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Toni Morrison: Tar Baby

The novel is set on the fictitious Caribbean island of Isle de Chevaliers. Jadine Childs is beautiful, young, well-educated (at the Sorbonne) and a model. The upbringing has been paid for by the Streets, the employers of her aunt and uncle, Ondine and Sydney. However, Jadine is conceited and arrogant and has moved away from the culture of her aunt and uncle. When a rich Frenchman proposes to her, she seriously considers it but has doubts about betraying her cultural heritage. She returns to the island to think about it, where she meets William Green, known as Son, a young black man from Florida from a poor background and a fugitive but someone in touch with his culture. The novel is about the inevitable clash between the two, the failure of each one to understand the other and the other’s background but both of them, of course, functioning within the boundaries of colonialism. Both have their views on what it means to be black and the two views are in conflict with one another. And, inevitably, the clashes will be too much for both of them. The book did well but it does not seem to have the same power as its predecessors.

Publishing history

First published 1981 by Knopf