Paradise Summary and Analysis of "Grace"


This section opens on K.D. He is the nephew of the twins Deek and Steward Morgan and the son of the twins’ sister Ruby Smith, whose death provided the town with its name. K.D. is thinking about the recent arrival in town of Gigi. Gigi’s outsider status would have been striking in itself - she stepped off a bus without anybody seeing her do so, and in spite of the fact that “they had never seen a bus in the town - Ruby was not a stop on the way to someplace else” (54). However, Gigi is also dressed in a way very much at odds with Ruby standards: “pants so tight, heels so high, earrings so large they forgot to laugh at her hair” (53).

Gigi’s arrival coincides with the gathering of some local youths at the Oven. From this group, K.D. and Arnette Fleetwood have gone off separately to discuss her pregnancy by K.D. Each party is frustrated with the other: Arnette does not want to be pregnant, nor does she to face any of the possible consequences; K.D. does not feel responsible for Arnette, as she, he thinks to himself, is the one who pursued him. Gigi arrives just at the point where their discussion is turning hostile. Noting the way K.D. looks at Gigi, Arnette scornfully says that perhaps Gigi is “the kind of tramp you want” (54), causing K.D. to slap her.

As a consequence, K.D. and his uncles Deek and Steward must meet with Arnette’s father and brother, Jeff and Arnold Fleetwood, to discuss the incident and the damage to Arnette’s reputation. Reverend Misner will also be there. K.D. continues to fantasize about “Gigi and her screaming tits” (55). Seeing her calls to K.D.’s mind a childhood memory that made a great impression on him. His uncles once took him on a business trip to an unspecified city in Oklahoma. While they were in a meeting, K.D. wandered away and seen for the first time a public, segregated swimming pool: “It seemed to him as though hundreds of white children were bobbing in it, their voices a cascade of the world’s purest happiness, a glee so sharply felt it had brought tears” (57). Seeing Gigi, K.D. feels again that “yearning excitement” (57). Then, as now, his uncles chastised K.D. They ask him why he would want to sleep with Arnette when all the babies of Jeff Fleetwood, Arnette’s brother, have been born with severe disabilities.

In a pre-meeting of the Morgan side with the youthful Reverend Misner, we learn more about Misner’s background. He is relatively new to the town, and “very close to being too handsome for a preacher” (58). The Morgan twins are uneasy about the non-profit credit union Misner has formed in Ruby to serve his congregation, an implicit threat to the Morgan monopoly on banking in Ruby. Misner’s approach to civil rights and engagement with white society are also at odds with the Morgan - and broader Ruby - philosophy. Whereas the township of Ruby has sought to live lives totally separate from the machinery of white supremacy, Misner has a reputation for agitation: “covert meetings to stir folks up; confrontations with rather than end runs around white law” (56). Misner’s difference and openness to diverse groups of people makes the Morgan twins nervous: “a man like that could encourage strange behavior; side with a teenage girl; shift ground to Fleetwood. A man like that… could give customers ideas. Make them think there was a choice about interest rates” (56).

The Morgan men and Misner arrive at the Fleetwood residence. The discussion is complicated by the unspoken background: Arnold Fleetwood owes the Morgan twins money, and Jeff bears a lot of anger for the world at large, seemingly stemming from his experiences in war as well as the family tragedy of his four sick children. Mable, Arnold’s wife, and Sweetie, Jeff’s wife, spend all their time vigilantly “pacing, servicing, fetching, feeding - whatever it took to save the children who could not save themselves” (60). Though they are never seen, they are constantly heard performing their work throughout the house. No one mentions Arnette’s pregnancy, which Misner does not know about. The men broker a deal: K.D. will apologize to Arnette and the Morgan twins will help pay for Arnette to go to college, which serves them well as she will have to leave town to study. That night, Misner reflects on what he tries to believe is a satisfactory resolution. However, he wonders whether the twins - who always act uniformly - are not hiding something. He also does not like K.D., who he feels acts selfishly with the knowledge that his status as the last male in the Morgan line will protect him. After the meeting with the Fleetwoods, Misner sees K.D. speeding on the road out of town.

The focus turns to Gigi’s story. Gigi’s lover, Mikey, tells her about a rock formation outside his hometown in Arizona that casts a shadow that looks like a couple making love. Gigi is captivated by the idea of it, especially the idea that the couple is constantly moving, changing positions based on that of the sun. When Mikey and Gigi are separated, with Mikey sentenced to three months in jail, Gigi sends a message through his lawyer to meet at the rock formation on April 15th. However, Mikey never shows up, and Gigi fails to find a town named ‘Wish’, let alone the rock formation Mikey described. She does not want to stop believing in the rocks, however: “he may have put them in the wrong place, but he had only summoned to the surface what she had known all her life existed… somewhere” (64). She goes to Mexico, but soon calls her grandfather, who asks her to come home to Frisco.

On her way home, however, Gigi meets a stranger. He has not heard of Mikey’s couple formation, but he does say that he has heard of an isolated lake in Ruby, Oklahoma where two trees grow intertwined. He tells her that if you “squeeze in between them in just the right way,” you feel an indescribable ecstasy, and that “after that can’t nobody turn you down” (66). Instead of going home, Gigi heads to Ruby. Failing to find the trees, she decides to leave town again. Intending to find a bus or train station, she gets a ride from Roger Best, who is driving out to the Convent to pick up the body of Mother, who has just died.

At the Convent – which Gigi finds is not really a convent – she encounters a huge feast. Suddenly ravenous, she begins to eat; in the middle of this, Connie walks in and lies down on the stone floor. Distracted by Connie, Gigi fails to heed Roger’s call; so, he leaves her at the Convent. Connie asks Gigi to watch her sleep, claiming not to have closed her eyes in seventeen days. She tells Gigi that the woman who died was “a love” (73) - the first and last of the two in her lifetime. Gigi tours the Convent and takes in the lingering signs of its past as an embezzler’s mansion. Learning that Gigi’s real name is ‘Grace’, a name she shares with her mother, Connie decides to call her that instead. A short while later K.D. arrives and Gigi agrees to go on a drive with him. Gigi is very conscious of the power of attraction that she wields over K.D.

When Mavis returns a week after Mother’s death, following a month-long trip away, she is shocked to find Gigi sunning naked in the garden. Immediately Mavis and Gigi clash, with Mavis wary of change to the household, but Connie urges acceptance of the new girl. Though Mavis and Gigi never get along, distractions arise that keep them from each other. Near August, a girl arrives at the Convent claiming to have been raped.


“Grace” opens with the point-of-view of K.D. Although the sections are named mostly for Convent women - in this case, Gigi - the inclusion of many perspectives, from both residents of the Convent and Ruby, renders the book a joint history of the two locations. Contrary to the desires of Ruby residents, the lives of those in town and at the Convent are deeply intertwined. From this point onwards, each chapter is as much - if not more so - about other characters as it is about the one for whom the chapter is named.

This section demonstrates the Morgans’ great anxiety about continuing a line of inheritance, and the simultaneous pressure on K.D. to be the salvation of his family line as well as the freedom this gives him to behave badly, as his uncles will always bail him out of difficult situations. “However disgusted both were, K.D. knew they would not negotiate a solution that would endanger him or the future of Morgan money” (55). The negotiation spotlights the role that Deek and Steward play in their family, and the necessity of presenting a united front in order to protect their monopoly (Deek - short for ‘Deacon’ - and Steward - someone who looks after something - are among a number of characters with very literal names, such as Consolata, Pallas, and Seneca). Although K.D. is young, he proves himself also to be a skilled manipulator, dropping the name of Billie Delia into the conversation with the implicit intention of making the Fleetwoods nervous, given Billie Delia’s reputation in town for promiscuity.

The section is characterized by parallel agendas, by a disjuncture between what is spoken and unspoken. Morrison shows here that although there is always an outward agenda that is moralistic in nature - for example, the dishonor K.D. has done to Arnette by slapping her - there is also a hidden agenda of things that cannot be discussed - Arnette’s pregnancy and the safety of the Morgan fortune. Motivations in Ruby are not always as selfless as they seem. This theme is embodied by the twins Deek and Steward, who “always seemed to be having a second conversation - an unheard dialogue right next to the one they spoke aloud” (62). They worry about Misner because he might side with Arnette, and also because his bid to institute non-profit, no-interest money lending schemes in his church threatens the Morgans’ ability to set whatever interest rate they desire.

Morrison also alludes to the state of gender relations in Ruby. Though the subject centrally concerns a girl - Arnette - she is excluded from the meeting about what has taken place between her and K.D. “Just those concerned would be at the meeting tonight. Everybody, that is, except the one who started it all… Deek and Steward, Reverend Misner, Arnette’s father and brother” (54). This demonstrates how men handle women’s affairs in Ruby without any agency on the part of the women, and shows how men discuss women without their input. And yet, Morrison shows that even if the presence of women is invisible, it is everywhere and essential. The meeting is punctuated by the sound of “the tippy-tap steps of women who were nowhere in sight” (61). Arnold Fleetwood insists that before they close the deal he must discuss it with Arnette’s mother, to which Deek replies, “Women always the key, God bless ‘em” (61).

On the Convent side, Gigi’s arrival immediately captures the attention of K.D. The effect of her presence, and K.D.’s fanciful way of thinking of her, is demonstrated by his description of her as having “screaming tits” (55) and the characterization that she walks stiltedly because she might have sapphires hidden in the toes of her shoes. The confident and boisterous Gigi, for her part, is content to play along with K.D.’s affections. However, an etching she finds in the Convent takes some of the fun out of her disinterested dalliance with K.D.: a woman martyr offering up her breasts on a platter (the caption suggests Saint Catherine of Siena, although this image is usually associated with Saint Agatha of Sicily). A mirroring of K.D.’s lust for Gigi’s breasts, the image is a suggestion that her relationship with K.D. might prove to be more dangerous than she anticipates.