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The Role Of Race In The Development Of The Utopian Societies Featured In Toni Morrison’s Paradise

1997 words - 8 pages

The Patriarchs of Ruby and Their Ideology of Masculinity
Being aware of the oppression and humiliation endured by the Old Fathers followed by the reclamation and revitalization of their identity allows for a certain understanding of the current ideology of Ruby. Founded in 1950, the town is named after one of the community’s women who died because she was refused medical care in a white hospital. Using the woman’s name for the town is meant to memorialize her, however it also acts as a remembrance of the racism that led to her death. Verena Harz writes about the new name of the town and its significant dissimilarity from Haven’s:
The name Ruby thus reflects the community’s obsessive preoccupation with their victimization, their inability to translate the experience of refusal into a different, more positive self-definition and their failure to move beyond racism. The renaming from Haven to Ruby registers a shift of focus in their view of themselves. Whereas Haven clearly emphasizes the aspects of salvation and protection, Ruby is a constant reminder of the community’s rejection, exclusion, and endangerment and reflects its paranoid self- perception. ("Building A Better Place: Utopianism And The Revision Of Community In Toni Morrison's Paradise")
Naming the town ‘Ruby’ constantly reminds its citizens of their harrowing history, which they believe will make them stronger and more united. However, the name actually makes them more susceptible to feelings of suspicion and promotes constant distrust and fear of outsiders. Whereas before the Old Fathers were looking to create a place where they could be free from discrimination, the New Fathers (the patriarchs of Ruby) are trying to build a town in which the exclusion of others who are not of eight-rock blood is its main priority.
Although established in a secluded location where the land was “cheaper than cheap after the tornadoes” (Paradise 16), the citizens turn Ruby into an aesthetically pleasing utopia where, as Morrison writes, “The dirt yards, carefully swept and sprinkled in Haven, became lawns in Ruby until, finally, front yards were given over completely to flowers” (Paradise 89). The townspeople work hard to make Ruby beautiful, an effort that is rarely ever seen by any foreigners, for the outside boasts a picturesque and seemingly perfect town; however, the inside hosts a society based on exclusion, suspicion, and fear. Read associates the society’s mental state to the patriarchs’ continuous distortion of their history, “The descendents of the Old Fathers are immersed from birth in the stories of community history used to transform the shame of the Disallowing into pride, and therefore they inherit the same traumatized psychological state” (531). The New Fathers’ reluctance to acknowledge the traumatic racisms of their past results in their establishment of a rigid authoritarian society. Their inherited views on masculinity, which advocates for the exhibition of...

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