"Beware the Furrow of His Brow?" "Be the Furrow of His Brow?" Her own opinion was that "Furrow of His Brow" alone was enough for any age or generation. Specifying it, Particularizing it, nailing its meaning down, was futile. The only nailing needing to be done had already taken place. On the Cross.
How often do we buzz over nothing or something trivial? Despite many possible interpretations of the novel, Toni Morrison's Paradise may be interpreted to talk about the futility of human attempts to reduce many possibilities into one and fix a certain narrative as the only one. The above passages support such an interpretation. Whether "beware" or "be" in the inscription may sound trivial. But it makes a big difference to the Ruby people at the moment, and becomes serious enough to split the whole town two and finally disastrous enough to murder some innocent woman.
The novel illustrates what we go through everyday: how easy it is to take sides and stubbornly stick to one, and how easily doing justice can degenerate into self-righteous arrogance.
Remaining uncertain is often an evidence of infirmity. Yet, a state of no specifying, no particularizing, no nailing is a Keatsian moment, at which we would open ourselves into a world of vast possibilities. That world is what Morrison calls a paradise which is being built on the cross of mutual love and respect for differences.
By Kim Myung-ju Ph.D. Professor
Dept. of English
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