The Tar Baby Stories

For our first essay, you will be taking a closer, analytical look at “The Wonderful Tar-Baby 

Story,” and “How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp For Mr. Fox,” both by Joel Chandler Harris. Your 

essay will have two parts to it for an essay totaling 5 pages in length. 

For the first part (3 pages): Discuss and dissect the themes surrounding both stories; a few 

being trickery, cunning, wit, pride, and folklore. What do you believe to be Harris’ motif in 

writing these two pieces and, using quotes and passages, how do they reflect your opinion? 

What is the relationship between the rabbit and the fox and whom might these two characters 

be reflecting historically? How would these tales reflect the nation? We will be having class 

discussions on the works in various lights so that they may aid your analysis.

For the second part (2 pages): I would like you to assert the place the stories of Joel Chandler 

Harris have in American literature. The collection – originally published in 1880 – was first 

received as a literary triumph, being so well received that President Roosevelt himself 

thought the stories served, “…to bring our people closer together…[Harris’] art is not only an 

art addition to our sum of national achievement, but it has also always been an addition to the 

forces that tell for decency…” However, as decades passed, critics began to blast Harris’ 

collection as a blemish on American literature that only sought to exploit the culture of 

African Americans. With that, explore the questions: Is Harris’ work worthy of praise? Do 

these stories, “…bring our people closer together…”? Where should Harris’ work fall in 

American literature? This second section of your essay requires both examples from the 

stories as well as one researched article from the MVC library database as it will serve to aid 

your argument. This essay should be 5 full pages in length in MLA format with a work-cited 

page.

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