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Toni Morrison's "Tar Baby"
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Toni Morrison’s ‘Tar Baby’ is a story about prejudices and biases. The biases are based on race, gender and class in the society. The central conflict is the conflict between characters and within characters. This text however seeks to explore the plot of the story from Son’s point of view. It explores his experiences through the text and how the writer has used this character in the plot of her story and to address some of the main conflict sand thematic concerns.
Son is Jadine’s lover in the story an the text’s second protagonist. He is described as being very handsome and he has a sensed of humor.
He arrives at l’arbre de croix as a fugitive. This hint at the possibility of him having had a past criminal life. Son as a character bears very strong convictions about race and the exclusivity of each. In his view, black people and white people cannot mix and should not try to.
He simply believes that the peaceful co-existence between black and white people is a fallacy. Instead he advocates for people to live and marry within their own races.
He has a general disdain for black people who try to embrace white people’s culture and values and those like Jadine who are involved with white people romantically. His distaste for this issue is so intense that the reader sees him frequently get into arguments with the likes of Sydney and Ondine who work for white people.
Son instead feels more of a connection to nature than more than he does to social constructs.
Morrison presents Son as a passionate individual with a deep concern for those he cares about. He generally also seems to have a general liking for black people, with whom he feels more comfortable. On the down side though, Son can be violent. He accidentally kills his wife when he finds her with another man. He also attacks Jadine when she tries to defend Valerian. The reader is also informed that he was a soldier at one time in his life.
Through this character Toni Morrison makes an attempt to weave the story together by making him an important onnector of all the other characters. It is through him that the reader is able to learn more about the story’s main character Jadine. His interaction with her reveals her inner turmoil and expresses to the reader who she really is. Morrison also uses Son as a character to expose Margaret’s racism and Valerians’ occasional kindness although he is also seen to be a racist man. He is a symbol of pride and acceptance of ones heritage.
The author uses Son to depict a confident comfort in one’s race. Son throughout his journey in the story is very confident in his skin. The reader is able to see a total acceptance of who he is and in his race. Son takes pride in his ‘blackness’ and he enjoys being defined by his race. Through out the text Son is seen to lack respect for those black people who are insecure about their race and who embrace white values.
His ability to fit into many different situations has made him a symbol of adaptability in the text. The reader sees him adopt various qualities in different situations to become who he needs go be. Middleton (34) describes him as a ‘chameleon, able to please a wide spectrum of people, from the white industrialist Valerian to the illiterate black servant Therese.
In the main plot of this story revolves around conflict. Son is positioned strategically in the story to reveal the different conflicts that go on in that society. Although Morrison presents Son’s view of life sympathetically she in no way encourages that these views be adopted but rather presents a case for them to help the reader understand those who would embrace such views. Ta the end of the text though, Son is seen to have somewhat softened his hard line opinion on race issues.
Son‘s journey through out the text helps the author of the text to explore the nature vs, civilization conflict in the story. Son is seen as personifying the nature argument. The reader sees him embrace his nature and how he was born as opposed to those like Jadine who are constantly trying to embrace white values and thus not really accepting their blackness fully.
The acceptance of his race as nature and his comfort with racial and familial connections defines and advocates fro the value in origin (Middleton 52). Through Son, contrast between the nature and civilization themes is made clear.
Son as opposed to Jadine for instance does not see nature as a thing to be subdues or conquered but rather as a gift to be relished and accepted. To a great extent, the black characters in the books align with nature while the white ones align with civilization, with the exception of Jadine.
It is through Son that the author is able to trace Jadines’s journey while exploring the themes in the text . The story’s plot basically traces the internal and external struggles and biases in a prejudiced society.
In the falling action of the story , the reader sees Son trying to make a decision between staying in the Isle de Cheveliers where he has an option to live with people of his native origin or to follow Jadine in Europe .the latter would signify a kind of endorsement of her embracing of the white man’s values and a general relaxation from his strong views on race. On the other hand if he a stays with the wild horse men , the Son will be choosing to retain his traditional hard line opinion on race.
In the development of the story Son takes place in the introduction when he meets Valerian , his wife and servant s, to his love affair with Jadine and eventually to their breaking up and her fleeing to Europe. He is also involved in Jadines’ personal journey and internal conflict s concerning race. In what he sees as a betrayal of sorts, Son denounces Jadinne’s Eurocentric or Euro American education a part of his rejection of all that is associated with the white man (Middleton 67) . He observes that :
“The truth is that whatever you learn in those colleges that didn’t include me ain’t nothing….. If they didn’t teach you that , then they didn’t teach you nothing, because until you know about me , you don’t k now nothing about your self. And you don’t know anything , anything about your children and anything at all about your mama and papa’. (227-8).