Monday, May 28, 2012

For Memorial Day: Toni Morrison's Home

On Memorial Day we are encouraged to remember those who have given their lives for the country through their military service.  Toni Morrison's new novel Home follows one soldier's homecoming.  It is a sobering mediation on the limits of our ability to understand.  My take appears today on the Oxford University Press blog.  I can't fully cross-post, but here's the beginning:
Toni Morrison’s new novel Home about a Korean War veteran’s struggles after the war might seem perfectly suited to an impending cultural turn. The close of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and an anticipated draw-down of American troops in Afghanistan, might signal the end of a war era and a renewed focus on what we now call the homeland. Perhaps we can turn to Morrison’s beautiful and brief narrative to understand the journeys of our generation’s soldiers as they, like Frank Money (the protagonist), try to find their way home.

The message of this novel is sobering. Whatever home might be for Frank, it is not a place where war is absent, as he brings Korea along with him as he travels. If peace is thought of as an absence of war, it is a state that Morrison’s character is unable to experience. War memories, psychological injury, and loss have become a part of him, so that his wartime and peacetime selves have become one. His army jacket and dog tags are outward signs of an inner melding. Home for this soldier/citizen cannot be a place apart. And so a central theme in the novel is the kind of space home can be for a broken veteran like Frank.
Continue reading here.  Cross-posted from War Time.