Description Of Paradise Essay Writing

One theme, in particular, in those papers intrigued me. Prominent in their headlines and articles was a clear admonition: “Come Prepared or Not At All”.

Implicit in those warnings were two commands: 1. If you have nothing, stay away. 2. This new land is Utopia for a few. Translation: no poor former slaves are welcome in the paradise being built here.

What could that mean for ex- slaves — threatened, exhausted refugees with no resources? How would they feel having trekked all that way from chains into freedom only to be told: “This here is Paradise but you can’t come in.” I also noticed that the town leaders in the photographs were invariably light-skinned men. Was skin privilege also a feature of the separation? One that replicated the white racism they abhorred?

I wanted to dig into these matters by exploring the reverse: exclusivity by the black-skinned; and construction of their own “gated community”, one that refused entrance to the mixed race. Considering the need for progeny in order to last, how would patriarchy play and how might matriarchy threaten? In order to describe and explore these questions I needed 1) to examine the definition of paradise, 2) to delve into the power of colourism, 3) to dramatise the conflict between patriarchy and matriarchy, and 4) disrupt racial discourse altogether by signalling then erasing it.

The idea of paradise is no longer imaginable or, rather, it is overimagined, which amounts to the same thing — and has therefore become familiar, commercialised, even trivial. Historically, the images of paradise in poetry and prose were intended to be grand but accessible, beyond the routine but imaginatively graspable, seductive as though remembered. Milton speaks of “goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue… with gay enamelled colours mixed…; of Native perfumes.” Of “that sapphire fount the crisped brooks, Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold…” of “nectar visiting each plant, and fed flowers worthy of Paradise… Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm; Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind, Hung amiable… of delicious taste. Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks Grazing the tender herb.” “Flowers of all hue and without thorn the rose.” “Caves of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine Lays forth her purple grape and gently creeps Luxuriant …”

That beatific, luxurious expanse we recognise in the 21st century as bounded real estate owned by the wealthy and envied by the have-nots, or as gorgeous parks visited by tourists. Milton’s Paradise is quite available these days, if not in fact then certainly as ordinary, unexceptionable desire. Modern paradise has four of Milton’s characteristics: beauty, plenty, rest and exclusivity. Eternity seems to be forsworn.

Beauty is benevolent, controllable nature combined with precious metal, mansions, finery and jewellery.

Plenty in a world of excess and attending greed, which tilts resources to the rich and forces others to envy, is an almost obscene feature of a contemporary paradise. In this world of outrageous, shameless wealth squatting, hulking, preening before the dispossessed, the very idea of “plenty” as Utopian ought to make us tremble. Plenty should not be understood as a paradise-only state but as normal, everyday, humane life.

Rest that is the respite from labour or fighting for rewards or luxury has dwindling currency these days. It is a desire-less-ness that suggests a special kind of death without dying. Rest can suggest isolation, a vacation without pleasant or soothing activity. In other words, punishment and/or wilful laziness.

Exclusivity, however is still an attractive, even compelling feature of paradise because so many people — the unworthy — are not there. Boundaries are secure, watchdogs, security systems, and gates are there to verify the legitimacy of the inhabitants. Such enclaves separate from crowded urban areas proliferate. Thus it does not seem possible or desirable for a city to be envisioned let alone built in which poor people can be accommodated. Exclusivity is not just a realised dream for the wealthy, it is a popular yearning of the middle class. “Streets” are understood to be populated by the unworthy, the dangerous. Young people strolling are understood to be prowling the streets and up to no good. Public space is fought over as if it were private. Who gets to enjoy a park, a beach, a street corner? The term “public” is itself a site of contention.

Eternity, which avoids the pain of dying again, is rendered null by secular, scientific arguments; yet it has nevertheless the greatest appeal. Medical and scientific resources are directed toward more life and fitter life, and remind us that the desire is for earthbound eternity, rather than eternal afterlife. The implication being that this is all there is.

Thus, paradise, as an earthly project as opposed to a heavenly one has serious intellectual and visual limitations. Aside from “Only me or us forever”, heavenly paradise hardly bears mention.

Toni Morrison (Reuters)

But that might be unfair. It is hard not to notice how much more attention is given to hell rather than heaven. Dante’s Inferno beats out Paradiso every time. Milton’s brilliantly rendered pre-paradise world, known as Chaos, is far more fully realised than his Paradise. The visionary language of the doomed reaches heights of linguistic ardour with which language of the blessed and saved cannot compete.

There were reasons for the images of the horrors of hell to be virulently repulsive in the 15th and 16th centuries. The argument for avoiding hell needed to be visceral, needed to reveal how much worse such an eternity was than the hell of everyday life. That was when paradise was simply the absence of evil — an edgeless, already recognisable landscape: great trees for shade and fruit, lawns, palaces, precious metals, animal husbandry, and jewellery. Other than outwitting evil and waging war against the unworthy, there seems to be nothing for the inhabitants of paradise to do. An open, borderless, come-one-come-all paradise, without dread, minus a nemesis is no paradise at all.

Notable in Milton’s Paradise is the absence of women. Eve alone is given the most prominent space in that place. Progeny apparently is not required since there will always be more blessed to enter. Also, besides caretaking, what is there for women to do?

Since the paradise the black newspapers envisioned not so subtly encouraged light-skinned applicants, a major excitement for me in writing Paradise was an effort to disrupt the assumptions of racial discourse. I was eager to manipulate, mutate and control imagistic, metaphoric language in order to produce something that could be called race-specific/race-free prose, language that deactivated the power of racially inflected strategies — transform them from the straitjacket a race-conscious society can, and frequently does, buckle us into — a refusal to “know” characters or people by the colour of their skin. One of the most malevolent characteristics of racist thought is that it never produces new knowledge. It seems able to merely reformulate and refigure itself in multiple but static assertions. It has no referent in the material world; like the concept of black blood or white blood or blue blood, it is designed to construct artificial borders and maintain them against all reason and all evidence to the contrary. And while racist thought and language have an almost unmitigated force in political and social life, the realm of racial difference has been allowed an intellectual weight to which it has no claim. It is truly a realm that is no realm at all — an all-consuming vacancy that is both common and strange.

Material relating to the black towns founded by African Americans in the 19th century provided a rich field for an exploration of race-specific/race-free language. I am aware of how whiteness matures and ascends the throne of universalism by maintaining its powers to describe and enforce its descriptions. To challenge that view of universalism, to exorcise, alter, and de-fang the white/black confrontation and concentrate on the residue of that hostility seemed to me a daunting project and an artistically liberating one.

“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.”

With these opening sentences I wanted to signal 1) the presence of race as hierarchy and 2) its collapse as reliable information. The novel places an all-black community, one chosen by its inhabitants, next to a raceless one, also chosen by its inhabitants. The grounds for traditional black versus white hostilities shift to the nature of exclusion, the origins of chauvinism, the sources of oppression, assault, and slaughter. The black town of Ruby is all about its own race — preserving it, developing myths of origin, and maintaining its purity. In the Convent, race is indeterminate — all racial codes are eliminated, deliberately withheld. For some readers this was disturbing and some admitted to being preoccupied with finding out which character was the “white girl”; others wondered initially and then abandoned the question; some ignored the confusion by reading them all as black. The perceptive ones read them as fully realised individuals — whatever their race. Unconstrained by the weary and wearying vocabulary of racial domination, the narrative seeks to unencumber itself from the limit that racial language imposes on the imagination. The conflicts are gender-related and generational. They are struggles over history — who will tell and thereby control the story of the past? Who will shape the future? There are conflicts of value, of ethics. Of personal identity. What is manhood? Womanhood? And, finally, what is personhood?

Raising these questions seemed most compelling when augmented by yearnings for freedom and safety; for plenitude, for rest, for beauty; by the search for one’s own space, for respect, love, bliss — in short, how to reimagine paradise. Not the “Come Prepared or Not At All” command to make sure you get a ticket before you enter a theme park; but an interrogation into the narrow imagination that conceived and betrayed paradise.

We called him Big Papa. He stood in the vegetable garden peeling a yam with his pocketknife. Then he ate the raw slices slowly, carefully. If he wanted the chair you were in, he stood there, silent, until you got the message and got up. He was too religious for any church. He drew pictures of my sister and me and gave us the gift of chewing gum. Wherever he was — on the porch, at the kitchen table, in the living room reading — that’s where the power and deference were. He didn’t exert power; he assumed it. And it was in part from knowing him that I felt I could understand and create the men in Ruby — their easy assumption of uncontested authority. Big Papa. A survivor. Eccentric, formidable, playful, stubborn, learned. He left me his violin.

Toni Morrison will be speaking at the Hay Festival on Tuesday May 27 and Wednesday May 28. Click here to purchase tickets.

Paradise (£8.99), and the rest of Toni Morrison’s backlist, is published by Vintage. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

READ: A review of Toni Morrison's novel, Home, a deft universal parable set in Fifties America

IN PICTURES: Hay Festival 2014

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  1. Hey guys, I'll be taking English as a First Language for IGCSE this year and I'm hoping to get an A*. I want to know if I should write argumentative, descriptive or narrative for the composition part.

    Somehow my teacher keeps persuading us to write descriptive, but I personally don't think I'm good at descriptive considering the limited time given during exams. She says its easier to score in descriptive than argumentative. Is this true?

    Anyway, I tried writing a descriptive essay, do you guys think this would be good enough to get an A*? Your feedbacks will be much appreciated

    Descriptive Writing
    You arrive on an island. Write a description of your first impressions of the place and its people.

    As I placed one foot out from my wooden boat, and the next foot out, my feet decided to plant itself into the sand. My eyes felt like it didn’t know how to blink at that moment as I was awe-struck by what my eyes witnessed. In front of me was a place filled with the unending grains of golden sand, as if the whole island was made out of gold itself. Shimmering blue waters that sparkled in the presence of the sunlight encircled the island. Greenery spread out all around the island, with patches of different coloured flowers that grew among bushes occasionally. In a distant, was a majestic waterfall that looked like a sheet of blue velour swishing down, its edges hemmed with whipped-white lines. The water thundered down into the pool like a gigantic waterspout.

    Just as I arrived, it so happened the sky began to glow as the flaming orb rose from the horizon and ignited the sky, causing it to burst into a bright, passionate mix of scarlet and yellow. The clouds had no place in the morning sky as the majestic sun reigned supreme. The colours of the sky blended perfectly with the colours of the scenery. Its ineffable beauty was like a masterpiece painted by Picasso that came to life, lying right in front of my eyes.

    As I was finally able to take control of my body, I walked towards the island, with my feet brushing against the silky, smooth sand. The feeling of the sand in between my toes reminded me of my childhood where I spent a reasonable amount of time at the beach. The stream of dark, glossy waves falling over my shoulder swayed to one side as the gentle breeze blew. Palm trees swayed with synchronisation, as if it was choreographed dance.
    I rested my eyelids and instantly, my ears could pick up the unnoticeable sounds of nature. An orchestra of birds chirped harmoniously to a melody that soothed the ears of a person, the leaves rustled softly in the breeze as they fell and fluttered like snowflakes. The calming, repetitive sounds of the lapping waves came together in gently, a hypnotic melody, casting a spell of serene tranquillity over the mesmerizing scene.

    From a distant, I heard the sounds of words being said, though I could not make out what the words were. I started to regain my sight as my eyelids gradually lifted. Tiny figures from afar were nearing towards my direction. There were humans living in this place that seemed like a dreamed paradise, how fortunate for them to live in such a place, I whispered to myself. I jogged lightly towards them, eager to meet them.

    Finally, we were close enough to communicate with each other as we shook hands and introduced each other. The smiles and excitement on their faces were welcoming and inviting, as if they had known me for ages. As they spoke, they were filled with energy and liveliness, their personalities made one feel like a part of their family. Their characters fitted perfectly with the view of this paradise island, a place where the world seemed flawless, a world where there’s the insignificance of money and fame. After my personal encounter with this place, I finally believed there was a heaven on earth.
  2. I think that is for sure an A*!
    (Original post by Licialoves)
    Hey guys, I'll be taking English as a First Language for IGCSE this year and I'm hoping to get an A*. I want to know if I should write argumentative, descriptive or narrative for the composition part.

    Somehow my teacher keeps persuading us to write descriptive, but I personally don't think I'm good at descriptive considering the limited time given during exams. She says its easier to score in descriptive than argumentative. Is this true?

    Anyway, I tried writing a descriptive essay, do you guys think this would be good enough to get an A*? Your feedbacks will be much appreciated

    Descriptive Writing
    You arrive on an island. Write a description of your first impressions of the place and its people.

    As I placed one foot out from my wooden boat, and the next foot out, my feet decided to plant itself into the sand. My eyes felt like it didn’t know how to blink at that moment as I was awe-struck by what my eyes witnessed. In front of me was a place filled with the unending grains of golden sand, as if the whole island was made out of gold itself. Shimmering blue waters that sparkled in the presence of the sunlight encircled the island. Greenery spread out all around the island, with patches of different coloured flowers that grew among bushes occasionally. In a distant, was a majestic waterfall that looked like a sheet of blue velour swishing down, its edges hemmed with whipped-white lines. The water thundered down into the pool like a gigantic waterspout.

    Just as I arrived, it so happened the sky began to glow as the flaming orb rose from the horizon and ignited the sky, causing it to burst into a bright, passionate mix of scarlet and yellow. The clouds had no place in the morning sky as the majestic sun reigned supreme. The colours of the sky blended perfectly with the colours of the scenery. Its ineffable beauty was like a masterpiece painted by Picasso that came to life, lying right in front of my eyes.

    As I was finally able to take control of my body, I walked towards the island, with my feet brushing against the silky, smooth sand. The feeling of the sand in between my toes reminded me of my childhood where I spent a reasonable amount of time at the beach. The stream of dark, glossy waves falling over my shoulder swayed to one side as the gentle breeze blew. Palm trees swayed with synchronisation, as if it was choreographed dance.
    I rested my eyelids and instantly, my ears could pick up the unnoticeable sounds of nature. An orchestra of birds chirped harmoniously to a melody that soothed the ears of a person, the leaves rustled softly in the breeze as they fell and fluttered like snowflakes. The calming, repetitive sounds of the lapping waves came together in gently, a hypnotic melody, casting a spell of serene tranquillity over the mesmerizing scene.

    From a distant, I heard the sounds of words being said, though I could not make out what the words were. I started to regain my sight as my eyelids gradually lifted. Tiny figures from afar were nearing towards my direction. There were humans living in this place that seemed like a dreamed paradise, how fortunate for them to live in such a place, I whispered to myself. I jogged lightly towards them, eager to meet them.

    Finally, we were close enough to communicate with each other as we shook hands and introduced each other. The smiles and excitement on their faces were welcoming and inviting, as if they had known me for ages. As they spoke, they were filled with energy and liveliness, their personalities made one feel like a part of their family. Their characters fitted perfectly with the view of this paradise island, a place where the world seemed flawless, a world where there’s the insignificance of money and fame. After my personal encounter with this place, I finally believed there was a heaven on earth.

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