Toni Morrison's World of Fiction

By Karen Carmean | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Tar Baby

In an interview following the publication of Tar Baby, her fourth novel, Morrison said that she had given herself "permission to write books that do not depend on anyone's liking them." She added that "a writer does not always write in the ways others wish." Apparently many people did actually wish that Tar Baby had been written differently, because it turned out to be Morrison's least popular work. In the same interview, Morrison indicated that instead of popularity what concerned her most was that "the writing gets better." Asked if she was satisfied that she was indeed continuing to grow as an artist, she took a look at her career and concluded that, yes, she could see some lines of development with the help of "hindsight." She noted that "from a book that focused on a pair of very young black girls, to move to a pair of adult women, and then to a black man, and finally to a black man and a black woman is evolutionary." Also, she thought that her writing was now marked with a finer sense of economy and structure and "more courage." 1 To these positive developments she might have added several more. For example, in Tar Baby she chose to employ a more dramatic as opposed to a heavily descriptive kind of writing. She dared to bring myth, legends, and folklore even more to the forefront, along with the African idea of a conscious nature. For the first time, she presented both black and white characters who play major roles. She extended her canvas, moving from the "village" setting typical of her first three novels to the Caribbean and beyond. Additional examples of her development could be cited. But let it simply be said that despite the

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