Themes and Meanings
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, cannot do so without constant struggle to uphold the collapsing walls of isolation. Even then, there is sin among them—greed, jealousy, unforgiveness, lying, adultery, murder.
Morrison’s overt symbols—the Oven, the Cadillac, the Convent—all point toward an objective world in which these symbols are endowed with powerful, historic ideas and values, sustained by the cultures that made them. The Oven at the center of town carries the town motto, “Beware the Furrow of His Brow.” For the “8-rock” families, it serves as the axis of the community; it is the place to gather for food and for civil and social matters. Although the Oven has been preserved for years (it was transported brick by brick from Haven to Ruby), the young people wish to change it. By his own admission, the Reverend Misner admits that he was partly at fault for encouraging the young people to speak up and make changes.
Few women in Ruby ride in cars, but the women at the Convent have use of a Cadillac that gives them unlimited mobility and freedom. Their happiness and freedom must be resolved to evil if the myth of hard work, sacrifice, and denial is to work for Ruby. Morrison’s tale is of the archetypal clash of good and evil, of moral righteousness fueling hatred and violence, and of good ultimately transcending evil.