Paradise Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series) - Essay

Toni Morrison

Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Morrison has said that she intended Paradise as the third book in a trilogy dealing with various kinds of love. She covered maternal love in Beloved (1987) and romantic love in Jazz (1992); Paradise deals with spiritual love, the love of God. The heavy biblical themes and analogies support the epic tone of the Mosaic story: the exodus and wandering in the desert of the 8-rock families, the covenant and errand of the generations of 8-rockers, the fierce efforts to maintain an untainted blood line, and a temple (the Oven for some, the Convent for others). There is an Adamic patriarch and his two sons, one given to a brutal and self-righteous violence, the other more passive.

The novel, though, is more than a mere biblical parable; it has historical roots. Many African Americans uprooted from the oppressive sites of their slavery and migrated west to set up towns such as Ruby. Morrison uses her narrative technique, consisting sometimes of purely poetic diction, to represent a tangled connection between characters, thoughts, and events. Her characters tell the story from all of their angles, but most of all through their personalities and their imperfect, human vision. In the end, the reader will know more not only about the consequences of self-righteous vindication but also about redemption and love.