In Toni Morrison’s Paradise, there is a conflict that seemingly reflects Dante’s divine justice in Paradiso. In Paradiso, the Eagle is a significant figure that is a combination of souls derived from those that are just. The oven in Ruby from Morrison’s Paradise relates to the situation between the Eagle and Dante in Paradiso because the younger generation believes that the oven is a symbol that represents God and by them believing in this, they feel as if they maintain their own divine justice, just like the Eagle portrays to Dante. The older generation believes that the younger generation is full of piety, the elders don’t see it that way because the younger generation sees this symbol (the oven) as a sense of portrayal to them that they are a part of God, those that are part of the older generation do not see it that way.
The oven in Morrison’s Paradise was moved from Haven to Ruby by the men who made it and it is used in a way that gives people a sense of comfort, control and self-support. This gives the people of Ruby somewhere to go and feel as if they are having their voices heard. The oven stands as a symbolic gesture of self-reliance and a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. The oven is covered in graffiti, with a symbol of black power on it that offends some people (Deek and Steward). There is tension between these two points of meaningfulness that show that the oven is an important object to the citizens in Ruby. The residents of Ruby believe that the oven is a materialistic reminder of the things and stories that have taken place through their ancestral members that have been passed down through each generation in between Ruby and Haven. It also holds the prized possessions of the difficulties, struggles and situations that the founders of Haven and Ruby have faced. The oven will always be a historical thing that will hold extreme significance no matter how far in generations they go, “Then act like it. I just told you. That oven already has history. It doesn’t need you to fix it” (Morrison, 86).
The younger generation and the older generation have a small argument about the oven. The older generation believes that the younger ones do not fully understand what the oven truly means, they don’t have the respect and they don’t know what it truly stands for. They were not the ones that are ex-slaves so they couldn’t possibly know what the significance of it really is. The younger generation sees that the older generation believe that they are the ones that give the oven life because they feel as if they are descendants of the oven since they are ex-slaves.
The residents that reside within Ruby interpret and know that the oven is a place that represents each generation in a different way. The generation that is older, uses the phrase “beware the furrow of his brow” as a way to bring them back to what is known as their past and the younger generation uses the phrase “be the furrow of his brow” uses the phrase to show that they are a part of Him (God) and as a way of showing demand. This phrase creates a sense of self-control instead of control that is conducted by Him. There seems to be a need of control from the people that are in the older generation. The men feel as if they have power over the women and that the women should know their role to play, the men want the most power that they can possibly possess because they think that it is their “responsibility”. Morrison’s Paradise has shown that the interpretation that the people of Ruby possess through the oven is a way to essentially “deal with” the women in the convent. The older generation of Ruby rely a lot on self-reflection, the power of their morals and everything that has meant something to them because of their past. There is an argument between the younger and the older generations about the significance of the meaning of the oven to each of them. I found it interesting how both sides were so different from one another. Like I have mentioned, the older generation believes that the oven helps them remember and to bring them back to their past and the younger generation believes that the oven helps them show that they are a part of God. But, the difference between these two are so significant because it shows that there are two whole different sides to the oven and that even though there may be some people who think their own thing about what the oven does from them, there are two clearly defined sides to this convent. To me, the older generation sees this as a part of a vow to be mindful of judgement and power that they want to maintain but only God can have. The younger generations don’t have this same mindset, they only think that God leads them and that they believe in Him. The oven’s lip has a stream of text on it and it is often interpreted as a sign that is a perception of God and that the Convent is destroying the town.
The oven’s readers use collaboration to try to reconcile the interpretive disagreement by understanding that the oven is “standing” its ground for each individual in possibly a different way because they each have their own reason as to why they think the way that they do about it. There are many different views on this but there are two that significantly stand out, the vision of being a part of God and the sense of remembrance. The disagreement was not necessarily fought out, it was more of a conversation that, to me, ended in agreeing to disagree. There is a common ground that gives the readers the sense that everyone feels as if this oven sets the tone for support and comfort. The collaboration as a whole seemed sort of subtle to me as it was there but it was not like fought out. Like I have mentioned prior, it seemed like they agreed to disagree because they knew that they were not going to be able to see eye to eye about what it meant to each side since they are so different in the ways of viewing it due to their experiences and differences.
From reading Paradise and other novels written by Toni Morrison, I have learned to really analyze text that I read and that almost everything included is written for a purpose as it potentially leads into another idea or that it loops back around to a different connection. There were many questions that I have come across while reading the novels although many of them did not have answers specifically spelled out for us readers, they were left unanswered which allowed me to make different connections and taught me that I can come about my own answers to tie the ends. Throughout each Beloved, Jazz and Paradise, I have seen small character connections between the two books that in turn have helped me answer questions that were left upon us. Through collaboration, in class discussions and self-assumptions, I have learned to view things in different aspects instead of just my own view, it has taught me to think about what others may see it as and then how to include that into my own insights. Personally, I struggled with making connections because it took me a while to find where they all lead to but after doing a lot of analyzing, re-reading and collaborating, I was eventually able to see them come together.
As I have begun to loop throughout texts and come back to one another, I often found myself wondering, “Is this what I am supposed to think? Is this right?” and often second guessing my revelations. Realizing that the texts often included open ended questions was big for me because it also made me realize that that is supposed to happen (me questioning my answers). The author left them unanswered to make us (the readers) find ways to conclude and for us to create the closure that we are looking for. Being able to collaborate and discuss (in person and remotely) was significantly helpful to me because it helped me see not only my visions and thoughts but others perspectives too. I often found myself keeping what I had to say to myself until I heard what my peers had to say first because like I mentioned in the previous chat, I was scared of saying the “wrong” thing but most of the time, my peers had pretty similar thoughts and conclusions that I had, wish was refreshing to see that I was able to make connections and that I didn’t really need to be “scared” to say what I was thinking.
From what we have learned about the differences between the older generations and the younger generations, it is simple to see that there is an underlying disagreement that comes off very subtly. This, to me, relates to today’s world and situation as we deal with this pandemic of the Coronavirus. In my views and newly acquired experiences, I have seen that the younger generations and the older generations are butting heads so to speak a little bit here, subtly as well. I have seen many people my age (in their 20’s) acting as if they are invincible and acting as if nothing is going on in the world and I have seen people my parents’ age (in their 50’s), acting the way people should be, cautiously and safely. This ties into the situation with the oven as the generations do not agree with one another and they seem to believe different things but will not listen to each other.