Paradise by Toni Morrison

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Paradise by Toni Morrison

Nine patriarchs found a town. Four women flee a life. Only one paradise is attained. Toni Morrison's novel Paradise revolves around the concept of "paradise," and those who believe they have it and those who actually do. Morrison uses a town and a former convent, each with its own religious center, to tell her tale about finding solace in an oppressive world. Whether fleeing inter- and intra-racial conflict or emotional hurt, the characters travel a path of self-isolation and eventual redemption. In her novel Paradise, Toni Morrison uses the town of Ruby and four broken women to demonstrate how "paradise" can not be achieved through isolation, but rather only through understanding and acceptance.

Morrison opens her novel with a narrative about the origins of the town of Ruby and how this seemingly black paradise is born out of isolation. Nearly a century before the founding of Ruby, nine "Old Fathers" lead a group of ex-slaves on a quest for a paradise on earth. On this quest they face the phrase "'Come Prepared or Not at All'" (Morrison 13); however, they feel "they [are] more than prepared--they [are] destined" (14). Having been shunned by whites and light-skinned blacks alike and "[b]ecoming stiffer, prouder with each misfortune" (14), they are led by a mysterious man to their promised land just as the fiery whirlwind led the Israelites to the promised land of Canaan. It is in this promised land that the former slaves, led by the nine patriarchs, begin to build the town of Haven. At the center of this town, they build the Oven, which becomes a symbol of their solidarity and isolation from the rest of the world that has rejected them. Soon a thriving town emerges with strong mora...

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...y also realize that their town is not a paradise and that isolation will never make it a paradise. The citizens must take "this prison calling itself a town" (308) and rebuild it in order to form a "paradise" within themselves rather than without, just as the four women rebuilt themselves through the teachings of Connie.

Toni Morrison's novel Paradise addresses the idea of "paradise" and how it is achieved. Morrison uses the town of Ruby to demonstrate how isolation can not and will not create a "paradise," while also using the women of the Convent to reveal that "paradise" is an inner concept that can only be achieved through understanding and acceptance. The author takes four broken women, kills them, and has them reborn into a "paradise" of their own making.


Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Paradise. New York: Plume, 1999.
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