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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 300

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This controversial novel by Gloria Naylor explores a community inhabited by affluent African Americans. In the book there are a number of characters whose wealth and social position affect them in various unpleasant ways, turning them into materialistic socialites or cruel sociopaths. Their relationships reflect their selfish, materialistic values. Some of the book's quotes reflect the values and themes being explored.

One central character is a hypocritical man of God named Michael T. Hollis. He once held the true vocation of a Christian minister but has since become corrupted by sensual pleasures and greed and now embodies heretical values. He manages to remain somewhat charismatic towards the people who don't know that he's corrupt, and his way of speaking reflects his attempt to keep them fooled, as when he lectures them about sin and salvation:

We all don't have to see eye to eye in order to see our way to the Kingdom. It's the heart condition of each man that the Lord will judge.

With this quote Hollis is vaguely trying to absolve himself from wrongdoing by saying God will overlook his actions and judge his "heart condition."

Another character, Dr. Daniel Braithwaite, is a historian and author who has written of the history of Linden Hills. He offers this opinion on the declining literary culture of the day:

Young minds today are dulled by television and other visual sensations. When reading was one of the few pleasures available, we could recite whole passages to each other.

Here Braithwaite is impugning the media and technology-obsessed culture that he thinks is leading to the intellectual decline of black youth. But thematically this quote suggests, ironically, that the very upward mobility leading to better economic opportunities for young people is also, by way of surrounding them with technology, lowering their intellects.