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

2298 words - 9 pages

A paradise is an imaginary place, one where there is eternal happiness and everlasting beauty, where beings work together and for one another, and where feelings of love, unity, and respect are encouraged and celebrated. This serene and safe space tends to be associated with religious connotations, such as Heaven or Eden, for it is believed to have been created by a god or higher being. There are numerous beliefs and various religions that have their own versions of paradise and they all teach different theories about where it is located and how one can reach it. In Toni Morrison’s Paradise, entitled after this harmonious and divine place, she examines a specific group’s attempts to create and sustain a man-made version of this idyllic haven and the consequences and complications that can arise from this artificial paradise.
The term ‘utopia’ is connected with the concept of an earthly paradise because it is the definition of an ideal society, one that is man-made and focused on maintaining a perfect political and social system. A utopian society treats everyone equally and justly and suggests that humans can live pleasantly amongst one another in this paradisiacal state. Similarly, like the various beliefs and versions of paradise, a utopia is not confined to one specific design for there are many different ideas and beliefs about who can be included in it and how it should be constructed. In a utopia, problems such as racism and racial preference rarely exist because a community might either consist of one race or an intermixture of multiple races. In an essay entitled “Home”, which was conducted in the midst of writing Paradise, Toni Morrison acknowledges that both a utopia and a paradise are the only places where a person’s race would not be a subject of concern, she writes, “I have never lived, nor has any of us, in a world in which race did not matter. Such a world, one free of racial hierarchy, is usually imagined or described as dreamscape—Edenesque, utopian, so remote are the possibilities of its achievement” (3). Morrison seems to recognize the impossibility that issues about and concerning race could ever become irrelevant in our world. She suggests that a place free from racial prejudice will be forever dreamt of, longed for, and imagined only occurring in an ideal society.
Although a utopia is considered to possess near perfect qualities, which includes the erasure of a racial social order, there are quite a few aspects of it that are questionable. Morrison suggests that this is the only type of society that could sustain an environment wherein race did not matter, however she also takes into consideration the reasons why a person or group would want to create either a race-based or race-free community and the lengths that they would go to in order to ensure its survival. Before its publication, Morrison discussed what she was trying to accomplish in Paradise, she said, “In the novel I am now writing, I am trying first...

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