Chapter 1922While Sula and Nel deal with Chicken Little’s death in a way that seems reprehensible to readers, it’s important to remember the two girls are still children. I don’t believe either of the two girls had any intent on harming the boy. However, despite their lack of intended crime- they are too afraid to tell anyone their connection to Chicken’s drowning for fear they may be punished for intent of murder or deliberate bullying. After Chicken Little drowns, Morrison repeatedly writes that there is now “something newly missing” in the two girls. Although Morrison never explicitly states what the “something” missing is, I come to interpret that this “something” is Sula and Nel’s innocence/ their feelings of invincibility and pleasant light-heartedness. Chicken Little’s death serves as a harsh wake up call to Sula and Nel, demonstrating how easy it is to die. Within this, they are no longer protected by a childish sense of their own immortality. As bystanders to Chicken Little’s death, Sula and Nel are greatly shaken from the comfort of their childhood innocence.
1922 portrays the developing relationship of Sula and Nel, whose opposite personalities draw each other in. “They found relief in each other's personality. . . Nel seemed stronger and more consistent than Sula . . Yet there was one time when that was not true, when she held on a mood for weeks” (Morrison 53). Sula is particularly aggressive after being harassed by the four white Irish teens ; “she slashed off only the tip of her finger” (Morrison 54), and cunningly asks them 'If I can do that to myself, what you suppose I'll do to you?' (Morrison 54-55). Nel, on the other hand, was not as assertive as Sula was, for “she was looking at Sula's face, which seemed miles and miles away” (Morission 55). Though “Nel Wright and Sula Peace were both twelve in 1922” (Morrison 52), they begin to experiences changes in their sexuality, for the summer came with “the beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their wet shining backs” (Morrison 56). The effect of “beautiful black boys” (Morrison 56) in the summer forces them to “[become] skittish, frightened and bold- all at the same time” (Morission 56). Thus, Nel and Sula are maturing and slowly entering young adulthood without even realizing it, which results in a gradual and subtle loss in their innocence. This is clearly demonstrated through Chicken Little's “accidental death”, in which Sula's initial response in his death was “terror widened her nostrils. Had he seen?” (Morrison 61). Perhaps if they were younger, his death may be justified because they're not capable yet of understanding life's fundamentals (such as not intentionally harming others) and this “accident” can possibly be overlooked due to the fact that they're still young. However, this is not the case; Nel and Sula are already teenagers and their behavior will not always go unnoticed. Shadrack's presence in the distance validates their progressive loss in innocence, signifying that their actions will not be as easily unrecognized and that Nel and Sula are old enough to understand that murder is plainly unethical and wrong. Even at the funeral, Nel and Sula exhibit their inability to realize that they're maturing, which traps them in a false sense of reality believing that they're free from the consequences of adulthood and that they're able to do as they please without being noticed. “They relaxed more slowly until during the walk back home their fingers were laced in as gentle as a clasp as that of any two young girlfriends trotting up the road on a summer day” (Morrison 66) affirms their misconception that they're immaculate from Chicken Litle's “accidental death”. “Relaxing” and walking back home with “their fingers laced in as a gentle as a clasp of any two young girlfriends” demonstrates this perceived “innocence” that they have; however, they are never truly free from murder because “the bubbly laughter and the press of fingers in the palm would stay aboveground forever” (Morrison 66) to haunt them. Thus, the progression of Nel and Sula into adulthood results in a loss of their innocence.