Tar Baby Chapter 10: Questions and Answers

Toni Morrison

Chapter 10: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Jadine say she is leaving Son?

2. What changed physical feature of Jadine do Ondine and Margaret notice?

3. Why is Margaret cleaning out Valerian’s clothing?

4. What does Margaret say to Jadine about Valerian’s ability to function by himself?

5. How does Valerian’s talk about returning to Philadelphia affect Sydney?

6. How does Valerian react when Sydney refuses to leave the island and pours a glass of wine for himself?

7. What positive treatment of Valerian does Sydney show?

8. What physical affliction does Valerian have?

9. Why is Alma Estee at the airport?

10. What does Jadine call Alma Estee? What does this action indicate?

Answers
1. Jadine says she is leaving Son because of his “white-folks-black-folks primitivism” that makes him a “cultural throwback.”

2. Margaret and Ondine notice that Jade has cut her hair and is wearing it in a “poodle cut,” a style for white women in the past.

3. Margaret is cleaning out Valerian’s clothes because he has too many that are mildewing and fading. He will never wear most of them. Sorting his clothing is a form of power for her.

4. Margaret describes Valerian’s increasing traits of old age. He cannot button or zipper his clothing; she must shampoo his hair, too.

5. When Valerian talks about returning to Philadelphia, Sydney changes from dutiful servant to the decision-maker for the two of them. Sydney says the weather is too cold there and ends any prospect of returning.

6. Previously, Valerian had tolerated no subordination from a servant. Now, without a word, he accepts Sydney’s decision-making and his pouring of a glass of wine for himself.

7. Sydney is tending well to Valerian’s needs. When Valerian cannot eat by himself, Sydney carefully spoon-feeds him.

8. Valerian can no longer control his hands, which wave in the air ineffectually.

9. Alma is hired to clean the restrooms at the airport.

10. Jadine, not thinking it is important to recognize a black person by name, just as Valerian had arrogantly treated black natives, calls Alma Estee the generic name “Mary.”