-dog fights.” The older men of Lotus recount the story of a young man named Jerome who was forced to fight his father to the death. The timing of Jerome’s story lines up with when Cee and Frank saw the dead body being buried as children. Frank asks Cee to give him her first completed quilt and the two of them go to the field to dig up the man’s body. They wrap the bones in the quilt, rebury the body, and add an epigraph reading “Here Stands a Man.” Cee then taps her brother and the shoulder and the two head home together.