Department of English at Sri Malolan College of arts and science, Madurantakam, Chennai.

Dr. G. RAMAN 2* (

Department of English at Sambhram University, Jizaxx, Uzbekistan.



Toni Morrison is one of the most significant modern American writers, having published nine books. Among her early works, Tar Baby, her fourth, has obtained great notice. It is “the least admired, researched, and taught” of all the sciences (Pereira 72). There could be two reasons for this: To begin with, the narrative does not solely focus on the experiences of African-Americans. Unlike Morrison’s other pieces, Tar Baby includes a lot of background of a white family. Morrison investigates the experience of the retired white man, Valerian, his wife, and his son with the same consideration as the black young man and woman, Son and Jadine, who are considered as the book’s main protagonists. For critics looking for a story with a totally “black style” to illustrate Morrison’s originality, a work with a lot of attention is a good place to start. Morrison’s style of emotional writing has kindled the readers mind to certain facts like cultural conflicts, racism and so on. Lack of self-identity and life in between the white and black culture portrayed through Jadine Childs, the central character has created a kind of confused uncertainty among Morrison’s readers.  Like all her novels Tar Baby is suffused with Morrison’s racial quest enriched with psychological and emotional move.

Key terms: colonization, cultural conflicts, racism, self-identity, psychological

Tar Baby is the fourth novel of Toni Morrison and it deals with social realism. The principal characters in the novel are jadine childs, an Afro-American model, William Green (Son) an Afro-American wander from Eloe, Florida, Valerian Street, a rich retired white industrialist from Philadelphia: Margaret Street, a rich retired white industrialist from Philadelphia: Margaret Street a beauty queen from Maine who married the much elder Valerian, Sydney Childs, an Afro-American domestic employee of the Streets: On dine Childs, Sydney’s wife and even she is an employee of the Streets: on dine Childs, Sydney’s Wife and even she is an employee of the streets and few other locals Gideon, Therese and Alma Esteem respectively.

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison

Jadine Childs, who is orphaned at twelve years is taken by her aunt and uncle on dine and Sydney Childs. Their employer Valerian Street helps Jadine to go to private schools and because of this upbringing she experiences a conflict between the white Society in which she is entrenched, and the black culture represented by her uncle and aunt and son whom Jadine love. She refuses to submit to the traditional image of womanhood which on dine and Son want to impose upon her. At the end of the novel, we see her returning to Paris determined to face her fears alone. Tar Baby traces the quest for Self-identity Jadine Childs the Protagonist. She doesn’t rebel against the White, she is enmeshed. But she has accepted and embraced the white culture without any question. Because from her age of twelve she had severed her Afro-American heritage due to the death of parents. The same way her uncle and Aunt expanded the gap by sending her to exclusive private school and to Sorbonne where only Whites are in majority. The adult Jadine is fully equipped to face the white world successfully. She becomes a part of it too. The only thing that disturbs her is the Afro-American world represented by nightmares, disagreements of son and the feeling of otherness that haunt her in Sons’ hometown Eloe, Florida.

Morrison in this book Tar Baby depicts the struggle of an Afro-American Woman who tries her best to keep her identity and individuality despite the effects of her lover who wants to make her like the other woman of his childhood. Like her aunt who too wants to cheer her in the past and her white industrialist, who wants to cheer her to the white industrialist, who wants to blind her to his world. The most complex character in the novel is that of the protagonist Jadine. She is caught between two cultures. She has gratitude towards her aunt and uncle for their help as well as the Streets for giving her Education, but she does not equate her gratitude with duty and some readers find fault with her. Jadine refuses to see herself as an Afro-American first or even as a Woman. She tries to establish closeness with her aunt and also to protect. Valerian’s world. Woman of her past and of son’s past haunts her and they try to draw her towards her own self. Society does not support anyone who wants to come up in life. The black society wants Jadine to be like them and the white Society doesn’t accept her whole happily for the only reason that is she is a Black.

The Prices she compensates for sticking on to herself is very high. She loses son’s the relationship with Ondine’s weakens and she does not have Valalerien’s help too. She flies off alone and determined. Some might see this as a defeat, but Morrison’s story of the Soldier ants narrated in the novel’s end says that the queen ant is the dominant force, and this reveals Jadine’s power and strength giving possibilities rather than defeat.

Morrison says that polarized thinking is effective and dichotomous thinking is ineffective for living in the real world. When a person is defined as black or white, male or female, educated or uneducated limit the individuals capacity individual’s must rely on the authority within themselves and then they can organize their world and their understanding of it. Like her other novels, 0 even in Tar BabyMorrison analyses and gives a verdict of the society and the roles Afro-Americans play in that society. Morrison creates strong characters and unveils these characters’ struggle to realize their strength in -spite of external and internal barriers.

The title of this novel evokes a comparison to the famous story of the same name. The fable of Brer Rabbit has many versions and in one, he is caught by the Tar Baby when he comes to steal cabbages from a garden. He succeeds in freeing himself and escapes to the famed briar patch. The Tar Baby is formed by Brer Fox to capture Brer Rabbit. Jadine and Son are considered tar babies because both of them have an irresistible attraction towards each other and this brings their downfall. Jadine soon recovers and is transformed from “tar baby” to a trickster and in that she lands in the briar patch of New York and later in the briar patch of Paris. Even though both of them have the traits of the Tar Baby still Jadine gets more acclaim due to her power and control over the relationship. Trudier Harris says that a close reading of Tar Baby will show that Son has much power and control than Jadine, because he shares more traits with Valerian than the victims who are caught in the traps with the master farmers. His unkempt state also could be compared to the black Tar Baby.

Each was pulling the other away from the maw of hell-it’s very ridge top.      

Each knows the world as it was meant or ought to be. One had a past, the   

other a future and each one bore the culture to save the race in his hands. –

Mama spoiled the black man will you mature with me? Culture bearing       

black women, whose culture are you bearing? (Morrison, Tar 269).

The judgments are that the characters must be both. Mature and culture bearing or they are lost.

Tar Baby a mixture of serious, comic and even absurd qualities. The style is polished, elegiac, violent, poetic and even dramatically functional. The language of the uneducated as well as the language of the sophisticated are found with literary allusions. The novel is in bits and pieces as Morrison herself has said, but she succeeds in pulling this complex novel together by her extraordinary use of nature. On the whole, nature acts like an additional character in the story as complicated and important as a human protagonist. For example, animal life can observe, react and comment on the action Rivers are capable of deepest emotions, trees as seductive. as a lover, ants can marshal campaigns and swamps can grasp like rapists In the African vein, nature is fully alive, and it is not materially separated from human existence. A further sense of wholeness is- seen when nature is involved in the prologue and the epilogue. In the epilogue Son moves through water towards the island and in the prologue, he is urged by the water away from the shore.

The relation between racism, child abuse in a white American upper-class family is depicted in Tar Baby. Toni Morrison’s image of this novel is an apt emblem for capitalist formations. These developments have penetrated every available nook and cranny of social space and have thoroughly, if unevenly conditioned human psychology and social behavior. Like the Tar Baby, or the quicksand into which Jadine wanders on the Isle de Cheralien, the capitalist mode of production absorbs and birds all that it touches, ordering the ways in which we view ourselves and others, the ways in which we move, Speak and express ourselves in the seclusion of our own minds.

Social realism looks at society as it is and what it depicts if critical of the working of society. It moves towards reality and towards the victory of the international proletariat. The fact must be portrayed in all its actuality, the ugly as well as the wonderful. Realism sometimes sides with social action and this is evinced in Toni Morrison’s The Baby. Tar Baby is the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances. This is true in the case of Jadine. Even though she doesn’t respect her heritage, she is not authentic too. The African woman who views Jadine spits at her recognizing her authenticity. Morrison portrays it truthfully and doesn’t side with Jadine even though she is black. So, this typical situation is produced truthfully, and Toni Morrison is not partial.

Toni Morrison is a complicated writer who masterfully blends together difficult concepts. “It is a simple story getting increasingly complex mythic, beyond Solution, yet teaching me a lesson I needed to know,” Barbara Christian writes about Tar Baby. As a result, Toni Morrison’s work highlights problems, but not solutions, that society should be aware of.

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison

When reading Morrison’s novels, one is prone to look for a character with African American ancestry. The Son has been identified as such a figure in Tar Baby by the majority of critics. In Morrison’s later works, he illustrates black people’s affiliation with their original culture solution. Tar Baby symbolizes an essential period in which the writer acquires an understanding of the intricacy and ambiguity surrounding African American people’s desire of self-knowledge. Furthermore, Morrison expanded the concept of alienation with Son and Jadine’s story to include not just social and philosophical difficulties, but also race and gender ones. She has made a significant contribution to American literature in this way.


  1. Beaulieu, Elizabeth Ann. The Toni Morrison Encyclopedia. Westport: Greenwood P, 2003.
  2. Duvall, John N. The Identifying Fictions of Toni Morrison: Modernist Authenticity and Postmodern Blackness. New York: Palgrave, 2000.
  3. Frisch, Mark. “Nature, Postmodernity, and Real Marvelous: Faulkner, Quiroga, Mal- lea, Rulfo, Carpentier.” The Faulkner Journal (1995–96): 67–81.
  4. Hallett, Cynthia Whitney. “Trickster.” Beaulieu 354–58.
  5. Harris, Trudier. Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1991.
  6. Hawthorn, Evelyn. “On Gaining the Double-Vision: Tar Baby as Diasporean Novel.”
  7. Black American Literature Forum 22.1 (1988): 97–107.
  8. Hemenway, Robert, ed. “Introduction: Author, Teller, and Hero.” Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings. New York: Penguin, 1982.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *