1. The conservative elements in Ruby ultimately find it impossible to keep the impact of the Sixties from affecting their town. What "Sixties" ideas turn out to be the most powerful, the most resonant, for the people of Ruby? Do these ideas destroy the town's social cohesion or give it new strength?
  2. What new ways of thinking does Richard Misner represent, and how is he received by the people of Ruby? When Patricia tells him that "Slavery is our past" (212), he insists that "We live in the world...The whole world." Which of them is right? What does Misner mean when he says he thinks the people of Ruby love their children "to death" (212)?
  3. "Who could have imagined," think the men who attack the Convent, "that twenty-five years later in a brand-new town a Convent would beat out the snakes, the Depression, the tax man and the railroad for sheer destructive power?" (17). It is clear that the convent, and the harmless women who have taken refuge there, are not destructive. What is the destructive element in Ruby, and what is it destroying?
  4. "Minus the baptisms the Oven had no real value," Soane reflects. (103) What did these baptisms at the Oven symbolize, and how does their removal to the church change Ruby? At the convent, the women dance in rain and reconcile themselves, finally, to the tragedies of their lives (283). Why does Morrison use, here, the imagery of baptism? Does she imply that this dance is a true baptism; that the Convent has achieved a more genuine spirit of community than the town?
  5. What are the circumstances of the death of Ruby, K.D's mother, and what effect does the manner of this death have upon the character of the town that is named after her? What is the "bargain" or "prayer in the form of a deal" (114) that is struck after her death, and who strikes it?
  6. Why does Sweetie make for the Convent when she finds herself at the breaking point? Why does she then try to get away from the Convent, and then tell the people of Ruby that the women there are evil?
  7. In what ways does the wedding or Arnett and K.D. symbolize the current state of affairs in Ruby?
  8. What does the school nativity play tell us about the way Ruby sees itself and mythologizes itself?
  9. Is it fair to say that the people of Ruby have perpetuated racism in the town that was supposed to be a haven from it? If so, in what does the town's racism consist?
  10. Why does Patricia burn all her research on the history of the Ruby and Haven families?
  11. What does Consolata mean when she says "Dear Lord, I didn't want to eat him. I just wanted to go home." (240)? What sort of home does she long for and why does she associate it with Deacon? Who is the Piedade to whose company Consolata returns after her death (321)? What is the meaning of Consolata's vision on p. 254?
  12. How does the death of Sweetie and Jeff's daughter Save-Marie subtly change Ruby? What sort of a future do you envision for the town? Is it possible to see the murders at the Convent as ultimately helping Ruby to evolve and to survive?
  13. What do you think lies behind the door or window that Anna and Misner notice as they leave the Convent? Why do they choose not to open it?
  14. What is the meaning of the novel's title? What does Paradise mean within the context of the book? "How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it," thinks Misner. Does Morrison imply that it is impossible to create a Paradise on earth?


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