Toni Morisson

’s “Tar Baby” Essay, Research Paper

It is often said that it is better to follow your heart instead of your mind because it

will never lie to you. However, when you follow your heart you are not always

prepared for what the outcome may be. This is proven in Toni Morisson’s novel

Tar Baby . Tar Baby is Morrison’s fourth novel and it took three and a half years

to write . The story was based on an old African American folk tale about Brer

Rabbit and Tar Baby. This book is said by some to be an excess of what made

Morrison’s other books good but despite the criticism the book still made it to the

best seller’s list.

The story takes place on an isolated island of L’Arbe de la Croix. this was

purposely done by Morrison so that the characters would have no way to escape.

There were no immediate policemen to call and no neighbors to interfere in the

story . The characters were placed in a cage and left to see what would happen.

L’ Arbe de la Croix is the vacation home of Valerian Street a retired candy maker

and his wife Margaret Street. The house is also occupied by a black couple,

Sydney and Odine, who have been the long time servants of the Street’s.

During the time of the story the house is also occupied by Jadine, who is

Sydney’s and Odine’s niece. Jadine was took in by the Streets and they paid for

her to go to school and become a model. Jadine came down from Paris to

contemplate a marriage proposal from a Frenchman and to spend Christmas

with her aunt and uncle. Jadine can be considered the tar baby in this story. She

was taken in by the Street’s and opened up to the world that they lived in. She

got a wonderful education and traveled all over. She had a sense of security and

knew that anything she needed would be given to her by the streets.

The streets get another unexpected guest during Christmas. One night

when Margaret is up in her room she opens her closet and sees a strange black

man sitting there. She becomes hysterical and runs down the stairs in a panic.

Sydney goes upstairs and brings down the intruder everyone in the house is

startled by his appearance and ready to call the police. Everyone except

Valerian. He invites the intruder to sit down for a drink and this makes Margaret

crazy. She runs up to her room and locks herself in her bedroom. We later find

out that the intruder is the same man that we encounter in the beginning of the

novel on the boat. The intruder has many names but asks to be called Son. Son

Green. Son is the cause of a lot of trouble and he brings out the true side of the

characters of this story. After dinner Son is invited to stay for the night in one of

the guest rooms. This makes Sydney angry. He could not understand how

Valerian could be so calm in such a situation but despite his anger Sydney does

what he is told.

The next morning Son come into Jadine’s room, this is their first personal

encounter. Jadine is absolutely repulsed by his looks but she is kind to him and

they start to talk, the conversation takes a turn for the worse. After making an

insulting comment about Jadine he grabs her, presses his body against hers,

and starts to smell her. This makes Jadine feel dirty. She finally breaks loose

from his grasp and runs to tell Valerian. On her way to Valerian she stops and

starts to think about whether she should go and tell or not. After much thought

she decides not to, but also promises herself that she would try to avoid him to

the best of her ability.

That same day Valerian suggests that Son go to the main island with one

of the workers to get some clothes and a hair cut. He comes back the next day

and sees Jadine. At first she is amazed by his appearance she could not believe

that he was the same guy who she encountered the privies day. Her amazement

was not long lasting her memories of the day before quickly came back to her.

Son apologized for his behavior but Jadine does not want to hear anything that

he has to say. Son offers to take her on a picnic and she agrees against her

better judgment. On the picnic Jadine gets to know more about Son. How he got

on the island where he came from and what life he left behind. Everything was

going fine until Son started commenting on her feet he became almost obsessed

with seeing them and then touching them. Shortly after Son touched her foot

Jadine pulled it away and said that she was ready to leave the whole situation

made her very uncomfortable. Even as Jadine walked back to the car she still felt

Son’s thumb print on the sole of her foot.

Then came the “Dinner”. Christmas finally arrived and everyone sat down

at the table for dinner even Sydney and Ondine. At first it was a little silent, then

everything went crazy and everyone’s true feelings came out. Sydney revealed

how he felt about Son staying in the house. Ondine and Margaret got into a huge

argument that almost broke out into a fist fight. Ondine let out a big secret that

she had been holding back for years. She told everyone that when Michael, the

Street’s son, was younger Margaret used to stick him with pins to see him cry or

bleed. At that moment everyone just stopped. Margaret admitted to it. Sydney

lead Ondine back to their room, Margaret left the dinning room and eventually

Son and Jadine left . Valerian sat at the table alone.

Sometime during the picnic and the dinner something happened with

Jadine and Son. After they left the dinning room son walked Jadine to her room

and the made plans to leave. Son was going to leave first and wait for Jadine in

NYC Son agreed because he wanted to be with Jadine. Jadine was happy to go

back to NY because she loved the place so much. Jadine and Son just wanted

to be together. Jadine didn’t dare tell her aunt about her plans to be with Son she

knew that Ondine already had enough problems. She also knew that Ondine

would disapprove.

Once Jadine met up with Son in NY they were instantly in each others

arms. During the first few days everything is going fine but Jadine starts to

bother Son about getting a job or going to school, she feels that she is doing all

the work in the relationship. Son is not interested in doing either at that moment.

He is not comfortable in NY and is trying to convince Jadine to go back to his

hometown Eloe with him. After a lot of convincing Jadine finally agrees to go

with him. Eloe is a small town in Florida with a few people and even less houses.

Jadine is not use to this kind of atmosphere and is ready to leave the second she

gets there. The one thing that makes the trip even worse is the fact that Son’s

family is very religious. Since Son and Jadine are not married, Jadine must stay

at Son’s aunt’s house. Jadine is in a little room with no windows and feels

cramped. Jadine is glad when it is time to leave but son asks her to stay one

more day she agrees unwillingly. The next day the same thing happens and Son

asks Jadine to stay one more day this time she refuses and tells Son that she

will go back to NY by herself. Son agrees to this and promises that he would be

there in the next few days. More than a few days pass and Jadine doesn’t even

hear from Son. More than a week later Son shows up and Jadine is mad. This

causes an argument which is quickly ended like all the others.

In the days to follow the arguments increase and get worse. Jadine and

Son argue about everything, money, Son going to school, living in NY. Ironically

no matter how bad the argument it never lasted long and they always ended up

in each others arms. On day the argument got so bad that Son held Jadine out

the second story window by her arms. A few minutes later when the police came

to the door they thought that they had the wrong house. The apartment of loving

couple that answered the door could not have been the same apartment where a

man had a woman dangling out of the window. One day Jadine could not take it

anymore. After a huge argument Son stormed out of the house and Jadine at

that moment decided to leave and not look back. She realized that her

relationship with Son was a big mistake. Jadine left NY and went back to L’Arbe

de la Croix. She tells Ondine about her time with Son and she told Ondine that

she knows that she was wrong and if Son was to come looking for her not to tell

him where she went. Ondine readily agrees to do this. Jadine gets some stuff

and leaves for Paris. Meanwhile, when Son returns to the apartment he is

surprised not to see Jadine there. He sits and waits for her. He refuses to leave

the house in fear that she might come back while he is gone. After about a week

Son decides to go back to L’ Arbe de la Croix to see if she went there. When he

reaches the main land he goes by the helper, Gideon, from Valerian’s house that

brought him to town the first time. Son asks Gideon to take him to the small

island but Gideon says that it is to late. Gideon’s wife on the other hand offers to

take Son. Gideon’s wife is partly blind but she claims to know the sea well and

Son takes her up on the offer. Gideon’s wife takes Son to a part of the island that

Son never ventured to. It is dark and Son does not know where to go. Gideon’s

wife says to trust her and just get out the boat and follow the path. The story

ends there and we do not find out what becomes of Jadine or Son.

Jadine and Son are a prime example of listening to your heart and not

your mind. They rushed into their relationship and did not know enough about

each other to make a reasonable decision. Jadine was trying to run from

something and Son was not in love he was in lust. If they had taken the time to

know each other better they might have realized that they were two different

people. Just as in the folk tail of Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby, Son (the rabbit ) was

attracted to Jadine (Tar Baby ) and got caught in a trap. Jadine and Son were

from two different worlds that could not come together. In the end Jadine

realized that she made a mistake but Son still held on to the past and ended up

right where he started. Lost.


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