A Lover’s Quarrel in the Aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement:
Toni Morrison’s Incompatible Characters in Tar Baby
Son, one of the main characters in Tar Baby describes Jadine, the other main character in the book and his lover, as a Tar baby. Toni Morrison, the author of the book, uses the story of Tar Baby, a folk tale from Africa, to point out the differences between Son and Jadine. In the Tar Baby story Brer Fox makes a Tar baby, a doll which is covered in tar, and puts him in the middle of the road, to capture Brer Rabbit. The rabbit walks by and after getting no response from the Tar baby, he starts hitting the Tar baby and as a result gets stuck to the Tar baby. The farmer throws Brer rabbit in the brier patch. When he starts to wonder why there are no sounds of pain coming from the patch he sees Brer Rabbit freed of tar. Brer rabbit says: “Don’t you know the brier patch is my home.” About the symbolism of the Tar baby folktale O’Meally writes:
Son accuses Jadine of being a kind of Tar Baby, a tricky white man’s creation
set to waylay black men whose real home is down in the brier patch. Page 221
works as one key into the mystery of this novel: Son is Brer Rabbit in the
farmer’s patch, Jadine the dressed up Tar Baby..” (196).
Morrison situated this novel in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. At the end of this period the sentiments of the African Americans started to change, first they wanted equality for all races but at the end of the 1960s they were calling for “Black Power”, implying that it went from peaceful protestations for equality to viscous fights to make white people see their value and some fought for racial supremacy and complete autonomy. African Americans changed from wanting to blend in with the white culture to being proud of their own culture and wanting white people to adjust, African Americans went back to their roots (Joseph, 3).
This is the essential...