Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Why do the men kill the women in the first place? The Convent women are survivors. With their spiritual and sexual freedom and their maleless environment, they manage to survive in better stead than the people of Ruby, who appear to be turning on one another. The line of the Morgans has come to a dead end. Though the men of Ruby interpret the peaceful and unfettered life maintained by Consolata at the Convent as sinful and dangerous, they must acknowledge their own attraction to and curiosity about the women. The truth to be extinguished is that the women, who can live simply and communally, succeed and survive, whereas the leaders of Ruby, who must exert control and rule over others by way of spiritual guilt and mercilessness,...

(The entire section is 355 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Paradise functions thematically on many levels. The book’s title, of course, recalls the biblical paradise of Eden, described in Genesis, and the sin that disrupted this paradise. It also recalls the third book of Dante’s La divina commedia (c. 1320; The Divine Comedy, 1802) and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667, 1674). Whether or not Morrison is intentionally drawing on these earlier texts, her novel raises issues of the human capacity for evil, the longing for a paradisiacal community, and the role of the supernatural in human communities. (Unlike Dante and Milton, Morrison draws on African and Brazilian spirituality rather than Christian spirituality.)

Both the men in Ruby...

(The entire section is 382 words.)