The image of the unclaimed dead is terrible. Disturbing. Sad. Depressing. I can think of so many words to describe it, but the only one that really stands out to me is real. This image is one of reality, not just staged for the book. The families who lost a loved one yet can’t afford a funeral lose them again, this time to a morgue overflowing with bodies that can’t be claimed. The dead are packed into a small room side by side, covered only with a white sheet and left there until someone is able to identify them as their relative or friend. Quite often the bodies are left there merely because their loved ones can’t afford a funeral, and must wait until enough money is saved.
Death is a prominent theme throughout the novel, and it hits close to home with the narrator whose sister died in Detroit. This is partly what makes this image so compelling. It makes it seem commonplace, not so out of the ordinary. The picture emphasizes the lack of resources, the level at which poverty affects the citizens, and even the amount of crime in the city. To me, this is the image that hit me the hardest, and its bluntness makes it all the more effective.