Tar Baby and Ambiguous Adventure

Every individual undergoes a period of transformation during which they come to realize and understand who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. While change is a universal concept, the impact that change has on the individual, and those around him or her, varies to different degrees. In Toni Morrison's Tar Baby, Morrison explores the histories of a wide range of characters, both black and white, young and old, and enables the reader to understand how characters' pasts have influenced who they are and the decisions they have made, and emphasizes the various sacrifices they have made throughout their life. Similarly, in Cheikh Hamidou Kane's Ambiguous Adventure, Kane provides insight into the personal and spiritual sacrifices Samba Diallo has made, and how the decisions of his elders have influenced the person he became and also how these decisions unbeknownst to Diallo, influenced how others perceived him. Through an analysis of the major characters in Tar Baby and Samba Diallo in Ambiguous Adventure, one can better comprehend how their backgrounds influenced their transformations into the people they became and the sacrifices that had to be made to become who they are.

In Tar Baby, Morrison focuses on four couples that have influenced each other and contributed to each other's transformations from the people they used to be to who they are now. In the novel, the majority of the action takes place at L'arbe de la Croix, the estate owned by Valerian and Margaret Street, who are white, and employ the majority of the other major characters in the novel including Sydney and Ondine, Valerian's butler and the Street's cook, respectively; and Gideon, also known as Yardman, and Maria Therese, the Street's handyman and a former wet nurse turned laundress, respectively. Jadine Childs, Sydney and Ondine's niece, is not employed by the Streets, but rather is considered to be Valerian's ward and the Street's dependents. Additionally, Son, whose real name is William Green, does not have any relationship with any of the aforementioned characters prior to arriving at L'Arbe de la Croix, but eventually becomes Jadine's lover, and the two lovers end up running away from L'Arbe de la Croix in an attempt to figure out who they are as a couple and as individuals.

In Tar Baby, Valerian was once a wealthy candy manufacturer who, from birth, was destined to inherit the family's candy business worked hard his entire life in order to retire peacefully in L'Arbe de la Croix, and while he believed he had built himself a personal paradise, has his entire life destroyed upon learning of how his wife, Margaret, whom he seemingly rescued from almost certain poverty, abused their son, Michael. Valerian was under the impression that the sacrifices he made -- working long hours to provide financial security for his family and to ensure they would be able to live comfortably after he retired -- were for the benefit of his family, however, Margaret took this time to drive away her son. Morrison writes, "[Valerian's] dream of getting out of the way at sixty-five, and letting his son take over" turned to disappointment when his son refused to take over (53). Likewise, Sydney and Ondine made many sacrifices to ensure that Jadine was taken care of during her childhood and into her adolescence. Sydney and Ondine have remained loyal to Valerian not only because they depended on the Street's employment, but also because they would give everything they could to ensure that Jadine was well cared for. Sydney and Ondine "had been her parents since she was twelve and now she was required to parent them," which helps to emphasize the interdependency of everyone on the island (Morrison…