Tar Baby Study Guide

Tar Baby

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

Tar Baby is a novel by Toni Morrison about an affair between two African-Americans, Jadine and Son, who come from very different backgrounds. Jadine, a college graduate and successful fashion model is sponsored by the Streets, an elite white family living in the Caribbean. When Son, poor and determined, winds up at the Streets', they begin an affair that disrupts the estate. Together thy travel to the USA, struggling to find a place where they both feel at home. The book examines many of the compromises faced by black Americans.

This novel portrays a love affair between Jadine and Son, two Black Americans from very different worlds. Jadine is a beautiful Sorbonne graduate and fashion model who has been sponsored into wealth and privilege by the Streets, a wealthy white family who employ Jadine's aunt and uncle as domestic servants. Son is an impoverished, strong-minded man who washes up at the Streets' estate on a Caribbean island.

As Jadine and Son come together, their affair ruptures the illusions and self-deceptions that held together the world and relationships at the estate. They travel back to the U.S. to search for somewhere they can both be at home, and find that their homes hold poison for each other. The struggle of Jadine and Son reveals the pain, struggle, and compromises confronting Black Americans seeking to live and love with integrity in the United States.

Tar Baby is a story about a fox and a rabbit. The fox attempts to trick his arch enemy, the rabbit, by placing a doll made from tar in its path, which is the tar baby. After the rabbit gets stuck to the doll, he tricks the fox into helping him escape. Some people have said that the rabbit represents an African American slave who out thinks his master.

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