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The Tar BabyA Global History$
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Bryan Wagner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172637

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172637.001.0001

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Say My Name

Say My Name

(p.74) Chapter Four Say My Name
The Tar Baby

Bryan Wagner

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses how in most cases on record, the tar baby story has a three-part narrative structure: a problem statement, concerning the competition for resources between two representative characters, or between one character and a community; an intermediate sequence in which the struggle intensifies through a scene of captivity, in which the fight between enemies becomes a struggle for recognition; and a solution, which sometimes involves punishment but more often involves an escape that resolves the problems, both material and metaphysical, dramatized in the previous scenes. By reducing this tripartite sequence to the central episode where the trickster is stuck fast to the tar baby, critics have resolved the problems presented inside the story, looking away from the story to the history of its global diffusion.

Keywords:   tar baby, narrative structure, problem statement, intermediate sequence, solution, trickster, global diffusion

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