Tar Baby Chapter 1: Questions and Answers

Toni Morrison

Chapter 1: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How long had Valerian and Sydney been acquainted? What was their relationship?

2. How long had Valerian been on the Isle des Chevaliers?

3. What caused Valerian to leave the island after he retired there?

4. How had Valerian met his wife, Margaret?

5. How do Margaret and Valerian differ in their expectations for Christmas this year?

6. What is Jade’s relationship to the Childs and to the Streets?

7. What theft has occurred within L’Arbe de la Croix?

8. Why did Valerian and his neighbors import mongooses to the Isle des Chevaliers?

9. What is Jadine’s work and training?

10. What is Yardman supposed to pick up for the Streets?

Answers
1. Sydney has been Valerian’s butler and valet for 40 years. They had developed a friendship, sometimes adversarial (as when Valerian’s health was in question).

2. Valerian had bought the island 30 years ago and built his
estate. He brought his wife and son there on holidays. He retired to the island three years ago—in 1976.

3. Valerian left the island once during the last three years
because of a severe toothache. He went to Queen of France to see Dr. Michelin, who became a friend.

4. When Valerian was in Maine on a trip, he attended a parade during the annual Snow Carnival. Margaret was Miss Maine and rode a float with a polar bear. Valerian fell in love with the younger woman.

5. Valerian believed that Christmas should not be celebrated. He preferred goose for the main meal. In contrast, Margaret planned to have several people visit for the holiday—their son Michael; Michael’s friend; and Dr. Robert Michelin, the dentist. She wants to serve turkey, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.

6. Jade is the orphaned niece of Ondine and Sydney. They took her in when her mother died. Margaret has given Jade work while she is on the Isle des Chevaliers.

7. Ondine discovers the theft of items from her kitchen pantry. Bars of bittersweet chocolate and Evian water have disappeared.

8. Valerian and his fellow islanders brought mongooses to the island to kill snakes and rats.

9. Jadine has been successful in Paris and New York as a high-fashion model for the designer Caron.

10. Yardman is supposed to pick up a red trunk that Michael has had since he was a boy. Michael has sent the trunk ahead for his Christmas visit.