Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Literary Ruralism (Part VII): Toni Morrison's Paradise

I began reading Paradise (1998) last week, and the very first line grabbed my attention as a vivid expression of the legal relevance of rural spatiality.  That opening paragraph establishes the setting in rural Oklahoma, outside the fictional town of Ruby.  It also establishes the significance of that setting to the crime being described:  the perpetrators act under cover of rurality, without fear of discovery.
They shoot the white girl first.  With the rest they can take their time.  No need to hurry out here.  They are seventeen miles from a town which has ninety miles between it and any other.  Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.  (p. 3)
Ten pages later we get a description of another crime, along with another depiction of how rural spatiality conceals:   
More men came out, and more.  Their guns are not pointing at anything, just held slackly against their thighs.  Twenty men; now twenty-five.  Circling the circling cars.  Ninety miles from the nearest O for operator and ninety from the nearest badge.  If the day had been dry, the dust spuming behind the tires would have discolored them all.  As it was, just a little gravel kicked up in the tread they left behind.  (p. 13)
I have theorized this relationship between space and rural spatiality here.

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