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Chapter Four: Tar Baby and Its Multiple Non-mothers
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“In those eight homeless years he had joined that great underclass of undocumented men. And although there were more of his kind in the world than students or soldiers, unlike students or soldiers they were not counted. They were an international legion of day laborers and musclemen, gamblers, sidewalk merchants, migrants, unlicensed crewmen on ships with volatile cargo, part-time mercenaries, full-time gigolos, or curbside musicians. What distinguished them from other men (aside from their terror of Social Security cards and cedula de identidad) was their refusal to equate work with life and an inability to stay anywhere for long.” (Tar 166).
That Tar Baby, for all the various misreadings of it that exist in criticism, is a kind of continuation of the themes and characters Morrison explored and presented in Song of Solomon makes reading this very difficult novel somewhat easier. Because people identified the character Jadine Childs with the book’s title, rightly, they read Tar Baby as a novel “about” a woman. Unappealing as Son Green is on his first appearance as he swims ashore from the ship he has just abandoned, he represents an ever-increasing type of African American man. In Morrison’s words, as she considered the progression of her attention in her first four books, “from a book that focused on a pair of very young black girls, to move to a pair of adult black women, and then to a black man, and finally to a black man...
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