Tar Baby

Tar Baby

by Toni Morrison


$15.00 View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, April 26

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400033447
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/08/2004
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 184,108
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.


Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan

Date of Birth:

February 18, 1931

Place of Birth:

Lorain, Ohio


Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Before Breakfast

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

"Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night."

"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight.

"Well," said her mother, "one of the pigs is a runt. It's very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it."

"Do away with it?" shrieked Fern. "You mean kill it? Just because it's smaller than the others?"

Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. "Don't yell, Fern!" she said. "Your father is right. The pig would probably die anyway."

Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father.

"Please don't kill it!" she sobbed. "It's unfair."

Mr. Arable stopped walking.

"Fern," he said gently, "you will have to learn to control yourself."

"Control myself?" yelled Fern. "This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself." Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father's hand.

"Fern," said Mr. Arable, "I know more about raising a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!"

"But it's unfair," cried Fern. "The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?"

Mr. Arable smiled. "Certainly not," he said, looking down at his daughter with love. "But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pigis another."

"I see no difference," replied Fern, still hanging on to the ax. "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."

A queer look came over John Arable's face. He seemed almost ready to cry himself.

"All right," he said. "You go back to the house and I will bring the runt when I come in. I'll let you start it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you'll see what trouble a pig can be."

When Mr. Arable returned to the house half an hour later, he carried a carton under his arm. Fern was upstairs changing her sneakers. The kitchen table was set for breakfast, and the room smelled of coffee, bacon, damp plaster, and wood smoke from the stove.

"Put it on her chair!" said Mrs. Arable. Mr. Arable set the carton down at Fern's place. Then he walked to the sink and washed his hands and dried them on the roller towel.

Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were red from crying. As she approached her chair, the carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fern looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the carton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newborn pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone through its ears, turning them pink.

"He's yours," said Mr. Arable. "Saved from an untimely death. And may the good Lord forgive me for this foolishness."

Fern couldn't take her eyes off the tiny pig. "Oh," she whispered. "Oh, look at him! He's absolutely perfect."

She closed the carton carefully. First she kissed her father, then she kissed her mother. Then she opened the lid again, lifted the pig out, and held it against her cheek. At this moment her brother Avery came into the room. Avery was ten. He was heavily armed-an air rifle in one hand, a wooden dagger in the other.

"What's that?" he demanded. "What's Fern got?"

"She's got a guest for breakfast," said Mrs. Arable. "Wash your hands and face, Avery!"

"Let's see it!" said Avery, setting his gun down.

"You call that miserable thing a pig? That's a fine specimen of a pig-it's no bigger than a white rat."

"Wash up and eat your breakfast, Avery!" said his mother. "The school bus will be along in half an hour."

"Can I have a pig, too, Pop?" asked Avery.

"No, I only distribute pigs to early risers," said Mr. Arable. "Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one, to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly. Let's eat!"

But Fern couldn't eat until her pig had had a drink of milk. Mrs. Arable found a baby's nursing bottle and a rubber nipple. She poured warm milk into the bottle, fitted the nipple over the top, and handed it to Fern. "Give him his breakfast!" she said.

A minute later, Fern was seated on the floor in the corner of the kitchen with her infant between her knees, teaching it to suck from the bottle. The pig, although tiny, had a good appetite and caught on quickly.

The school bus honked from the road.

"Run!" commanded Mrs. Arable, taking the pig from Fern and slipping a doughnut into her hand. Avery grabbed his gun and another doughnut.

The children ran out to the road and climbed into the bus. Fern took no notice of the others in the bus. She just sat and stared out of the window, thinking what a blissful world it was and how lucky she was to have entire charge of a pig. By the time the bus reached school, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most beautiful name she could think of.

"Its name is Wilbur," she whispered to herself.

She was still thinking about the pig when the teacher said: "Fern, what is the capital of Pennsylvania?"

"Wilbur," replied Fern, dreamily. The pupils giggled. Fern blushed.

Charlotte's Web Book and Charm. Copyright © by E. White. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

John Irving

. . .Toni Morrison's greatest accomplishment is that she has raised her novel above the social realism that too many black novels and women's novels are trapped in. She has succeeded in writing about race and women symbolically. -- The New York Times

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Tar Baby 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My first Toni Morrison novel, Tar Baby took my breath away. Her poetic and powerful writing gave me chills and touched me very personally. You can feel and see the words, not just read them. I will definately read more of her works in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The simplicity of the story lies in Toni's great talent in which she can spin a tale. There's nothing to it. It's pure Toni...the ending is quite shocking, but true to the author's favor. It gives depth to the ordinary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Tar Baby was like having a pot of soup on the oven and letting it slowly simmer to perfection. I love the subtle language of Morrison, the characters interaction with each other, the way Morrison uses Valerian almost as the overseer over all the madness. This book is a good study in the relationship between blacks and whites, and the climax at the dinner table is a classic. Read this book!!
pinkcrayon99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To me this book really is about *class* in the African-American community which is a topic that is missed by many that read it. The interaction of the characters of this book is amazing. Great read!
g0ldenboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the fifth of six large works assigned to my college's Postmodern American Literature course. Toni Morrison and I got off on the wrong foot; Tar Baby crawls.
lindseyrivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I don't always understand Toni Morrison, or some of the struggles her characters undergo I always love reading her. Her language is poetic, her stories interesting and I always end up invested in the characters. This book was no different. The ending went totally over my head but I would still re-read this book for the rest of the story. What I did understand, especially the plight to understand and deal with racial boundaries by all the characters, is poignant and will resonate with me for a long time.
blondestranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Many times throughout the book I thought "Who are these people?!!" The characters were so bizarre and did appalling things. The book, in a very strange and incoherent fashion, was portraying the struggle within black culture to choose progress (education and betterment) or tradition (a life of servitude and freedom from the "white man"). There was an unspoken caste system, self-sacrifice and selfishness, violence and many layers of ignorance and prejudice. The book does have some controversial social suggestions about black and white integration, but it never fully completes any of them. The ultimate choice (between progress and tradition) is left unresolved. Overall, I can't say I would recommend this book to anyone.
ThatsFresh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Toni Morrison. I think her writing is like candy, and when you read a poetic sentence or moving chapter, you can just feel it. So when I picked up this book, I actually decided to put it down, to pick up the audio book. It¿s narrated by Lynne Thigpen and makes the book all the better. I had never listened to an audio book before, so I wasn¿t used to having the book read to me, and at the beginning found myself spacing out. But in no time, I learned to love it found listening to it was more convenient that reading the actual book (sometimes). I would often lay on the couch and listen to the book through my computer and would find Lynne¿s voice so soothing that I¿d be forced to take a nap after thirty minutes (not that that¿s a bad thing). For those of you who don¿t know, the book is about a rich, older white couple living on a tropical island in the Caribbean with their longtime servants. The servant¿s daughter, a successful model in Paris, comes to spend the winter at the mansion and is included in the family¿s drama. The white couple is growing apart in their older-adult age and the wife is left to obsess about their son coming home for Christmas. A strong African-American man, who we know nothing about, appears at the mansion one day. Everyone but the white homeowner immediately loathes him. He ends up staying at the house, only to cause drama, and be part of everyone else¿s. The story weaves love, race, class, identity, family, hate and obsession all into one. Toni Morrison does a beautiful job, once again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago