Analysis Of Toni Morrison's Tar Baby

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Toni Morrison’s 1981 novel Tar Baby can be seen as a fictional examination of questions raised by the changes brought about in African American communities and their consciousness by the Civil Rights Movements. Like most Morrison novels, Tar Baby deploys folklore and vernacular language to foreground her concerns with identity, oppression and subversion. The novel constitutes of dialogues that are both interracial, challenging the White American’s ordering of the world as well as intra-racial where the confrontation is between a privileged black middle class materialism and the vernacular discourse of the folk community. The novel begins with a dedication that reads: The ‘ancient properties’ here is an important phrase because it alludes to…show more content…
His signifying trait is his racial and cultural difference from other characters in the novel. He is a decentralizing force who challenges Jadine about her education and its value to her as a black woman. Elliot butler Evans claims that Son is ‘a black male whose existence is informed by an ideal and authentic black culture’ (158). Often, he is identified with the feminine and the maternal. However, he cannot really be considered the authentic bearer or healer of culture that he initially appears to be. He lives through the script of traditional patriarchal masculinity. He is violent, even though his acts of violence in the novel are often trivialized or justified. A very common interpretation of the title of the novel, through the frame of the folk tale of the ‘Tar Baby and the Briar Rabbit’ is to see Jadine as the tar baby, whose temptation the briar rabbit Son cannot shake off even at the end when he is still looking for her. But this seems to be a fallacious interpretation. Seeing Jadine as a tar baby implies that Son is the victim or the wronged one, but that cannot be upheld by the novel. In the novel, Son is as much an instrument of violence as he is a target or victim of. He forces himself on Jadine, and elsewhere expresses a desire ‘to insert his dreams into her’ (119). For the black woman, black men like Son are figures as oppressive as white men. It is perhaps through the figure of Son that Morrison seems to question the notion of authenticity itself. He enters the novel as the ‘authentic’ black man who makes the other blacks in the estate question their sense of race. Albert and Ondine in their conversation claim that Son is a ‘nigger’ whereas they are ‘negroes’. Son however never questions his own racial identity which too is problematic in certain

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