What is "P/paradise" in the novel?

a) biblical Paradise (Garden of Eden) with Adam and Eve as innocent inhabitants

b) heavenly Christian Paradise (heaven, life after death); achieved through Christ's/Mary's redemption

c) a union of (a) and (b), where BOTH Eve and Mary can dwell (p. 263)

d) the biblical "Promised Land" as homeland for God's "chosen people"

e) the New World as "paradise," a New Eden established by the Pilgrim Fathers

f) Africa as the cradle of human civilization, "home" for African-Americans (Misner's view)

g) Fairly, Oklahoma, as a paradisiac all-black town to which the 8-Rock "pilgrims" were refused entry > paradise as exhibiting exclusivity; the basis of its desirability is that it does NOT permit everyone entry; "gated city"

h) the all-black town Haven as a "promised land" for the 8-Rock founders

i) Ruby as renewal of the deteriorating paradise of Haven; but none of these "perfect towns" remains paradisiac...why? The idea of Ruby might be a noble one, but its ideals could not be connected to everyday life; like Fairly it was finally defined only by "the absence of the unsaved, the unworthy and the strange" (306)--which are an integral part of the human community.

j) the Convent as a refuge for the rejected, hurt, lost; can be a sanctuary for anyone who seeks peaceful entry; INCLUSIVE rather than 'exclusive'

k) Dovey's townhouse with the gorgeous garden she has created > private paradise

l) Mavis' car as her refuge

m) the legendary rock formation which seems like a couple making never-ending love (see Annemarie Goez's "statement")

n) place at the intertwined fig trees where Connie and Deacon meet for their passionate trysts.

o) paradise as a state between life and death (p. 307: "God is with us always, in life, after it and especially in between, lying in wait for us to know the splendor"); the Convent dwellers seem to be located in such a space in the last chapter of the book, having entered through the "raised window" (Anna) or "closed door" (Misner) which Anna and Misner sensed in the Convent garden (p. 305). Morrison: Paradise "is not just black or white, living, dead, up, down, in, out. It's being open to all these paths and connections and interstices in between." (Winfrey Show statement)

p) Toni Morrison has repeatedly said that the capital "P" in the last word of the book is a printing error--she wanted a lower-case "p" in "paradise" to indicate that forms of paradise are available "down here" in the 'real world'. "How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it," Misner thinks, implying that with more imagination, a paradise on earth might be possible...(TM in AOL Interview, 12 Dec. 1997: "The very last lines about the ships and the passengers should suggest that an earthly Paradise is the only one we know...I wanted this book to move towards the possibility of reimagining Paradise...If we understood the planet to be that place, then this is all there is. So why not make it that way?")

q) Consolata's "loud dreaming" (263) presents a fantastic, beautifully sensuous utopia (263) which seems to be an imaginative re-creation of her sordid childhood in a Brazilian port

r) The difficult epigraph is very important to Morrison (she even begins her whole study group session [Oprah's Book Club show] by requiring understanding of the epigraph*). It seems to link points (o) and (p): in the world of 'here and now' [point (p)] everyone constantly commits (small) sins which are like "little deaths"; but through realizing these sins and through Christian redemption, one can achieve a kind of self-awareness, of grace, and of peace which connects, in that "space in between" [point (o)], the world of the living with that of the 'resurrected'.

s) Morrison says she wants the reader "to participate in the journey" - of reading the novel, of investigating the notion of paradise; the process, the pilgrimage which this journey implies is more important than a particular arrival in a 'promised land' of final answers.

Toni Morrison in The Washington Post, 6 Jan. 1998: "We [humans] are the only ones who can imagine paradise, so let's start imagining it properly, so that it isn't about my way, my land, my borders, my values, and keeping out you and you and you. We're the only ones who can do that. So--think it up...Yes, the chances of paradise are small. So what?"

*from a collection of Gnostic writings called Nag Hammadi; "in that collection is a beautiful but very strange book called Thunder, Perfect Mind. I have twice [also epigraph to Jazz] used lines from those passages because of their beauty and signification and their startling quality...I was aware that the ending of the poem suited the plot, the narrative, of Paradise. The notion of sin, redemption and particularly the last line 'And you will not die again' [sic]." (AOL Chat with Toni Morrison, 15 Feb. 1998)