Paradise Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Oven (symbol)

The Oven is symbolic throughout the novel of the state of Ruby. In the very beginning, when the Oven was first constructed in Haven, it was an essential and treasured communal good. Since citizens did not have such facilities available in their houses, the Oven was a space where people necessarily gathered to cook and spend time. Because of its important symbolic function the new group of founding fathers insisted that it be taken to Ruby. However, in Ruby, it serves no practical function, as now people cook in their houses, and even baptisms take place in individual churches. The Oven, and the conflict over what its slogan is, becomes symbolic of the intergenerational conflict and the excessive desire of the elders to hold on to the past, even though it is no longer useful. On the night the men raid the Convent, the rain causes the Oven to begin sliding off its foundations, signifying more broadly the decline of Ruby.

Dreams (motif)

Many characters have dreams that are heavily symbolic throughout the novel. Soane feels that she misinterprets her dream of a bird before the wedding of K.D. and Arnette; she decides the dream was a warning against inviting the Convent women. Nathan DuPres describes his dream of crops that everyone presumes to be incoherent, but which is in fact a powerful allegory for the intergenerational conflict in Ruby.

The Nativity play (allegory)

In the section "Patricia," it becomes clear that although it is customary in many places to perform Nativity plays at Christmas, in Ruby this play is specifically intended as an allegory for the story of the founding of Haven and the "Disallowing." The events of the Nativity - where a family, including a heavily pregnant woman, are denied shelter - mirror exactly the events of the Disallowing. However, the residents of Ruby further develop the allegory by including not just one but nine families, the same number of families that originally founded Haven.

The Cross (symbol)

Richard Misner wordlessly holds up the Cross during the marriage ceremony of K.D. and Arnette in order to counter Pulliam's sermon regarding the nature of love. To him, the Cross symbolizes the infinite love of God that is innate in humans and their actions. Steward, however, thinks of how he has seen the Cross used by whites who were racist. To him, the Cross is only worth as much as the person carrying it.

Memory (motif)

Memory is a frequently recurring motif throughout the novel. The Morgans are described as having infallible memories spanning generations; they never forget anything that has happened, even if it was many years earlier. Steward and Deek are both very affected by their memory of nineteen prosperous and elegant black women in a town they visited in their youth. The town of Ruby is overly influenced by their memory of the past, to the point where Richard Misner feels there is no room to plan for the future.