The of Role of Myth in Morrison's Paradise

The power of myth and tradition to shape and control the shared consciousness of communities is a recurring theme in Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise. Morrison uses the residents of the town of Ruby and the nearby Convent to illustrate the irrationality of dogmatic adherence to mythical beliefs and traditions without reason while also proving that belief in mystic powers can heal as well as harm. By comparing the canonized legends of the towns’ foundation in religious zealotry with the innocent spiritual awakenings of the women at the convent, Morrison forces us to inspect the values and traditions to which we adhere to before being blindly guided or passing judgment on others.

The central conflict in the novel is between the allure of new mythic figures and ideals from outside of Ruby and the gravity of the old ways that Ruby’s elite wish to maintain. All of the other conflicts in the novel can be interpreted as offshoots of this main clash. The young versus the old, the 8 rocks versus the light skins, and the conflict between Reverends Misner and Pulliam are all ways of shaping the same question: Should the residents of Ruby stand by the old myths propagated by the Morgan family or reject them and their tenets in order to...

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