Thursday, February 20, 2014

Analysis of 1920

Assignment for each night of Sula:
Write a 250+ word analysis of quotes or ideas in 1921.  Make sure to be specific (talk about particular quotes or incidents) but also explain the larger meaning of what you analyze (what does that show about a central conflict in the text, or a pattern, or a character's hidden motivation, or an essential question).   For all 10 homework points, you need a level of insightful and complex analysis comparable to one body paragraph of a final essay.

9 comments:

  1. In 1920, the chapter revealed two supporting characters that lead to revealing how Sula became significant. Morrison focused on the way that people looked at Nel and her mother Helene. She used eyes and expression to express the way people looked and judged others. When Helene received the message about her grandmother being ill, Helene had to make the brave choice of taking Nel and revisit the conflicts she once had. When Helene and Nel board the train, they end up in the wrong section of the train. Morrison writes, “The two black soldiers, who had been watching the scene with what appeared to be indifference, now looked stricken.” (Morrison pg. 21) The eyes are used to symbolize the judgment that people have about the mother and daughter. It is also showing that the two soldiers find that their mistakes are childish and they should have known better. There is also the part where Helene is judged while looking for a bathroom since there weren’t any more after Birmingham. Helene asks a woman, ““Is there somewhere we can go to use the restroom?” The woman looked up at her and seemed no to understand. “Ma’am?” Her eyes fastened on the thick velvet collar, the fair skin, the high-tone voice.”” (Morrison pg. 23) Unlike Helene the woman was very unfamiliar with the way that Helene spoke, with such properness and prestige. The woman that was fixated on how well dressed Helene was gave her a reason to question why Helene and Nel think they are better than she is.

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  2. During chapter 1920 of “Sula,” Nel takes a journey towards discovering her own identity, meanwhile Helene is struggling amidst her relationship with her own mother Rochelle. Upon Nel and Helene’s arrival, Rochelle begins speaking Creol despite either of them having any understanding of the language. Nel is intrigued by her grandmothers foreign language and “sweet smell.” In an attempt to distance herself and her daughter, Helene denies her mother’s language, saying “’I don’t talk Creole’” and telling Nel “‘And neither do you.’” Here in, Helene creates another separation between her and her mother while attempting to relate with her daughter. While Helene tries to separate her and Nel from her mother, Nel is in the process of doing the same thing with Helene. When Nel settles down from her trip, she feels empowered by her new sense of “me” that is unparallel to her parents. In order to fully embrace her individuality, Nel attempts to separate herself from her mother. Morrison portrays Nel’s desire to be “me” through her actions that on some level disobey her mother’s advice. Morrison writes, “The trip, perhaps, or her new found me-ness, gave her the strength to cultivate a friend in spite of her mother (1920.74).” Nel's friendship with Sula is born out of a rebellion against her mother, which reminds us of Nel’s need to separate herself from her mother in order to create her own identity. When we look at the desire for independence with both generations of daughters- both Nel and Helene- it seems as if Morrison is touching upon the idea that all children must separate themselves from those who hold the most control and influence upon them in order to find themselves.

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  3. In chapter “1920” of Toni Morrison’s, Sula, Morrison uses Helene and her interactions with both Nel and Rochelle to demonstrate how she longs to escape her past. When Helene finds her mother, Rochelle, at Cecile’s house, she is cold and reserved. Rochelle, whom was/is a prostitute, hasn’t seen Helene in years since Cecile took her away and raised her on her own. Rochelle comments on how pretty Nel is and asks her what her name is in Creole. Because Nel doesn’t know Creole, Helene has to translate for her. Nel is fascinated by Rochelle, commenting on how soft her skin is and asking Helene what Rochelle meant when she said “voir”. Morrison writes, “’I don’t know,’ her mother said. ‘I don’t talk Creole.’ She gazed at her daughter’s wet buttocks. ‘And neither do you.’” Helene’s ability to speak and understand Creole is a part of her identity that ties her with Rochelle. However, by denying that she knows Creole and immediately making it clear that Nel doesn’t either, she is attempting to erase such ties. Helene fears that Nel will end up like Rochelle – this is why she is happy that Nel is not pretty and why she shuts down Nel’s imagination. Since the moment Helene left Cecile’s house to marry and move in with Wiley, she worked long and hard to make sure that she was everything Rochelle isn’t. However, her constant attempts to make sure Nel is obedient and obliges to everything she tells her crumbles when Nel joins Helene on her trip to see Cecile. She says, “I’m me. I’m not their daughter. I’m not Nel. I’m me. Me.” This demonstrates how Helene’s attempt to distance her past from Nel was unsuccessful as Nel comes to decide that she won’t let Helene dictate who she is.

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  4. In chapter 1920 of Sula by Toni Morrison we see many shifts, clashes, and displays of power. At the very start of the chapter Helene Sabbat is introduced, the daughter of a Creole whore. One of the first things we learn about Helene’s later life is how controlling she is. She becomes married to a man named Wiley, “under the pressure of both women (one of which is Helene)” (Morrison 17). Helene is trying to be as in control of her life as one can be, even forcing a man to marry her. Later, nine years into the marriage they have a child, “Under Helenes hand the girl became obedient and polite. Any enthusiasms that little Nel showed were calmed... until she drove her daughter’s imagination underground” (Morrison 18) The sentence starts off very polite and dignified, like Helene appears to the outside world, but to Nel she is very controlling and suppressive. She drives Nel’s imagination, “underground”. That is a very final and forceful way to describe something like this, usually things that are driven into the ground stick there, and the word driving implies a large amount of force. Imagination and enthusiasm are also both very free and childlike words, crushing them is almost a vulgar display of power. In Sula people who are control tend to enjoy it, and everyone wants to be in control. In 1919 Shad loses control of his own life and reinstates it by doing something extreme, creating a suicide day. In 1920 Helene displays her control in an extreme way as well, not allowing Nel to live her life in a way that is remotely her own. The displays of control in Sula all seem to be an extreme, perhaps showing the cost of power.

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  5. In the second chapter of Toni Morrison’s Sula, 1920, Nel has a great realization about herself. “‘I’m me. I’m not their daughter. I’m not Nel. I’m me. Me’” (Morrison 28).
    It is in this moment that Morrison is able to convey Helene’s struggles as well. Helene has allowed her own mother’s actions and personality affect her life and choices. However, it is Helene’s extensive attempt to be greatly different from her own mother that leads her to be very similar to her mother. Nel’s realization that she would rather not be a woman like Helene greatens the divide in their relationship. Nel, herself, wishes to abandon the choices her mother has made her and the person her mother wishes her to be. Nel’s statement, “…‘I’m not their daughter…’” goes to show that she views her mother and her grandmother as one person, even though Helene has done everything in her will to be less like her mother. Both Helene and Nel try to separate themselves from people that hold the upper hand, yet Helene is seemingly unsuccessful. Though she rids herself of the basic aspects of their similarity, like language and lifestyle, Helene is truly a woman of the same nature as her own mother. It is through the juxtaposition of Helene’s desire to distance herself and Nel’s wish to do the same that Morrison is able to convey the human tendency to stray away from the people closest to you. It is often the times that we wish to distance ourselves that we become increasingly similar to the other person.

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  6. This chapter introduces readers to Helene, a woman intent on being in control of every aspect of her life. She has every moment of her life ordered, including hold on her daughter. Yet once she leaves the safety of her home, Helene loses all sense of power and is forced to deal with the consequences of shutting herself in. The moment Helene departs for her trip, she encounters a white man on a train who refers to her as ‘gal’, this simple three letter word reminding her of the past she had worked so hard to erase from herself, and causes her to fall into a blob of bubbling nerves, or as Nel describes it, ‘custard’. A pale yellow pudding subject to lose its perfect shape with only the smallest of bumps; even Nel, her 10 year old daughter is capable of seeing this change in her mother, and promises herself never to become this custard her mother is. Later on in their trip, Helene is forced to use the bathroom in the middle of a field, in plain sight, crushing her stoic image in her thick brown dress. She must stoop to the level of an animal, using the bathroom in the middle of nature and finally breaks out of the poised corset she had made for herself. What self-given control she once had is gone. Every last one of her protective barriers have been broken down, so when facing her mother at the end of her trip Helene is unable to put on a brave front and is cold and angry allowing Nel to once again see under her mother’s cracked resolve. This is the second time control has come up in the novel, the first being with Shamrak and his inability to have any control over his emotions, so therefore his physical body, yet with both of these characters, their self-control is restored when they find their way back home, to Medallion. Morrison even in the first chapters of her novel shows us the importance community has on our individual self-worth.

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  7. In chapter "1920" of Toni Morrison's, Sula, we are introduced to two characters, Helene and her daughter Nel. Helene is a very protective of her daughter and tries her best to keep Nel from becoming something that Helene doesn't want Nel to become, which is like Helene's mother, a prostitute. This creates a barrier between Helene and Nel's relationship, which leads to Nel not wanting to become like her mother. However this is not the only thing that makes Nel not want to become someone like her mother. Morrison describes, "Out of this she made herself a heavy but elegant dress with velvet collar and pockets. Nel watched her mother cutting the pattern from newspapers and moving her eyes rapidly from a magazine model to her own hands." (Morrison 19). Here Nel is watching her mother making a dress similar to the ones at the magazine model. Models are seen as representation of the image that society wants others to look like. This shows that Helene is trying to fit in with the society standard as if she was giving in to the image that everyone else was trying to see, wearing "elegant" things and such. Later on the "elegant dress" is mentioned again, "… She looked deeply at the folds of her mother's dress. There in the fall of the heavy brown wool she held her eyes. She could not risk letting them travel upward for fear of seeing the dress had come undone and exposed custard skin underneath." (Morrison 22). The folds in Helene's dress show how she is hiding something about herself and Nel is trying to find out what she is hiding behind those folds and that is why she is staring at the so intently, however at the same time she doesn't want her mom to expose what is underneath the dress because although he knows that her mother acts a certain way on the outside, she is a different way on the inside, that might show how she is giving in to the white society instead of fighting to be respected by them and this is why Nel doesn't want to be like her mother, she doesn't want to give in the way her mother did.

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  8. In chapter 1920 we meet two new characters Helene and her daughter Nel. IN their hometown Helene reins all the power in this relationship. Helene likes to live a very tame lifestyle for her and her daughter. Helene grew up with being the daughter of a prostitute. Which is looked as a wild and unprofessional job at the time. This is probably why Helene took such drastic measures, like joining a very conservative church In order to disassociate her from her mother’s life choices. But all of this changes when Helene and Nel leave to New Orleans, on the train the white conductor unnerves Helene by calling her a “gal”. To Helene, all her hard work trying to wipe away the titles given to her by her mother have all been erased in an instant. This event leaves Helene in disarray. Helene did all she could to gain respect for herself, but has caught off guard when the conductor insulted her. The realization that all her efforts to change how people perceive her can only go as far as her skin color has shell-shocked Helene. Furthermore Helene continues to fall down the social ladder, when she is forced to use the restroom in the middle of a field. This is total culture shock to Helene. When we meet Rochelle Nel realizes that trying to appease the high society life like her mother isn’t the only way to live life. Meeting Rochelle gives Nel a new perspective on how to live life.

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  9. In chapter 1920 in the novel “Sula”, Toni Morrison introduces Helene Sabat and her daughter, Nel. Following the small explanation of Helenes past, Morrison conveys Helene as a serious woman who has the ability to hold her own and stay strong. However, due to Helenes stern personality, she attempts to teach her daughter to follow the same path, and, inevitably, tore away Nels’ childhood by banning creativity. Nel then grows up around a proud mother, who has a sense of elegance and grace combined with a hard personality. In the middle of the chapter, Helene and Nel must travel to visit Helene’s ill grandmother. In the beginning of the trip, Helene and Nel accidentally enter through the white section of the train and must travel to the colored section in the back. Before they are able to enter the correct cart, they are interfered by the conductor. Helene’s way of dealing with the situation shakens Nel: “All the old vulnerabilities, all the old fears of being somehow flawed gathered in her stomach and made her hands tremble. She had heard only that one word; it dangled above [her]” (Morrison 20). This shows the harsh reality of that time, and though Helene has developed into a strong woman, she is still unable to overcome the derogatory behaviour that expands past the Bottom. She then reacts by giving the conductor a wide smile, and Nel, after noticing the angered reactions from the colored soldiers, is unable to look at her mother properly. This shows her embarrassment in her mother’s reaction, but it could also show her fear of what she may become and the world she is unfamiliar with. She is, in summary, afraid of being like her mother: Stern and cold yet still afraid.

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