In the story of "The Wonderful Tar-Baby," what is the purpose of the trickster figure?

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The trickster figure is a big part of the storytelling tradition both in Native American and African American cultures. Henry Louis Gates Jr, in his book The Signifying Monkey, discusses the role and purpose of the trickster figure. Traditionally, the trickster figure is a character who plays tricks or distracts, misdirects, or confuses the opponent in order to gain a degree of power--the trickster figure is generally one who has little power and so must resort to unexpected measures to get ahead. In Joel Chandler Harris' "The Tar Baby," the trickster figure--the rabbit--has to resort to trickery to get away from the fox. Because the fox has the power and has the rabbit trapped in tar, the rabbit uses tricky words--reverse psychology--to get the fox to send him right where he wants to be: the briar patch. By including this trickster figure in the story, Harris uses the rabbit as a symbol of someone who has no power, winning against his opponent through unconventional means. This also has implications thematically with regards to race and the the power difference between blacks and whites at the time.

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