Tar Baby

Tar Baby: Essay Q&A

1. What is the significance of the novel’s title? The “tar baby” is a folktale that was made popular by Joel Chandler Harris in his Uncle Remus stories, a collection of stories based on African-American folklore, narrated by the fictional Uncle Remus, a former slave. Tar baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine …

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Tar Baby: Prologue

Prologue Just before nightfall, about a mile from the harbor of a fictional Caribbean island called Isle de Chevaliers, an unnamed man, referred to only as “he,” jumps from a ship, the H.M.S. Stor Konigsgaarten, and swims for the shore. Encountering difficulties because of the current, he clambers aboard a small boat named the Seabird …

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Tar Baby: Biography

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, the second of four children born to George Wofford (a shipyard welder), and Ramah Willis Wofford. Morrison’s academic ability showed early. When she was in the first grade she was the only black child in the class and the only one …

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Tar Baby: Theme Analysis

Cultural Authenticity and InauthenticityThe main theme in the novel is cultural authenticity in the lives of black people. Who is authentically black and who is not? Two of the black characters, Sydney and Ondine, have spent their entire lives in service of the successful, privileged white male, Valerian Street, and are almost entirely dependent on …

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Tar Baby: Top Ten Quotes

“The clouds gathered together, stood still and watched the river scuttle around the forest floor, crash headlong into the haunches of hills with no notion of where it was going, until exhausted, ill and grieving, it slowed to a stop just twenty leagues short of the sea.” p. 9 Nature reacts to the coming of …

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Tar Baby: Metaphor Analysis

Ant Kingdom Soldier ants are referred to occasionally in the novel. They try to get into Valerian’s greenhouse and even eat through loudspeaker wires. Sydney thinks, “if ants will eat copper—something serious had to be done” (p. 284). Even though Son has an idea about how to curb the ants, they are presented as a …

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Tar Baby: Character Profiles

Jadine Childs Jadine Childs, also known as Jade, is a beautiful twenty-five-year-old black American woman. She has just completed a degree in art history at the Sorbonne in Paris and is a successful fashion model. Jadine is an orphan; her mother died when she was twelve and her father when she was two. The only …

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Tar Baby: Chapter 10

Jadine sits alone at a table in a hotel in the Queen of France, the island near the Isles des Chevaliers. She calls Ondine who arranges for someone to pick her up. She is not sorry to have broken with Son, whom she refers to as a “cultural throwback” (p. 275). When she arrives at …

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Tar Baby: Chapter 9

Jadine and Son arrive in Poncie, Florida, just fourteen miles from Eloe. They then get a ride into the tiny town, where Son’s first stop is to see his old friend Soldier. The two men greet each other joyfully. Son asks Jadine whether she would mind staying at Soldier’s house with his wife Ellen and …

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Tar Baby: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 The narrative jumps forward. Son is wandering around New York City, not liking what he sees. Everyone seems in pain, and he thinks that the black people there are living inauthentic lives. He does not feel connected to them.   He went to New York several days after the Christmas dinner, with some …

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