Sula Essay

This essay has a total of 1502 words and 6 pages.


Many works of contemporary American fiction involve one individual's search for identity
in a stifling and unsympathetic world. In "Sula," Toni Morrison gives us two such
individuals. In Nel and Sula, Morrison creates two individual female characters that at
first are separate, grows together, and then is separated once more. Although never
physically reconciled, Nel's self discovery at the end of the novel permits the
achievement of an almost impossible quest - the conjunction of two selves. And that is
what I think really makes the novel work. I found that it’s a great book that gives
us a look at these two great characters.

Morrison says she created Sula as "a woman who could be used as a classic type of evil
force" and that she "wanted Nel to be a warm, conventional woman." She says "there was a
little bit of both in each of these women... if they had been one woman... they would have
been a rather marvelous person. But each one lacked something the other had." Morrison,
thus, creates two completely different women yet allows them to merge into one. The
sustainment of the two selves as one proves difficult and Morrison allows them to pursue
different paths. But the two women's separate journeys and individual searches for their
own selves leads to nothing but despair and Sula's death. Nel's

realization that they were only truly individuals when they were joined as one allows them to merge once again.
Morrison portrays Sula and Nel as binary opposites at the beginning of the novel. In our
first view of Nel she is as conventional and conforming as a young lady can be: Under
Helene's hand the girl became obedient and polite. Her mother calmed any enthusiasms that
Nel showed until she drove her daughter's imagination underground. (p.18) In this passage
Nel is merely an extension of her mother with no autonomy of her own. Helene's hand is the
iron fist of authority from under which Nel cannot release herself. Morrison makes it
clear here that Nel is a calm and unimaginative girl who conforms completely to her
mother's strict orders. Sula, on the other hand, comes from a totally different
background. She is her own person as she has "none of her mother's slackness" (p.29) and,
unlike the "oppressive neatness"(p.29) of Nel's house, lives in a woolly house, where a
pot of something was always cooking on the stove; where the mother, Hannah, never scolded
or gave directions; where all sorts of people dropped in; where newspapers were stacked in
the hallway, and dirty dishes left for hours at a time in the sink, and where a one-legged
grandmother named Eva handed you goobers from deep inside her pockets or read you a dream.

Where Nel is confined, Sula is free. Where Nel has been raised to be an extension of her
mother, Sula has surprisingly few ties to hers. Nel's imagination has been so restricted
that the messiness of Sula's house along with its strange inhabitants and many visitors
must seem like an absolute dream world. Similarly, the tidiness of Nel's house compared
with the disorderliness of her own allows

Sula to "sit still as dawn." (p.29) Morrison makes it clear in these instances that "each
one lacked something the other had." That "something" is neither small nor insignificant.
It is the fundamental make-up of each girl's character. Morrison deliberately portrays Nel
and Sula in this manner to illustrate emphatically how entirely different they originally
are. They are so different, in fact, that they are two facets of the same being - Nel
conventional and orderly; and Sula unconventional and unsettled. The comfort each feels in
the other's home demonstrates their initial and subconscious desire to merge into one
being. Morrison intimates, in these instances, that the two facets cannot thrive
individually and hints that they will soon become one. This merger takes place most
dramatically with Sula's accidental murder of Chicken Little. Looking back on this
incident Nel recalls that: All these years she had been secretly proud of her calm,
controlled behavior when Sula was uncontrollable, her compassion for Sula's frightened and
shamed eyes. Now it seemed that what she had thought was maturity, serenity and compassion
was only the tranquillity that follows a joyful stimulation. Just as the water closed
peacefully over the turbulence of Chicken Little's body, so had contentment washed over
her enjoyment. (p.170) This passage reveals that the original binary opposite characters
are no longer very different. During this incident Nel, the former calm and orderly girl,
has as little control over her emotions as Sula usually has. And it is Sula, the supposed
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