Paper on Sula

This essay has a total of 1272 words and 5 pages.


"Sula" by Tony Morrison is the story of a friendship between Nel Wright and Sula Peace,
who are opposites in the way of relating to other people, to the world around them, and to
themselves. Nel is rational and balanced; she gets married and gives in to conformity and
the town's expectations. Sula is an irrational and transient character. She follows her
immediate passions, completely unaware of the feelings other people might have. However,
Nel and Sula are able to function well only when they are together because they complete
each other as opposites. However, as separate entities, Sula and Nel are vulnerable and
isolated from the rest of world; Sula because she is impulsive and disregards the feelings
of other people, and Nel because she overlooks her own. The personalities of Nel and Sula
form as a result of their childhood family atmosphere. Sula's unusual exorbitance results
from an eccentric upbringing that openly accepts and welcomes transience. The narrator
describes Sula's house as a "throbbing disorder constantly awry with things, people,
voices and the slamming of doors . . ." (52), which suggests a family accustomed to
spontaneous disruptions and fleeting alliances. Sula decides that "sex is pleasant and
frequent, but otherwise insignificant." (44) Sula grows up in the atmosphere of an
emotional separation between mothers and daughters in her family. The mothers provide only
the physical maternal support but lack in the emotional attachment to their children. Sula
overhears her mother, Hannah, say, "I love her [Sula]. I just don't like her, that's the
thing." (57) Hannah's words act as a determiner of Sula's defiance. Hannah and Eva, her
mother, are also alienated. "Under Eva's distant eye, and prey to her idiosyncrasies, her
own children grew up steadily." (41) This dissatisfaction causes Hannah to ask Eva, "Did
you ever love us?" (67) "I know you fed us and all. I was talking 'bout something else.
Did you ever, you know play with us?" (68) Eva leaps out of the window to "cover her
daughter's body with her own" (75) to save her from a fire; she raises her children
single-handedly and even sacrifices her leg to get an insurance because she does not have
enough money to feed her children. Proud of keeping her children alive through the
roughest times, Eva does not realize that she needs to be more than a physical caretaker.
An unrestricted household such as the Peace family, with little emotional attachment and
moral responsibilities, causes Sula to become impetuous and independent. Nel's household,
however, is very conformist and proper, but also lacks in emotional attachments. Nel's
parents marry out of convenience, rather than love. For Nel's mother, the absences of her
husband, a sailor were "quite bearable." Nel is raised in an atmosphere of "oppressive
neatness" (29), a strict and organized household that instills society's rules in her.
Nel's mother constantly attempts to destroy Nel's spirit and imagination. "Under Helene's
[Nel's mother's] hand the girl became obedient and polite. Any enthusiasms that little Nel
showed were calmed by the mother until she drove her daughter's imagination underground."
(18) "Don't just sit there, honey, you could be pulling your nose" (28) This emotional
vacuum compels the girls to seek their missing components in each other's company. During
their friendship, Sula and Nel do not have the feeling of detachment they acquire after
their parting. In their friendship as girls, they "had clung to [each other] as the
closest thing to both an other and a self" (119). They have an interest and curiosity in
life and they are absorbed by everything they do. Together they can relate to other people
better when they are together. "Humor returned. Nel's love for Jude, which over the years
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