Sula, by Toni Morrison


As children growing up, Nel and Sula’s family life and circumstances are contrasted. Even though they were best friends growing up, one is shown as evil and the other as good. Morrison uses the differences to show how they becomes blurred with their friendship interdependence.

Nel comes from a stable home, that has many social conventions. She is unsure of the type of conventional life he mother Helene wants for her. Her grandmother had worked as a prostitute when she was younger and when Nel learns of this it just makes her more concerned about her mother’s influence.

Sula's lives with her grandmother Eva and her mother Hannah, both of whom are seen as eccentric. They open their doors to boarders and have three boys that although not adopted are part of the family.

Sula and Nel grow apart during their teenage years and after high school, Nel chooses the conventional role of wife and mother. Sula goes a different direction becoming independent and turning her back on social convention. She leave the home in the Bottom, a black neighborhood in Ohio, looking for independence. She has many affairs, some with white men, but she eventually find that people everywhere still lead boring lives and after being away for 10 years returns.  

lives a life of fierce independence and total disregard for social conventions. Shortly after Nel's wedding, Sula leaves the Bottom for a period of 10 years. She has many affairs, some, it is rumored, with white men. However, she finds people following the same boring routines elsewhere, so she returns to the Bottom and to Nel. On Sula’s deathbed she tells Nel she has no regrets saying:

“‘You think I don’t know what your life is like just because I ain’t living it? I know what every colored woman in this country is doing.’‘What’s that?’ ‘Dying., Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I’m going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.’”

Morrison’s book is a pioneer in establishing a black feminism. Her characters show that all black women are not the same. The interesting characters made the book come alive.

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“It was on that train, shuffling toward Cincinnati, that she resolved to be on guard—always. She wanted to make certain that no man ever looked at her that way. That no midnight eyes or marbled flesh would ever accost her and turn her into jelly.”

“The narrower their lives, the wider their hips.”

“Her once beautiful leg had no stocking and the foot was in a slipper. Nel wanted to cry—not for Eva’s milk-dull eyes or her floppy lips, but for the once proud foot accustomed for over a half century to a fine well-laced shoe, now stuffed gracelessly into a pink terrycloth slipper.”

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