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Unlike Jadine, Son embraces the categories of race and
gender, relishing the role of being a black man. He feels firmly
connected to his hometown of Eloe, and he enjoys being defined by
his blackness. Although Son sometimes acts like a chameleon, able
to please a wide spectrum of people—from the white industrialist
Valerian to the illiterate, black servant Thérèse—he feels most
at home with people who share his traditional, “down home” background.
He dislikes wandering, despite spending eight years traveling the
world. Instead, he values a sense of place, home, and rootedness.
His very nickname, Son, reflects his commitment to heritage and
Son literally sees the world in black and white terms.
As far as he is concerned, blacks and whites can never mix, nor
should they try to. Black people who assume white values, or who
pursue relationships with white people (like Jadine), are ultimately
traitors to their race. This view explains why Son sometimes has
adversarial interactions with Sydney and Ondine, who work for Valerian,
and why Son attacks Jadine after she defends Valerian. Morrison
presents Son’s views sympathetically, but she does not encourage
readers to subscribe to them; she insists only that readers understand
why Son might feel this way. At the end of the novel, Son seems
ready to retreat from the hard line he has taken throughout the
novel, but it is not known which choice he ultimately makes: whether
he stays on Isle des Chaveliers, joining up with a race of black
people whose pure lineage stretches back to Africa, or whether he
goes to find Jadine in Europe, thereby not only accepting her participation
in white culture but also participating in it himself.