Paradise Quotes and Analysis

His saliva is bitter and although he knows this place is diseased, he is startled by the whip of pity flicking in his chest. What, he wonders, could do this to women? How can their plain brains think up such things: revolting sex, deceit and the sly torture of children? Out here in wide-open space tucked away in a mansion—no one to bother or insult them—they managed to call into question the value of almost every woman he knew.

Narrator, 8

This quotation, though not precisely attributed, belongs to the consciousness of one of the men who goes out to the Convent to hunt down its residents. The man's bitter saliva and the use of the word "diseased" suggest the viscerally physical way in which he views the threat of the Convent. The fact that his ideas about what goes on at the Convent are almost enough to make him question the value of every woman he knows suggests that he is only able to entertain the idea that women are one thing or another, and that he has a strong idea of what that thing should be. Nonetheless, the "whip of pity" suggests that, against his own will, he has the capacity to sympathize to an extent with the women.

Bodacious black Eves unredeemed by Mary, they are like panicked does leaping toward a sun that has finished burning off the mist and now pours its holy oil over the hides of game.

God at their side, the men take aim. For Ruby.

Narrator, 18

This quotation evocatively illustrates the way in which the men who seek to raid the Convent view its residents. The women are like black Eves - that is, the first woman created by God and Adam's companion, who caused the fall of man and their ejection from paradise. Additionally, however, they have not yet been redeemed by "Mary" - that is, by the virgin birth of Jesus, who consequently dies for humanity's sins and so absolves them. The imagery of does poured over with holy oil highlights the way in which the women are objects of a hunt. The setting apart of "For Ruby" from the rest of the sentence has the effect of dramatically highlighting it, but also perhaps suggesting that it is an afterthought, or that it is tangential to the real motivation.

A quiet, secret fire breathing itself and exhaling the sounds of its increase: the crack of shells, the tick of nut meat tossed in the bowl, cooking utensils in eternal adjustment, insect whisper, the argue of long grass, the faraway cough of cornstalks.

Narrator, 42

This quotation evokes the peaceful nature of domestic life at the Convent. The concept of a "quiet, secret fire" suggests simultaneously warmth, mystery, and a quality of keeping to oneself. However, fire can also be a powerful and dangerous force. The idea that it breathes itself and "[exhales] the sounds of its increase" suggests the way in which the Convent is entirely self-sufficient: it needs only itself for its nourishment, and expels the sounds of its own multiplication.

The peace and goodwill summoned by the announcement of the marriage were now shattered. The peace and goodwill summoned by the announcement of the marriage were now shattered. The reception at her house would be a further digest of the problem, and most disturbing, Soane, unbeknownst to others, had made the mistake of inviting Connie and the Convent girls to the wedding reception.

Narrator, 154

In this quotation, Soane realizes that she has made a great mistake in presuming that the wedding would solve certain conflicts in Ruby, and a greater mistake in inviting the Convent women, as they will only exacerbate a tense situation. Though many had hoped that the alliance between Arnette and K.D. would resolve the difficulties between those families, the unspoken clash between Reverends Misner and Pulliam at the marriage service proves that the generational tensions in Ruby remain very much alive.

Everything anybody wanted to know about the citizens of Haven or Ruby lay in the ramifications of that one rebuff out of many. But the ramifications of those ramifications were another story.

Narrator, 189

"That one rebuff" refers to the "Disallowing"–that is, the rejection of Haven's founding group of families by the residents of Fairly, Oklahoma. The founding families, on their journey to found Haven, sought shelter in the town, but were denied by the residents of the town (even though some of the women were pregnant) on the grounds of prejudice against dark-skinned blacks. Though the residents of Fairly offered food and a collection of money in the place of shelter, the pride of the families had been injured, and the men refused to take the food and money. Patricia reflects that this event is the founding myth of Ruby, from which everything else followed.

This time the clarity was clear: for ten generations they had believed the division they fought to close was free against slave and rich against poor. Usually, but not always, white against black. Now they saw a new separation: light-skinned against black. Oh, they knew there was a difference in the minds of whites, but it had not struck them before that it was of consequence, serious consequence, to Negroes themselves.

Narrator, 194

This quotation further elaborates on the "Disallowing," a central defining event of Ruby history. The one-drop rule in the United States ensured that those with any black ancestry at all were considered black. However, not all blacks were considered on an equal plane, and this is what this quotation refers to. The founding fathers believed that the important struggles were those to end slavery and to create economic equality. When they were rejected by the residents of Fairly, they realized that the difference between dark skin and light skin was consequential to their fellow blacks as well. This was a source of great disillusionment that reinforced their desire to establish an isolated community apart from the rest of society.

And although they were living here in a hamlet, not in a loud city full of glittering black people, Consolata knew she knew them.

Narrator, 226

This quotation marks the first time that Connie enters the new town of Ruby, and the first time that she sees Deek Morgan. Connie happens to visit Ruby at an uncharacteristically festive time: on the occasion of the horse race that is held to commemorate the founding of the town. Her sensation that she "knows" them, even though they live in an isolated area in Oklahoma and not in a vibrant city in Brazil, speaks to the fact that her roots and her childhood have not been entirely lost, but rather lie dormant underneath the reserved and modest manner in which she lives with Mary Magna. Connie's visceral and instinctive identification with the celebratory and expressive nature of the citizens at this moment in Ruby is perhaps part of why she is so drawn to Deek.

She might not have agreed so quickly, but as Mary Magna led her out of the chapel into the schoolroom, a sunshot seared her right eye, announcing the beginning of her bat vision, and she began to see best in the dark. Consolata had been spoken to.

Narrator, 241

This quotation marks the point when Connie's affair with Deek conclusively ends, and she returns to Mary Magna and Convent life. Mary Magna tells her never to speak of Deek again, which Connie "might not have agreed" to so easily if not for the sign from God: a sunshot that makes her see best in the dark. Rather than speaking of Deek, she feels she has been "spoken to" by God, confirming the advice of Mary Magna. The sunshot is why Connie wears sunglasses up until near the end of her life, and spends most of her time in the cellar.

So Lone shut up and kept what she felt certain of folded in her brain: God had given Ruby a second chance. Had made himself so visible and inarguable a presence that even the outrageously prideful (like Steward) and the uncorrectably stupid (like his lying nephew) ought to be able to see it.

Narrator, 297-8

This quotation speaks to a question that recurs throughout the novel: the question of what God's will is, and how to interpret it. The men who raid the Convent claim outwardly to be doing God's work in eliminating the women of the Convent, but individuals like Lone and Richard Misner believe the opposite. Here Lone reflects on her certainty that the fact that the women's bodies disappeared, leaving no evidence of the crime and therefore no risk of intervention by white law enforcement, is an incredible second chance for the town. She hopes that the town will interpret the signs correctly, but it may just reinforce the pride and hubris of the men to not be held accountable for their actions.

Unbridled by Scripture, deafened by the roar of its own history, Ruby, it seemed to him, was an unnecessary failure. How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it. Soon Ruby will be like any other country town: the young thinking of elsewhere; the old full of regret.

Narrator, 306

Here, Richard Misner reflects ruefully on the way in which the actions of the men - ignoring the dictates of Christianity and focusing solely on the past - have undermined the foundations of Ruby. Because of their refusal to accept change, Ruby has become an "unnecessary failure." However, he is not unsympathetic to their actions. He thinks of how "exquisitely human" - that is, perfectly ordinary - it is for humans to try to create a state of "permanent happiness": a happiness that, once achieved, will last forever. However, this desire also leads the human imagination to become "thin," because such a happiness is impossible. By this, he means the way in which the residents of Ruby attempted to found a perfect town and wanted it to stay perfect forever, without acknowledging the inevitability of change. He thinks of how eventually Ruby will, in contrast to the founders' desires, ironically become "like any other country town."