Sula

Sula

"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 had spun a steady gray web around
her heart, became a bright and easy affection." (95) When they are together,
their characters balance out to make a complete, fulfilled, and self-contained
person, a duet (97). To Nel, Sula's return to Medallion is like "getting
the use of an eye back, getting a cataract removed" (95). Sula's thoughtlessness,
irrationality, and transience are rounded out by Nel's sobriety, solicitude,
and commitment to people and things. "[Sula and Nel] found relief in each
other's personality. Nel seemed stronger and more consistent than Sula,
who could hardly be counted on sustaining any emotion for more than three
minutes." (53) Their friendship was based on sharing, not dividing, as
they "shared the affection of other people". However, when Sula leaves

Medallion and Nel gets married, their separation causes each to become
vulnerable and lonely.

Sula is alienated from other people, and
does not view their