Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost Paradise Lost, Paradise Gained Nine patriarchs found a town. Four women flee a life. Only one paradise is attained. Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise revolves around the concept of paradise, and those who believe they have it and those who actually do. Morrison uses a town and a former convent, each with its own religious center, to tell her tale about finding solace in an oppressive world. Whether fleeing inter- and intra-racial conflict or emotional hurt, the characters travel a path of self-isolation and eventual redemption.

In her novel Paradise, Toni Morrison uses the town of Ruby and four broken women to demonstrate how paradise can not be achieved through isolation, but rather only through understanding and acceptance. Morrison opens her novel with a narrative about the origins of the town of Ruby and how this seemingly black paradise is born out of isolation. Nearly a century before the founding of Ruby, nine Old Fathers lead a group of ex-slaves on a quest for a paradise on earth. On this quest they face the phrase ‘Come Prepared or Not at All’ (Morrison 13); however, they feel they [are] more than prepared–they [are] destined (14). Having been shunned by whites and light-skinned blacks alike and [b]ecoming stiffer, prouder with each misfortune (14), they are led by a mysterious man to their promised land just as the fiery whirlwind led the Israelites to the promised land of Canaan. It is in this promised land that the former slaves, led by the nine patriarchs, begin to build the town of Haven.

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At the center of this town, they build the Oven, which becomes a symbol of their solidarity and isolation from the rest of the world that has rejected them. Soon a thriving town emerges with strong moral ideals and views in order to keep the rest of the world at bay. Despite this isolation, the second generation of the founding fathers, upon returning from World War II, come to realize that their utopia is in danger. The citizens begin to associate with the outside world that had once despised them, and they became eager to get away and try someplace else (6). The town of Haven had gone from feet to belly in fifty years (5) and because of this the New Fathers decide to dismantle the Oven and relocate. The New Fathers sought to keep the dream of a paradise alive because they knew what they might become if they did not begin anew (6). Fifteen families pack their bags and leave to found the town of Ruby, a town isolated by ninety miles from anything.

Just like its predecessor, Ruby is founded on the concept that isolation equals protection. The citizens view Ruby as a fortress [they] bought and built up and [which they had] to keep everybody locked in or out (213). It is a town where outsider and enemy are ‘. . .

two words [that] mean the same thing’ (212). They believe in their isolation so much that the outsider, Reverend Misner, feels like he [is] herding a flock which [believes] not only that it [has] created the pasture it [grazes] but that grass from any other meadow [is] toxic (212). In an effort to retain this isolation which they believe to be paradise, the citizens did not build anything to serve a traveler: no diner, no police, no gas station, no public phone, no movie house, no hospital (12). In spite of these efforts of self-isolation, the older residents of Ruby begin to realize that their so called paradise is in jeopardy. The younger residents have become complacent and seek to learn about the outside world and their African roots. The sanctity of the Oven is now becoming sullied by radio music and vandalism.

The elders begin to look for a reason of what might be causing the destruction of their meticulously created paradise. They seek answers to questions of why [a] mother was knocked down the stairs by her cold-eyed daughter. Four damaged infants were born in one family. Daughters refused to get out of bed. Brides disappeared on their honeymoons.

Two brothers shot each other on New Year’s Day. Trips to Demby for VD shots common (11). It is to answer these questions and to protect their paradise that the elder men look seventeen miles away to a former convent where there [are] women like none [they] knew or ever heard tell of (8). Unlike the citizens of Ruby who believe that paradise is found through an isolated location, the residents of the Convent discover the true meaning of paradise. The Convent is the home of four broken women fleeing from emotional hurt spanning the spectrum of the guilt of killing one’s own children to sexual abuse.

These four women, Mavis, Gigi, Seneca, and Pallas isolate themselves within the confines of the Convent walls rather than deal with their pain. It is within these walls that they realize that they [can] not leave the one place they [are] free to leave (262). At the center of the Convent is Connie, a woman of warm living flesh very unlike the cold dead metal of the Oven in the center of Ruby. It is through Connie that the women are able to understand and accept their problems and thereby come to the realization that paradise is a concept rather than an isolated locale. Connie tells the women, ‘.

. . I will teach you what you are hungry for’ (262). The women hunger for paradise and this is related in the story of Piedade that Connie tells the women. The women begin to heal and attain paradise through the teachings of Connie.

She forces the women to let go of their pain by stepping-out of their bodies and transferring it onto drawings of themselves on the cellar floor. By putting the pain outside of themselves, the four formerly broken women are able to achieve paradise and the longed for [cleansing] rain had finally come (266) to wash away their sins. Even as the women revel in their new found paradise, the men of Ruby discover the falsity in their own definition of paradise. The men break into the convent and kill the women and thereby prove to themselves that they have become like the same people they despised that sent them on their quest for a paradise in the first place. They also realize that their town is not a paradise and that isolation will never make it a paradise. The citizens must take this prison calling itself a town (308) and rebuild it in order to form a paradise within themselves rather than without, just as the four women rebuilt themselves through the teachings of Connie.

Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise addresses the idea of paradise and how it is achieved. Morrison uses the town of Ruby to demonstrate how isolation can not and will not create a paradise, while also using the women of the Convent to reveal that paradise is an inner concept that can only be achieved through understanding and acceptance. The author takes four broken women, kills them, and has them reborn into a paradise of their own making. English Essays.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost Peter Schrag presents the ills of California current politics in an angry and persuasive tone. He says California used to be both model and magnet for the nationin its economic opportunities, its social outlook, and its high-quality public services and institutes; however, California started to fade after the passage of Proposition 13, the initiative of tax limits (7). Schrag work clearly shows what is the problem in today California, and it is easy to understand even for those who have little knowledge of politics. By focusing on issues of gneopopulism which is easy to find in California diversity, he succeeds in giving his readers the sense of crisis not only about California politics, but also the national wide politics because California is the place where the new American society is first coming into full view (23). Schrag says, about California politics, that: For nearly a generation, there has been increasing focus among scholars, politicians, and journalists on the growing gaps in Californiaethic, social, economicbetween those who exercise political power and the larger population, and particularly those who are the most immediate users of its public services.

What has gotten little discussion is the dynamic of the plebiscite process itself. While it`s ad hoc in natureeach measure is decided by voters on its own apparent merits without much reference to the wider contextit has a larger cumulative effect through which statewide majorities restrict the powers of local political majorities, which are often nonwhite. Almost by definition, it is also a device of impulse that tends to be only marginally respectful of minority rights or interests, and that lends itself to demagogic wedge campaigns designed to boost voter turnout for other political purpose. (21) Schrag divides his project into five sections. The middle sections, the Spirit of 13,h and march of the Plebiscites, in which he carefully discusses each important measure in the last two decades, show why so many issues rose.

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In the first section, golden Moment, Schrag describes California heyday of post-World War U optimism and how it crumbled. Citations from magazines prove that California was a really paradise even from the nationwide view. Schrag also notices that the demographic change deeply relates to California politics in the last two decades. The Watts riots, he tells us, was a reminder for millions of new Californians and powerful signal that, for all its sunshine and beauty, this new and fragile place provided no guarantee against the dark and the demonic in American life (46). In the second section, good-bye El Dorado, Schrag focuses on the issues of public services which he calls Mississippification, infrastructure, the fundamentally changed government structure, and social relations that California tax revolt and its political progeny have produced, especially he pays particularly close attention to gMississippificationh of the public school system. The budge for the educational system use to be mostly financed by property taxation; however, the state government stopped to spend enough money to keep the high quality educational system after Proposition 13 passed.

He describes todayfs California schools as gmigrant camprow after row of drab wooden boxes of uncertain safety, most of them painted brownh (83). It helps imagine easily Californiafs schools with high densities of children and poor conditions. Older and affluent whites, Schrag tells us, care primarily about tax reduction, and they had disproportionate power because the majority of voters were whites. Many measures which reduced tax from rich people and increased from poor people, gwho use public services but vote in much lower numbers,h passed, with the result that the gap between upper-middle class and low income class extended. Schrag shows important facts related to that class issue and how that class issue affected public services including the educational system.

Schrag shows us the background of Proposition 13 and their direct effects in third section, gThe Spirit of 13.h He mentions the inflation in real estate values and elderly homeowners who do not have school aged children. He says, ga growing share of taxes was no longer going to schools and cops but to welfare and health, meaning to the poor and to the new foreign immigrantsand that even when it went to schools, it appeared increasingly to be schools for somebody elsefs childrenh (139). This fact makes much sense why old Californians wanted to reduce their property taxes even though they knew that ganything terrible would happen to public servicesh (149). Schrag also tells how Proposition 13 seriously affected Californiafs politics. The large political power transferred from local government to Sacrament, and the power of all government to control revenues was constricted. Controlling the public services of all over the state without a control of revenues is much more difficult than manage the small district, like counties and cities.

Proposition 13 became gboth fact and symbol of a radical shift in governmental priorities public attitudes, and social relationships that is as nearly fundamental in American politicsh (132). Schrag discusses Proposition 218, and he says that it ggave electoral privileges to the rich and wellbornh (170). In the next section, gMarch of the Plebiscites,h Schrag focuses on gbroader implication of Californiafs orgy of plebiscitesh and discusses measure after the passage of Proposition 13. He says that the voters have approved many initiatives gan average of four in each two-year election cycleh after Proposition 13 passed (194). What becomes clear in this chapter is that the plebiscitary process is problem in California.

Most voters and a large portion of media pay attention not on the government and the social welfare, but on their individual benefits. Much amount of money was spent on each measure, and supporters and opponents vehemently argued by using the mass media. Schrag says that the state government of California became a gmedia-basedh government. It is clear that California had anti-immigrants climate by Schragfs selection of measures. California politicians attacked programs for low-income Californians precisely at the time when Californiafs demographic was changing rapidly. Politicians have been urging white voters to cut back on beneficial public services to original Californians.

Finally, Schrag concludes his work with some suggestions for gthe possibilities for a new political integration and a revitalized social ethic in Californiah while he describes gthe contrary forces pushing even further toward a market-based governmental ethich (20). His work gives us a good opportunity for rethinking recent California and how voters, not only Californiafs voters but also the others, should be. Bibliography Schrag, Peter. Paradise Lost: Californiafs Experience, Americafs Future.New York: The New Press. 1998.


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