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Feudalism and Toni Morrison's Paradise

Uploaded by joe on Jan 03, 2006

An investigation into life in Ruby, the city at the center of Toni Morrison’s Paradise, must start with an understanding of the government – or lack thereof – internal and external to Ruby. It is not immediately evident why so many of the residents of Ruby seem unable to leave the town and willing to give up their enfranchisement, or why the founders of Ruby react with such violence to the Convent on the outskirts of town. External to Ruby, the surrounding world is an America hostile to black freedom and dangerous to black livelihood. Inside Ruby it is safe, but its citizens have yielded the power of “governing” Ruby to Deek and Steward Morgan, two founders and the bankers of the town. However, due to the “incestuous” closeness of the town, the rule of Deek and Steward evolves into feudalism. This feudal order is evident in the way the brothers set and maintain the unwritten rules and history of Ruby, and especially in the viciousness with which they attack the Convent on the outskirts of town.

In the years immediately following the Civil War, the freedmen participated fairly freely in the Reconstruction governments of the Southern states by voting and holding office. However, after federal troops were withdrawn and the Republican Party switched its attention to the economic depression of the time, the freedmen lost these rights. The perpetual threat of white violence on little or no pretense combined with a complete lack of freedom of movement or possession created a situation not unlike the second century AD, when large private estates worked by slaves were broken up and given to peasant farmers, who were forced to fend for themselves against barbarian hordes. These farmers, for their own protection, formed pacts with other landowners for protection, and gradually the larger landowners gained complete loyalty from smaller landowners. Eventually, Constantine I, in AD 337, established serfdom legally, and serfs could not marry, change occupations, or move without their lord’s permission.

Toni Morrison’s Paradise depicts a group of freedmen and their descendants who, when faced with rejection and violence by the world, attempt to protect themselves by creating a Haven away from the outside world. They forge “castle walls” by founding Ruby in the middle of nowhere and discouraging outsiders from settling or even staying for a few hours. However, this...

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Uploaded by:   joe

Date:   01/03/2006

Category:   Literature

Length:   10 pages (2,326 words)

Views:   2126

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