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Frank Money’s Character in “Home” by Toni Morrison Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2020

There are certain persistence ideologies and unresolved contradictions in any society and America is no exception. Writers have always strived to capture such experiences in their works. Toni Morrison’s Home explores such ideologies and unresolved contradictions through her characters. This analytical essay explores the unresolved contradictions of American history and the persistence of ideologies that threaten the founding promise of equal opportunity by using a single character, Frank Money from Morrison’s Home.

America was founded on ideologies of freedom and equality for every man based on the contents of the Declaration of Independence. Equality and freedom would act as means of guiding the newly born citizens of America. The issues of racial segregation and Black emancipation had persisted as Morrison shows in her novel. These led to the unresolved contradictions and persistence ideologies of racism, prejudice, violence and segregation, which led to limited opportunities for African-Americans as Frank Money shows in the novel.

Frank Money must live with harsh realities of prejudice, racism, bigotry, injustice, violence and segregation that had their origins from the period of slavery. These ideologies had persisted in the 1950s as Morrison captures them through experiences of Frank Money. During this period, several social and public places such as restaurants and restroom were still defined in terms of color. Frank experiences several, random searches by police throughout his journey. This is a case of soldier returning from a war in Korea, but is welcomed by harsh realities of prejudice, racism, bigotry, injustice, violence and segregation at home.

During Frank Money’s childhood, his family was forced out of Bandera County, Texas. Consequently, the family had to leave their land, their livestock and crops. They had to seek refuge from relatives in Georgia. Frank’s father had to work as a sharecropper while his mother “picked cotton during the day and swept lumber shacks during the night” (Morrison chap. 3). Morrison shows that Frank has to live with such harsh experiences and memories of Texas throughout his life. For example, Frank recalls that, “You could be inside, living in your own house for years,” Frank remembers, “and still, men with or without badges but always with guns could force you, your family, your neighbors to pack up and move — with or without shoes” (Morrison chapt. 3). Africa-Americans had 24 hours to leave or die. Crawford was lynched because he had refused to move. Crawford experienced violence and brutality that led to his death.

Frank Money is a character overwhelmed by painful, violence experiences throughout his life. He has just escaped from a mental institution after a short stint, nearly kills a man and always hallucinating about frightening experiences. Frank is a huge black man, who must walk without shoe and in fear of being arrested for vagrancy. Frank fears that he may be sent back to a mental hospital or jail for roaming. He is a man with nothing to do and therefore a potential culprit for any police officer. Morrison lets her readers understand anxiety with unresolved contradictions and persistence ideologies.

The Army that fought in Korea and discharged Frank Money was integrated but the same cannot be said of the country. Racism and segregation have persisted into the modern ‘good’ neighborhood of American society. Only African-American church ministers are willing to offer help without questions. Cases of racial violence are common, but the author picks few examples to portray the larger dominant ideologies of the 1950s. African-American is ferociously assaulted at the coffeehouse, and a friend informs Frank Money that police officers can shoot anything they want. America has turned to a mob city.

Morrison lets readers through the mind of Frank. The first-person voice of the narrator lets readers understand experiences of Frank in racist America. In addition, the independent narrator aims to recreate the scenes and deliver experiences of Frank.

Earlier, readers are introduced to life of Lily and Frank. Lily is an ambitious woman who wants to be independent and secure her future and offers Frank a reprieve from his mental tortures. Frank, however, is unable to progress beyond his nightmares. Frank is unable to adapt to small routine and practices of life. In addition, he lacks any enthusiasm to acquire property. Morrison introduces a critical concept that underlines the harsh economic realities of African-American society in the 1950s. There are individuals who strive for better lives and those who are merely surviving, trapped in their painful experiences and illusions. Frank is so confused by the burdens of his life, poverty and familial dysfunction perpetuated by racism and social segregating. Consequently, he is trapped in great despondency of passivity and a state of hopelessness. Frank has resigned to a life of a mere survival. On the other hand, Frank is propelled by the love for his sister, Cee with whom he feels empty without and unable to live. Frank cannot seek for self-identity or any meaning in life beyond his status because of unresolved historical contradictions and persistence ideologies of racial persecution and segregation.

Social practices in society define social institutions (Lorber 3). In addition, individuals’ personality characteristics, feelings, motivations and ambitions (Lorber 2) move from these diverse life experiences to develop differences between group members. They are responsible for differences in people. Social institutions have material base. However, culture and social practices have abilities to transform patterns and constraints of social institutions. Frank Money lived social institutions defined by racism, bigotry and violence during his childhood and as a teenager, he sought to find meaning in life from Lotus, GA, a place described as “the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield” (Morrison chapt 7). In the battlefield, there is something to look forward to, but in Lotus, there was nothing to offer a chance for survival or success. Consequently, Frank and his friends listed in the Army. At this point, Morrison captures post-war horrors as experienced by African-American soldiers. They become angry, worn out by urgent needs of daily life and scared by one’s violent tendencies. Frank manages to gain sense when he receives a letter from Cee calling for urgent help.

Ideologies, based on race and class, have led to gradation of American society. Therefore, White is different from Black and middle class is different from upper class. This leads to inferiority of the downtrodden African-Americans. The dominant ideologies reflect hegemonic ideals, which majorities considered as the norm and the way things should be in society. As a result, dominant ideologies of white supremacy led to the definition of African-Americans as ‘others’ because they had pure black skin.

Societies differ in the extent to which African-American had experienced segregation. While Frank’s parents were forced out of their land and had to leave their belongings behind, the generation of the 1950s characterized by Lily aimed to acquire houses of their own. This reflects changes in social inequality in statuses of African-American men and women. Morrison explores challenges of men in Home. She portrays hard working women such as Lily as a contrast to hallucinating Frank. On the other hand, men on the dominant race had more power and jobs, but with controversial practices. For instance, Cee works as an assistant to a doctor who specializes in eugenics. Dr. Scott seems to have risen beyond race issues and treats poor, black people. Cee, however, fails to understand that Dr. Scott focuses on eugenics to manipulate breeding of African-American (Morrison chapt. 4). The doctor may sterilize his patients without their consent. This reflects some of the contradictions and dominant ideologies, which led White people to consider African-Americans as a human race to be controlled through science. White people commanded more power, prestige and property and therefore, many African-American had considered them as heroes.

Morrison, however, shows that African-American women are progressive and can find jobs and dream of better futures. This is not the case of Frank Money. However, Morrison points that America has failed to provide warmth and shelter to African-Americans who have returned from war. As a result, Frank must face constant scorn. He must get advice on a safer place for his stay while in Chicago and every point in his journey, Frank faces danger and he must be rescued by fellow African-Americans. Frank, however, notes that even the author herself cannot understand such experiences because she was not there and would soon forget. To African-American, home offers nothing rather than hopelessness and despair.

One can conclude that the unresolved contradictions and persistence ideologies of racism, segregation and other atrocities are America’s moral debts, which it must reckon with in order to be whole. Today, based on the principles of equality and fairness, the demands of the Black Student Union to address the issue of poor campus climate show that America is yet to overcome historical, persistence ideologies, which have raised contradictions (UCSD’s State of Emergency: Real Pain. Real Action! par. 1). Contradictions have emerged because of persistence ideologies that do not promote fairness and the founding promise of equal opportunity established in the Declaration of Independence document. Somerville noted that, “Queer political groups have not always achieved this goal of inclusiveness in practice, but they have sought to transform the homophobic ideologies of dominant U.S. culture, as well as strategies used….. many of which have tended to construct these groups as a viable “minority” group and to appeal to liberal rights of privacy and formal equality” (Somerville 187-188). Social and economic exclusion of African-Americans led to other social challenges, specifically the rise of impoverished communities, hopelessness and menial jobs.

Unresolved contradictions and persistence ideologies are deeply entrenched in American society and therefore, an individual’s grit cannot trounce them. Liberals have strived to recognize that racism is a dynamic iniquity in America. They must acknowledge the long persistence ideologies and unresolved contradictions that have inhibited African-Americans’ success and the entrenchment of such ideologies and contradictions into federal policies, which today affect learning of black students. Morrison only considers reparation as an alternative to America’s current moral debts. Moreover, the persistence ideologies had created tenant farmers out of African-Americans and one can comprehend the intricate relationship between white people and African-Americans. It seems that persistence ideologies of racism and violence have emerged stronger and have since then affected several aspects of social practices of American society until now. In fact, racism remains active and it has evolved through various institutions longer than expected in America. For instance, the ideologies of African-American inferiority noted in 1950s and during the period of Civil Rights Movement are widely depicted in the Black Student Union’ demands. Today, some sections of Americans still hold to persistence ideologies and unresolved contradictions of white dominance and inferiority of other citizens.

Morrison continues to highlight the plight of African-Americans to reflect the failed social institutions, persistence dominant ideologies and their negative outcomes. Centuries of injustice endured by African-Americans have become moral debt for American society. Soldiers return home to a country with nothing to offer them and police brutality persists. Then one may wonder whether the kind of home that America offers its minorities and downtrodden is the right one.

Morrison does offer some hopes for readers. Frank Money is the voice through which the author shows that violence and bigotry have persisted in America and have affected their lives, but love, duty and a sense of dedication can transform America’s dark, blighted past into a bright future for all. Morrison shows this when Frank eventually assists his sister, Cee to become free and independent, capable of making her own decisions. Overall, Morrison depicts horrors that Frank Money experienced from childhood to adulthood. Nevertheless, the author offers hope and shows possibility of redeeming society or at least some progresses through peace.

Works Cited

Lorber, Judith. “Night to his Day”: The Social Construction of Gender. 1994. Web.

Morrison, Toni. Home. New York: Knopf, 2012. Print.

Somerville, Siobhan B. Queer. 2013. Web.

UCSD’s State of Emergency: Real Pain. Real Action! BSU Demands. 2010. Web.

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