How many of the women in the Convent do the men kill in the first chapter of Paradise?

Toni Morrison's 1997 novel Paradise comprises nine chapters, each named for one of the story's characters. In the opening chapter, "Ruby," nine men set out to ravage the so-called Convent, a converted mansion inhabited by women who have taken refuge there from the nearby town to the north. In this attack, five women are killed, including Consolata, Mavis, Gigi, Seneca, and Pallas.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Paradise represents what the author herself considers the third and final novel in a trilogy of books that collectively detail a history of African American experiences (the other two books are the 1987 Beloved and the 1992 Jazz). Paradise in particular tells the individual stories of diverse residents of an all-black town in rural Oklahoma. The community exhibits racism, wherein half-white people are marginalized. In addition to racism, the prevailing themes of the novel include women being oppressed in various ways by their male counterparts. This circumstance leads several women in the community to take refuge at an abandoned mansion. Many of the novel's women find peace, tranquility, and female friendship there. This circumstance threatens the men of the town, leading a raid on the Convent that results in the death of its five residents: Consolata, Mavis, Gigi, Seneca, and Pallas.

The novel begins in medias res during the raid itself. The culprits, moreover, are nine respected and powerful men in the town of Ruby. Only through diverse narratives focusing on individual female characters' experience does the reader learn the unusual, prejudiced, and violent history of the town of Ruby. Ruby is named after the deceased sister of one of the town's founders, who died when she was denied medical treatment on account of her race.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team