Following the mighty success of Song of Solomon in the late 1970s, Morrison spent five years working on her fourth novel, Tar Baby. With lukewarm receptions upon its publication in 1982, Tar Baby looks at clashes between and within races. Morrison also demonstrates her brilliant range as a novelist as she expands her vision of the black community beyond the rural, small-town settings of her previous three novels. She moves her setting to a remote island in the Caribbean and alternates the isolation of the lush jungle with a second setting in New York City. The story centers around Jadine, the niece of two black housekeepers, Ondine and Sydney, who cater to the every need of their white employers, Valerian and Margaret Street, who are retired millionaires of a candy factory fortune. A college graduate and aspiring model, Jadine comes to live with them in the Caribbean only to find herself falling for a mysterious gentleman simply named Son. He seemingly appears out of nowhere and challenges Jadine’s quest for self-authenticity. Tar Baby is an oftentimes overlooked novel in Morrison’s career, yet it generates as much passion, intrigue, and insight concerning issues of race and gender as any novel of its time.
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