Study Guide

Gideon (Yardman) in Tar Baby

By Toni Morrison

Gideon (Yardman)

Gideon spends most of this book being called "Yardman" because he's the dude who takes cares of the grounds of Valerian Street's Caribbean vacation house and no one has ever bothered to learn his name. He is a former citizen of the U.S., because when he was young, he moved to American thinking that he would make his fortune. He was tricked into coming back to Dominique by his aunt Thérèse. He isn't too unhappy about leaving The States, though, since "After all he hadn't left much: just U.S. citizenship, the advantage of which was the ability to send an occasional ten-dollar money order, buy a leisure suit and watch TV" (4.216).

Gideon is not an ambitious guy. Once he comes back to the Caribbean his first thoughts are: "Now that he'd come back what was there to do but build a new roof after each hurricane, find a little work, and wait for carnival?" (4.216). He is always trying to find ways of disregarding his work around Valerian's house, and all he really wants to do is get paid so he can buy a bottle of rum and have a little spare time to himself. We think that, of all the characters in Tar Baby, we'd most like to hang out with Gideon.