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MonkeyNotes-Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
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Chapter TWO

The narrator compares a house of sleeping human beings to a human ear. This house is none other than L' Arbe de la Croix and the humans are the servants, Valerian, Margaret and Jadine. While Ondine and Sydney sleep tranquilly after having worked hard all day, Valerian is restless, as is Margaret who prepares for her beauty sleep, hoping to dream a particular dream.

Jadine had fallen asleep immediately after lying down, but is now awake after having dreamt about hats. She remembers another vision that is not a dream. This incident is recounted in great detail. She had gone to the supermarket in Paris to shop for dinner ingredients for a party to celebrate having made the cover of a famous fashion magazine. There she had seen an incredibly attractive tar colored woman, an African wearing a canary yellow dress, who caught everyone's attention. The woman had selected three eggs from the dairy section and had held them aloft in a unique manner. The cashier had tried to convince the woman that eggs were only sold by the dozen or half a dozen but she had merely put a ten-louis piece on the counter and walked away. As she was leaving, she had turned, looked right at Jadine and spat on the pavement. Jadine's dinner party had gone over well but she had been disturbed by this woman who had spit at her and her great accomplishment seemed diminished by this statuesque woman.

Now, she slips out of bed, goes to the window and looks out. She sees the hills where it is believed that one hundred horsemen rode one hundred horses. Margaret held that there was only one rider, but Valerian has maintained his own story (that he had heard from Dr. Michelin) of a hundred riders. Isle des la Chevaliers means "island of the horsemen."


Jadine thinks about what is troubling her. She realizes that the woman (in the yellow dress) had made her conscious of her own loneliness during a time when she had been wondering about which person to marry. She wanted to marry a European named Ryk but had wondered whether he was actually interested in marrying her or simply any other smart black girl. So, she had left him come to meet her aunt and uncle to see what they think. However, what they felt wasn't really important to her. She had told them that she was interested in starting a business and staying with them together as a family. She now kicks off the sheet and buries her head under the pillow to keep the moonlight out of her eyes and the woman in yellow out of her mind.

Valerian wakes up just as Jadine gets out of bed to stare at the hills. He has been unable to sleep either and had been thinking about how he had to fight for his retirement, unlike other men who didn't want to retire. His thoughts are recounted and the background of his life is related. He had sworn to himself that he would retire at the age of sixty-five. His father had died when he had been merely seven years old and he was looked after by his uncles and aunts. A candy had been named after him when it was understood that he would inherit the candy factory. The candy did not do well although it sold in the South.

His previous marriage had been unsuccessful and he did not have any children from it. After the divorce he had seen Miss Maine on a float and had fallen in love with her. Margaret was only seventeen at the time, a high school dropout. The history of his family's factory is related as well as his own contribution to it. He had directed it before finally retiring at the age of sixty-eight. His way of living, his marriage to Margaret, the other women in his life and his buying of an island in the Caribbean form an integral part of his life.

Margaret is not dreaming, nor is she quite awake. She is busy thinking of various things and is especially worried about her forgetfulness. She often forgets the names and uses of things, so a faint terror always accompanied her, except in sleep. Her life history is related in turn. She was exceptionally beautiful even though she was born to two ordinary looking people -- Joseph and Leonara Lordi. As a child, she had had stood out among her siblings. Incidents of her childhood, her youth and her marriage to Valerian are depicted. She had been extremely young when she had married and had often felt lost in the palatial house that she lived in. Although scared of the servants at first, she had developed a friendly relation with Ondine and would often spend time with her in the kitchen. Valerian had put a stop to that, though and they had had a big argument over it. She had borne a son but people suspected that she wasn't a loving mother. She believed that she was special to her son. She realizes now that she liked his company as an adult, not just because he was her son.

In the servants' quarters, Sydney and Ondine dream different dreams. Ondine dreams of sliding into water while Sydney dreams about the red, rusty Baltimore of 1921. They were all asleep now and nothing disturbed them, not the moon and certainly not the footsteps in the dark.

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