Tar Baby Book Summary, Ending, Quotes & Review 2024

Tar Baby Book Summary, Ending, Quotes & Review 2024
Julia Scheeres
Julia Scheeres She/Her - Journalist/Book Author/Cat Mom April 23, 2024

Tar Baby is about love, race, and the complexities of human relationships. It delves into the lives of a diverse cast of characters on a lush Caribbean island. The story explores the conflict between the desire for freedom and the comfort of tradition, and the tension between different racial and cultural backgrounds. The narrative is rich with symbolism and poetic language that vividly brings the characters and their world to life.

Tar Baby Book Summary

Jadine, a striking African American model based in Paris, visits the Caribbean estate of Valerian Street and his wife, Margaret. There she meets Son, a local handyman, and they begin a passionate but tumultuous relationship.

Son is enigmatic, rejecting modern society's constraints and embracing the island's traditional way of life. Jadine struggles to reconcile her love for Son with her ambitions and the expectations of her wealthy employers in Europe.

Valerian's past is shrouded in family drama. His long-lost daughter, Ondine, arrives on the island, stirring up old wounds and exposing the complexities of the Street family's relationships. Ondine's presence challenges the status quo and confronts the characters with their own mortality and choices.

As the relationships between the characters intertwine, the island serves as a stage for the collision of cultures and the tension between freedom and obligation.

Sweetness, Jadine's aunt, and Therese, a local woman, provide contrasting perspectives on the island's history and the impact of race and heritage on the characters' identities.

Son's tar baby, an object he creates to trap rats, becomes a powerful metaphor for the entanglements and consequences of the characters' actions and desires.

The novel explores themes of race and class, examining the painful legacies of colonialism and the struggle for self-definition in a world of conflicting influences.

Jadine's internal conflict intensifies as she grapples with her love for Son and her fear of losing the freedom she has fought so hard to obtain in Paris.

Son's deep connection to the island is both a source of strength and a form of entrapment, reflecting the paradoxes of home and exile.

The Street family's history of broken relationships and hidden truths unfolds, revealing the scars of the past that continue to shape the characters' destinies.

As the story reaches its climax, the characters are forced to confront their own biases and misconceptions, leading to a profound reevaluation of their lives and choices.

The narrative builds to a point of resolution, though not necessarily closure, as the characters' fates remain entwined with the island and with each other.

Tar Baby Quotes

  1. Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.Love is or it ain
  2. The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly sid
  3. But in fact, freedom is a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.But in fact, freedom is a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is ab

Tar Baby Ending Explained

At the end of Tar Baby, the intricate relationships among the characters have undergone significant changes.

Jadine's inner turmoil reaches a tipping point, leading her to make a decision that changes the course of her life, though the ultimate consequences are left open to interpretation.

Son and the other islanders continue their existence, deeply connected to the land and to each other, while the Streets grapple with their legacy and the impact of the past on their present and future.

Characters in book Tar Baby

  • Jadine: A sophisticated and independent young African American woman, she is a successful fashion model in Paris who is torn between her own ambitions and her family's expectations.
  • Son: A complex African American man who has rejected the trappings of modern society and lives on the island, working as a handyman. He is deeply connected to the land and to the traditional way of life.
  • Valerian: The wealthy and aging owner of the lavish Caribbean estate, he is Jadine's employer and a man with a troubled past that still haunts him.
  • Margaret: Valerian's wife, a kind and nurturing woman who is struggling with her husband's detachment and the loss of her own identity.
  • Ondine: Valerian's long-lost daughter, she is a complex character who has been deeply affected by her past and has a tenuous relationship with her family.
  • Roman: A servant on the estate, he is deeply tied to the island and its traditions, serving as a connection between the old ways and the new.
  • Sweetness: Jadine's aunt, a strong and opinionated woman who has lived her life on the island and has a deep understanding of its history and people.
  • Theresa: A friend of Son's, she is a local woman who is familiar with the island's culture and is drawn to Son's enigmatic personality.

Key Lessons

  • Embrace Complexity: Life and relationships are complex, and embracing this complexity can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and others.
  • Question Expectations: It's important to question societal and familial expectations to discover one's true path and form genuine connections.
  • Value Heritage: Acknowledging and valuing one's heritage can provide a sense of belonging and contribute to personal identity.
  • Seek Freedom: Pursuing true freedom involves understanding the difference between superficial choices and those that align with one's deepest desires.
  • Confront the Past: Confronting the past is crucial to moving forward; unresolved issues can continue to shape and hinder the present.

My Personal Opinion

Is Tar Baby worth reading? I would say yes. I found Morrison's exploration of complex human relationships and the impact of race and heritage to be profoundly engaging.

I was struck by the poetic prose and the depth of the characters. However, the intricate plot sometimes felt overwhelming, requiring careful attention to fully appreciate the nuances. I admired the way Morrison tackled difficult themes with grace and insight.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy emotionally rich narratives and are open to exploring the complexities of love, identity, and cultural legacy. It's a thought-provoking read that offers a unique perspective on the human condition.