Sula is a dark character, emotionally defined by a sense of evil and physically defined by her black coloring, as well as the darkening birthmark in the shape of a rose that adorns her eye. As a child, she is strange, mysterious, somewhat defiant, and definitely different from those around her. Her life is shaped by two occurrences in her youth: the death of Chicken Little, which she blames on herself, and the overheard conversation of her mother when she says she does not really like her daughter. Sula grows up feeling guilty and unloved. Her only joy is spending time with her best friend, Nel Wright.
The two of them become inseparable, even though they are totally different in background and personality. Sula is determined to live without commitments and independent of others; she inherited this attitude from Hannah, her mother. She violates this independence only twice in the novel, and both times she is devastated by the relationship. Only once does Sula fall in love. When she realizes that she genuinely cares for Ajax, she becomes devoted to him and demanding; her attachment frightens Ajax away, leaving Sula in misery for a long time. More important is the attachment that she forms with Nel.
Sula wraps her life up so completely in her friend that Morrison indicates they have almost become one; therefore, when Nel decides to marry Jude, Sula feels totally betrayed. As soon as the wedding is over, she leaves Medallion for ten years. When Sula returns, she and Nel try to be friends again, but Sula ruins it by having an affair with Jude, Nel’s husband. It is almost as if she were subconsciously striking out at Nel for having married Jude, making Sula feel abandoned. When Sula returns to The Bottom after her ten-year absence, it is obvious that she has definitely changed.
She comes home dressed ike a movie star and reveals that she has been to college. The people in Medallion, who have always found Sula to be strange, now feel totally alienated from her. Her difference makes her unacceptable; as a result, every bad thing that happens in the town is blamed on her, especially after she puts Eva in a nursing home and has her affair with her best friend’s husband. Because the people of The Bottom, in their small-mindedness, reject her, Sula feels totally isolated; then when Nel rejects her as well, she has nothing to live for and goes early to her grave. On her deathbed, Sula reflects on her life.
She remembers the death of Chicken Little and watching her mother burn to death. She decides her life had little meaning. It is a tragic comment on Sula’s existence. In spite of her evaluation of herself, Sula is a marvelously created and complex character. Early in the novel, she cuts off the tip of her own finger to protect herself and Nel from the vicious attacks of some white boys. When Chicken Little drowns, she is terrified, but cares enough to go and seek the help of Shadrack; when he tells her only “always,” she misunderstands and feels that he has made some kind of threat, which she never forgets.
Sula resents er mother because of her lack of emotion towards her daughter; as a result, when her mother catches on fire, Sula watches with detachment as she burns to death. With the same controlled emotion, she puts Eva in a nursing home, rather than care for her, and she sleeps with the husband of Nel as a way to strike back at her friend for having abandoned her. Sula has truly lived her life Despite her strange ways, there are a few moments in which Sula is portrayed with utter sympathy.
In Shadrack’s cabin, she is seen as a frightened, guilt-ridden, and inconsolable child. When she hears her mother say she does not like her, Sula is portrayed as a otally crushed daughter. When Nel marries, she becomes the jilted friend who feels she must leave town to find herself. On her deathbed, she is the pathetic vision of a wasted life who destroyed the relationship with her one true friend, Nel Wright; in pain and misery, she calls out to Nel, but it is too late. After Sula dies, Nel knows that her friend’s negative vision of herself shaped her whole being.
She realizes that Sula was totally misunderstood all her life, even by Nel; this misunderstanding constitutes the tragedy of the Nel is Sula’s opposite in many respects. Physically she is light- olored and plain, in contrast to Sula’s blackness and mysterious appearance. Nel is also thought to be a good girl by her mother and everyone else in The Bottom, for she is quiet and obedient. Nel’s background is also different than that of Sula. Her family is respectable, staid, and proper. Nel is brought up to be the same Early in the novel, Nel travels with her mother to New Orleans, for Nel’s great-grandmother is dying.
The trip is a turning point in her development. First, she sees her respectable, dignified mother having to urinate in a field because the train has no restrooms for black passengers. She also sees her mother groveling and apologetic to the conductor, who chastises the two of them for being in a train car for whites. Nel is amazed to learn about discrimination and to see that her mother is not always in control. Then, she meets her grandmother and is shocked to find out that she has been a prostitute; she realizes that her mother’s search for prim and proper behavior is her effort to wipe out her past.
As a result of the trip to New Orleans, Nel determines that she will be different than her mother; she will not live her life running from the past and seeking respectability and conformity above all It is Nel’s desire for individuality that leads her into a friendship with Sula, who is independent, brave, and strong. As Sula’s friend, Nel becomes more like her and even approaches individuality. In the end, her upbringing and her mother’s influence are dominant.
In order to gain respectability and acceptance in the community, she decides to marry and settle down; the decision obviously delights her mother, for she wants Nel to be just like her. For Nel, her husband, Jude, becomes a poor substitute for Sula, who feels abandoned by the marriage and leaves town. Nel throws herself nto trying to please Jude and making him feel like a man; in the process, she loses her sense of self. When Sula returns to Medallion after a ten-year absence, Nel, who has suffered from a lack of friendship, is eager to befriend Sula, in spite of the opinion of the town about her.
Then when she finds Sula in bed with her husband, she is infuriated; when Jude leaves her out of shame, Nel is truly devastated. She goes through the next years of her life believing that she mourns the loss of her husband, when in truth it is Sula that she misses. Yet she is too proud and proper to approach Sula. It is only when her old friend is ying that Nel dares, in her “goodness,” to go and see her; but even on her deathbed, she judges Sula to be evil and does not go to her After her own children are adults and abandon her, Nel decides to pay Eva a visit.
The old woman accuses Nel of being just as guilty for Chicken Little’s death as Sula. Nel is finally forced to come to grips with the truth. Sula was not really the evil one; instead, it is she herself that is evil – hard-hearted and accusing; she even admits to herself that she delighted in Chicken Little’s death, while Sula was horrified by it. Nel suddenly knows that her friendship ith Sula was the best thing she has ever had, stronger than motherhood or marriage. She accepts that Sula was really the other side of her coin.
The unique combination of the two women, who completely complement each other, forms a friendship that supercedes everything else in their lives. Shadrack is a strange resident of The Bottom. He returns shell- shocked from the war and turns to alcohol for company. Although a relatively minor character, he takes on more importance because the actual story starts and ends with him. His created holiday, National Suicide Day, also become important in the story of The Bottom. Shadrack only interacts with Sula one time in the novel.
When Chicken Little does not surface in the river, the frightened young girl runs to get help from the closest place; it happens to be Shadrack’s cabin. He cannot understand what the inconsolable child is trying to tell him; all he can utter, in an effort to comfort her, is the single word “always;” it is said as a kindness, but misunderstood as a threat by Sula. Because Sula is the only human being that has ever dared to enter Shadrack’s cabin, he goes through life thinking of her as his friend. He often observes her in own, and always recognizes her by the mysterious birthmark on her face.
Sadly, Sula, who is so in need of love, is totally unaware that Shadrack cares for her; but her life, which she judges as meaningless, has given meaning to Shadrack. Shadrack’s National Suicide Day is an element of both catalyst and closure for The Bottom. Throughout the novel, he faithfully celebrates his holiday, eagerly leading a parade through town that few people join. Ironically, after Sula’s death, Shadrack has no excitement for National Suicide Day and has to make himself go to the parade; but the townsfolk, excited to be rid of Sula, join in the rocession.
The excitement swells, and the Blacks find themselves heading toward the tunnel being built by the whites. Filled with hatred for the tunnel, they begin to destroy it from the outside. Then they go inside to do more damage, but the tunnel caves in and most of them are killed – on National Suicide Day; it is as if their own small-mindedness has destroyed them. Shadrack appropriately stands above on a hill observing the death scene and Eva, Sula’s grandmother, is alive during the entire span of the novel. She is significant in the shaping of Sula and in the movement of the novel’s plot.
She is also the book’s most colorful character. When her husband leaves her as a young mother, she goes away for awhile. In her absence, she cuts off one of her legs in order to collect insurance money to use to raise her children. Throughout the novel, she is seen sitting in a wheelchair contraption observing life from above. Many people do observe her, for she has turned her dwelling into a boarding house and has taken in an odd assortment of people, including the three “dewey” The community looks up to her literally and figuratively. Sula, however, is not in awe of Eva.
When the one-legged Eva jumps rom the second story of her house in order to save Hannah from burning, Sula makes no attempt to help either her mother or her grandmother. It is her symbolic rejection of the life that has been forced on her, largely by Eva. Later, Sula puts Eva in a nursing home instead of caring for her, much to the shock and horror of the Eva is a survivor and is never afraid to act or to speak her mind. When Nel visits her at the end of the novel, she is an old and confused woman, but she clearly accuses Nel of being guilty of Chicken Little’s death; she forces Sula’s friend to acknowledge that she was more evil than Sula.
It is a life-changing experience for Nel. As a result, Eva has done much to shape both Sula and Nel, the two central characters in the novel. Sula Peace – a wild and defiant girl who lives with her mother Hannah, the town slut, and her grandmother Eva, a strong-headed, one-legged matriarch. Sula has a birthmark shaped like a rose over one eye. She is headstrong and self-driven. She leaves The Bottom for ten years and returns with a worldly air of sophistication. She sleeps with her best friend’s husband and later dies alone. For the most part, she is misunderstood and mistrusted all her life.
Shadrack – a shell-shocked veteran of World War I. Shadrack lives by the river in a shack and is a fixture on the landscape of The Bottom. He often talks sensible nonsense and wanders aimlessly. He has founded his own holiday, National Suicide Day. On January 3 of every year he marches the streets of the town and invites people to commit suicide, in acknowledgment of the crazy Nel Wright – Sula’s best (and only) friend. Nel lives with her mother, Helene, a proper and respectable woman who has tried to shield her daughter from anything shameful or improper. Nel is the opposite of Sula. She is a quiet girl who obeys her mother erfectly.
Her family is the essence of respectability, in contrast to the crazy chaotic household of Eva Peace. For a time, Nel becomes more independent and self-driven, like Sula; but when Sula leaves, Nel returns to being conservative, traditional, and proud of her own goodness. She is heartbroken when she catches Sula in bed with Helene Wright – Nel’s church going and socially active mother. Her own mother was a prostitute in New Orleans, so she tries very hard all her life to battle any suggestion of impropriety, shielding herself and her household from anything dirty or shameful. Eva Peace – Sula’s grandmother.
She has only one leg, and the people of the town suspect her amputation was an insurance scam in order to help her raise her small children. She lives on the second floor of her house in a makeshift wheelchair and rents out rooms to a motley assortment of people. She cares passionately for her children, to the point that she ends the life of her drug-addicted son rather than see him suffer. She also throws herself out a second story window to save her daughter, Sula’s mother, who has caught Hannah – Sula’s mother who likes men. She is considered a loose woman in The Bottom, though the women tolerate her quite well.
Since she only wants love, not commitment, she offers no threat to the other women. She says once she does not like her daughter Sula, and when she catches on fire, Sula watches her burn to death Plum – Eva’s son and Hannah’s brother. Plum is his mother’s favorite. When he returns from the war, he is a wreck. He lives in a room downstairs in his mother’s house, and spends his time sleeping, stealing, and taking drugs. Eva cannot bear to see him suffer from his drug addiction, so she douses him with kerosene Tar Baby – one of Eva’s boarders who has a beautiful voice.
A white man and an alcoholic, he does odd jobs and scrounges for Chicken Little – a small boy who drowns while playing with Sula Jude – Nel’s husband and the father of her children. He sleeps with Ajax – a local who first notices Sula and Nel when they are about twelve years old. Years later, he has an affair with Sula, but ends it when she becomes too attached to him. The Deweys – three boys who are taken in by Eva. They are not related, but they resemble one another. They never seem to grow up and are a permanent fixture in The Bottom.
The real story of Sula takes place within a frame narrative. The first and last chapters take place around the year 1965. The ten chapters in the middle take place in the years between 1919 and 1940, telling Sula’s story. The setting is in an area known as “The Bottom,” which is a hilly area above the valley town of Medallion, Ohio. For the most part, black inhabitants live in The Bottom and white landowners live in the valley. There is a story behind the settlement of The Bottom, a story that has become a significant piece of local lore.
In the previous century, a slave owner promised his slave freedom and a piece of rich bottomland in exchange for some difficult work. The slave did the work and got his freedom; ut the slave-owner played a trick on him in regard to the land. He gave the freed slave land at the top of a hill, rather than in the rich bottomland that is good for farming. He told the slave the hill was indeed bottomland–the Bottom of heaven, closer to God. The slave felt lucky to have it, but soon learned the truth of this cruel trick. The planting was difficult, the soil washed away, and the wind blew hard.
In spite of the hardship, The Bottom soon developed into a lovely town with close-knit inhabitants. By 1965, the rich white neighbors in the valley have decided they like The Bottom better than their valley and proceed to level the small black town in order to build a golf course and fancy houses. The Blacks The book charts the friendship of Sula and Nel, particularly the moral alternatives Nel and Sula face after Chicken Little’s death, Hannah’s death, and Nel’s marriage.
Sula, a complex character, presents some ideas that others have a hard time accepting; even Nel often finds Sula, her good friend, disturbing. Sula and Nel, two Black women who live in The Bottom, are the protagonists of the novel. Although they are best friends through most of the book, they are very different. Unconventional, “wild”, and complex, Sula is often a disturbing character who sometimes seems to be driven by negative qualities. Nel, on the other hand, is a more conventional character, possessing many attributes that make her seem somehow better, nicer, or more respectable than Sula. Both women are searching for themselves and meaning in life during the course of the novel.
For both Sula and Nel, the antagonist is accepting life and themselves. As friends, they help one another to grow and formulate opinions about themselves; when they become enemies, they also teach one another about life. The climax for both women occurs when Nel, out of her “goodness,” visits the dying Sula, who has been judged an evil woman by the entire town, including Nel. Sula has accepted that her life has been sad and wasted; but on her deathbed, she warns Nel not to be so certain of her goodness, a thought that haunts Nel until she finally comes to grips with who she really is.
The story ends in tragedy for both Sula and Nel. Sula dies a painful death, never feeling love, knowing that Nel and the entire town think poorly of her, and judging herself to have no value. Nel also comes to the realization, after visiting Sula’s grandmother and Sula’s grave, that she is not such a good person either. What Sula has told her from the deathbed is really true. In the end, Nel acknowledges that she has an evil heart and that Sula has truly been her best friend and a good person. She sees that all Sula’s evil deeds have been a result of her friend believing she had no other fate.
Nel is truly filled with sorrow over the way that she allowed both her and Sula’s lives to progress, each believing one thing about themselves when the other was true. When Sula was alive, she represented a part of Nel that she could not even admit she had. Now that Sula is dead, Nel must live with the loss of her friend and the guilt over how she has treated her. She mourns the years of missed happiness caused by her own The novel begins with an introduction to the community of Medallion, Ohio, particularly the area known as The Bottom.
It is a normal and closely-knit Black community where the strangest thing is probably Shadrack, a shell-shocked veteran from World War I. Having proclaimed January 3 to National Suicide Day, Shadrack often marches through town encouraging citizens to plan the day of their death in defiance of the horrible unexpectedness of dying naturally. The civil, conventional community of The Bottom dares to treat Shadrack with familiarity and tolerance. One of the upright and outstanding members of The Bottom community is Helene Wright.
She has moved to Medallion from New Orleans, where her grandmother raised her because her mother was a prostitute. During the story, Helene is married to a respectable man and has established herself in the community as the picture of propriety; it is all an effort to escape the family history of ill repute. She carefully and successfully raises her daughter, Nel, to be like her, living a life free from shame and immorality. Nel turns out to be a good, obedient, and traditional daughter. When Helene takes her to New Orleans for her grandmother’s funeral, Nel is shocked to see racism for the first time.
She is also shocked to realize that her mother is very insecure. Nel vows to never be like her mother; she returns home to The Bottom from New Orleans as a determined young woman Sula Peace is one of Nel’s good friends, even though they are very different in personality and background. Sula lives in a house with her grandmother, her mother, and several stray boarders, including a white alcoholic named Tar Baby and three young boys all named Dewey. ” Her grandmother Eva is a strong-willed matriarch who cut off her own leg to collect insurance money so she could raise her three children.
When Eva’s son, Plum, returns from the war, he is a changed man–a drug addict who steals and lies. Plum has always been Eva’s favorite, and she cannot bear to see him suffering from his addiction. One night, she goes into his room, only to find him in a stupor. She holds Plum tenderly, says goodbye to him, then pours kerosene on him, and lights him on fire. Even though Plum burns to death, no one ever says anything to the formidable Eva. She, however, chooses never to go ownstairs again; instead, she runs the entire household and her family from her makeshift wheelchair in the upstairs room.
Sula’s mother, Hannah, is a deeply sensual woman who sleeps with all the men in The Bottom, shying away from any commitment. In spite of her lustfulness, the women in the community like Hannah, for she is not a threat; she does not want to possess their husbands, only sleep with them. Sula, however, cannot feel close to her mother and views her with detachment. Instead, she shares all of her thoughts and emotions with her best friend, Nel. One day Sula hears her mother say that she does not like her aughter. Sula feels wounded and betrayed. The same afternoon Sula and Nel play with a little boy, Chicken Little, down by the river.
Sula is holding him by his hands and swinging him around and around. She loses her grip, and the young boy falls in the water and does not come up. Not knowing where to turn, Sula goes to Shadrack’s cabin for help. He stares at her and simply says the word “always,” which she for years interprets as a threat, as in he will always know. She runs back to Nel, and the two decide not to tell what has happened. Nel assures Sula that it was just an accident, but Sula feels terrible. During Chicken Little’s emotional funeral, the two girls are numb and silent.
Sula has been changed The major theme of the novel is the question of right versus wrong or good versus bad; but the conventional ideas of good and evil are turned upside in Sula. Throughout the book, Sula is judged to be bad by the society that surrounds her, while Nel is thought to be the picture of goodness; as a result, Sula sees herself as evil, while Nel judges herself to be good. At the end of the novel, however, Nel reveals that she has an evil heart, while Sula’s heart is really The novel explores the importance of the presence or absence of amily and friends.
Sula hurts greatly from the lack of attention she receives from her mother; in contrast, Nel feels somewhat smothered by Helene and determines she will not become like her. In truth, both girls turn out just like their mothers. The importance of friendship is also explored through the relationship that exists between Sula and Nel. Although they appear to be best friends through much of the novel, they betray one another. Sula sleeps with Nel’s husband, causing the break-up of the family; Nel, in her goodness, judges Sula to be evil and unworthy, refusing to help her riend put her guilt behind her.
If the two women had truly acted as faithful friends, some of the tragedy of the story could have been Although the novel has a very serious message and theme, the mood of the book is very varied — sometimes playful, sometimes serious, often reverent, and occasionally sarcastic. The story is told from the point of view of a wise narrator, who is amongst the characters, celebrating their lives in a positive way. Although the details of the story are sometimes sad or upsetting, the narrative voice always gives the benefit of the doubt and tries to find the ood in a situation or at least be objective.
The plot of Sula consists of two parts set within a frame narrative. The novel opens around 1965 with a prologue; after the first section, it jumps back in time to the year 1919. From that point, the plot moves forward chronologically until the very end of the novel, which is also set in 1965. In between the frame narrative at the beginning and end, each chapter, or section, is titled by a year. Even though the book spans a lifetime, the plot is not hard to follow because of the time designations. The plot within the frame narrative is developed in a traditional attern.
It opens with an introduction to The Bottom, the setting for the whole novel. It also begins to introduce the key characters, starting with Shadrack and his National Suicide Day. Sula is introduced in the third section, and the rest of the book centers on her and her friendship with Nel, which constitutes the rising action of the plot. In the seventh chapter, Nel marries, causing Sula to leave The Bottom for ten years. Part One of the novel ends with When Sula returns to Medallion, Part Two begins, and the plot resumes and moves rapidly toward Sula’s death.
She betrays Nel y sleeping with Jude in the eighth section; she is vilified by the community in the ninth section; and in the tenth section, she dies, believing her life had no meaning or purpose. In the eleventh chapter, Nel visits Eva and is forced to admit that she was probably more evil than Sula. In the twelfth and final chapter, also set in 1965 like the opening section, Nel acknowledges that Sula is the best thing that has ever happened to her, more than motherhood or marriage. Additionally, Shadrack reveals the meaning that Sula had in his life. The novel has come full circle into a unified whole.
The major theme of Sula is good versus evil. The question of right versus wrong in the novel can be traced all the way back to the childhoods of Sula and Nel. As the two girls played with Chicken Little, a young child from the neighborhood, Sula was swinging him around by his hands. She accidentally threw him into the water, and he drowned. Sula and Nel decided not to tell anyone the truth about what had happened. The result is that Sula goes through life believing that she is evil because she killed Chicken Little; in contrast, Nel judges herself to be good because it was not she who caused Chicken Little’s death.
The lives of both women are clearly shaped by the views they have of themselves. As an adult, Sula is wild and unconventional, while Nel is the picture of propriety and Prompted by a discussion about Chicken Little with Sula’s grandmother, Nel goes to visit the grave of Sula. There she comes to terms with the truth of her past. Nel remembers that Sula had been terrified and anguished over Chicken Little’s death; she certainly had not wanted the boy to die, but blamed herself fully for the accident. Nel made no attempt to change Sula’s thinking. Instead, Nel had inwardly rejoiced at the death, proving the cruelty nd evil in her heart.
The truth is that Sula lived a more honest life than Nel; she accepted herself as evil and lived accordingly. Nel, on the other hand, has lived a hypocritical life, pretending to be good and pure in every way. At the end, however, she faces the falseness of her life and embraces the dead Sula as her best friend and judges her to be good, in spite of the opinion of the Sula is a story about the presence and absence of family and friendship. The entire book revolves around two friends, Sula and Nel. Morrison even indicates that their friendship is the most important relationship in their lives.
Unfortunately, even though the girls are closely bonded in their childhood, they are not really truthful with one another in their adulthood. Even though they seem to need one another, they betray each other. Sula sleeps with Nel’s husband, breaking up the marriage; and Nel refuses to tell Sula that she should forgive herself for Chicken Little’s death. The two women are separated and mature according to the beliefs they have about themselves; Sula acts out her evil nature, while Nel is the picture of goodness and propriety. When Sula is dying, Nel goes to visit her, not out of friendship, but because she sees herself s such a good person.
Amazingly, from her deathbed, Sula sows the seed of self-realization for her friend when she tells Nel not to be so sure of her own goodness. Many years later, Nel comes to terms with the truth of Sula’s statement, spoken from her deathbed; she also realizes the great importance of Sula’s friendship to her. Another theme that runs throughout the novel is the influence of family on a person’s being. Nel’s maternal grandmother had been a prostitute in New Orleans; therefore, Nel’s mother, Helene, determines that she will rise above such sinfulness and live a life of oodness, purity, and respectability.
She comes to The Bottom to escape the ill repute of her mother’s past. She raises her daughter to have her same moral values, even though Nel tries not to be just like her mother. Sula, on the other hand, receives little attention from her mother, Hannah, or her grandmother, Eva, who clearly favor Sula’s brother. Hannah is a sensuous woman who seeks the company of all the men in town; Sula disapproves of her mother’s behavior and views her with a detached sense of alienation. When Hannah catches on fire, Eva jumps from the second story to try and ave her, while Sula watches from the porch and does nothing.
Ironically, Sula grows up to be much like her mother, believing she has no need for attachments and having no self-respect. Sula even destroys her one friendship in life by sleeping with Nel’s husband. Sula is also a commentary on the need for a person to feel loved. Throughout her life, Sula tries to follow her mother’s example of detachment, believing she needs no one in the world. In truth, she lives a life of misery and loneliness because she makes no attachments. When she does finally fall in love with Ajax, she ealizes how desperately she wants a commitment and scares him away.
It is not surprising that from her deathbed she talks about the The hopelessness of life is also presented through the character of Shadrack. Shell-shocked from the war, he exists in The Bottom in a state of half craziness. His claim to fame is that he has invented a holiday – National Suicide Day. Although he is a humorous character on the surface, his message is really one of doom and gloom. Ironically, a large portion of The Bottom population dies while celebrating his National Suicide Day. It is their small- mindedness that has led to their end.