Chapter 1 Summary
Toni Morrison's Home begins with a short chapter in the first person, narrated by a man named Frank Money. (Note that Frank's name is not mentioned until Chapter 2.) In vivid, poetic language, he reminisces about a day in his childhood when he and his little sister saw two stallions fight in a field. “They rose up like men,” he says, describing how the horses stood on their hind legs to fight each other.
As Frank retells this story, he explains that he and his sister were not supposed to be in that field. The area was fenced in, and there were signs telling them to keep out. However, they were little, and they were tempted by a hole they found under the fence. When they crawled through, they were amazed to see horses standing up, full of dignity and violence:
Their raised hooves crashing and striking, their manes tossing back from wild white eyes.
As the children watched, one of the stallions won the fight and rounded up the mares and colts for himself. The other stallion ran away.
Frank seems to enjoy remembering the horses, but his story soon takes a dark turn. On their way home, he and his sister saw a group of men pushing a dead body in a wheelbarrow. The children froze, hiding themselves in the tall grass. As they watched, the men dumped the body into a hole. They didn’t get a good look at the dead man, except for one “black foot with its creamy pink and mud-streaked sole.” Frank, who is African American, does not explicitly describe the men who were doing the burying, but he implies that they were white. They knocked the black foot into the hole, filled in the grave, and left.
For hours, Frank and his sister remained in their hiding place. She shook with fear and hid her face while he, who was four years older, tried to remain stoic. Not until darkness did he judge it safe for them to make their way back home. When they arrived, they thought they might be whipped for staying out so late, but the adults were too busy to take any notice of them. “Some disturbance had their attention,” Frank says. The reader is left to guess whether or not this “disturbance” has anything to do with the dead body the children saw in the field.
As the chapter ends, Frank addresses a writer, presumably Toni Morrison. He says that she cannot understand his story, and she is sure to get it wrong. He claims that he forgot about the dead body shortly after he saw it. For years, all he remembered were the stallions, which were “beautiful” and “brutal…like men.”