The Mysterious “Zoot Suit” Man

One element of Toni Morrison’s Home that I found particularly interesting was the appearance of the zoot suit-wearing ghost-like figure seen by Frank throughout the novel. This mysterious man appears to Cee as well, after Frank has brought her along to provide a proper burial of the bones of a man who had been forced to fight his son to the death, solely for the entertainment of a white crowd. Morrison seems to emphasize the importance of a proper burial for transitioning to an afterlife, and the timing of the ghost-like figure’s appearance at Frank and Cee’s burial seems to be a representation of this proper transition.

While I believe the figure is not intended to be the ghost of the man buried by Frank and Cee, his outfit ties him to the discrimination experienced by minorities in the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943.  According to an article by Evan Andrews, a writer at History.com, among the white population at this time, these suits gained a racist reputation, as they had grown popular among young men in minority communities. (Andrews, 2015) Whites begun viewing these suits as the outfits of menacing gang members and young criminals, and this led to the organized beating of anyone wearing seen wearing zoot-suits by off-duty police officers and civilians in Los Angeles. Thousands of soldiers and civilians marched through the streets ruthlessly beating any zoot suit-wearers they saw. Police officers would watch as the minorities were beaten, and then would even arrest the victim after the attack. Similar horrific incidents of the zoot suit rioting occurred in various cities throughout the country that same year, such as in Detroit and Chicago.

This history of this suit leaves me to believe that the figure represents a man who suffered racial prejudice and possibly experienced brutality throughout his life, and in this way he is connected to the man who was finally being laid to rest in a proper manner by Frank. I found Morrison’s use of an unexplained, mysterious ghost-like figure to be fascinating, as it raises questions about Frank’s sanity throughout the novel as he encounters this character, yet Cee’s sighting of the man confirms that he was something more than just an apparition conjured up by Frank’s mind.

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