Home Chapter 9 Summary
by Toni Morrison

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Chapter 9 Summary

In Chapter 9, a first-person chapter, Frank reflects on his experiences in Korea. He says that nobody can imagine the place, or the war he fought there, without experiencing it firsthand. Above all, the worst hardship was the cold. “Korea cold hurts,” Frank says.

According to Frank, “Battle is scary, yeah, but it’s alive.” He felt alive when he was following orders, helping his friends, and even when he was killing the enemy. None of these things required deep thought, and there was a certain comfort in that. The only task he really hated was standing guard alone outside the base. It was hard to bear the combined boredom and anxiety of keeping watch for an enemy that might never come.

During Frank’s many mindless hours of guard duty, he stood staring at a view of a garbage dump that held refuse from the army base. One day, alert for any danger, he noticed a small movement in the bushes. He was not worried about the enemy, which moved in groups too large for such a small movement, but he did worry about tigers. He kept watching, and he soon realized that the movement was caused by a little girl who had come to steal food from the dump.

At first, the girl made Frank smile. She reminded him of Cee, so he did not try to get rid of her. After that she came every day, but he rarely glimpsed her face. All he ordinarily saw was her hand, reaching out into the pile of garbage and grabbing anything whatsoever that she could eat. He notes that she would eat virtually anything, rotten or not. “I’ve watched raccoons more choosy raiding garbage cans,” Frank says.

One day when the girl was there, another solider came to relieve Frank of his guard duty. This other man saw the girl and smiled, shaking his head. He stepped toward her, and she said something in Korean that sounded, to Frank, like “yum-yum.” At the same time, she reached up and patted the soldier's crotch. As Frank watched in shock, the other soldier shot the girl in the face.

It is clear that Frank is still horrified by this memory, and that he cannot quite get over it. He struggles to explain why a soldier might shoot an unarmed little girl:

Thinking back on it now, I think the guard felt more than disgust. I think he felt tempted and that is what he had to kill.