Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sula 1937 and 39


  1. Sula has arrived back to town as a new person, clearly influenced by her experiences as a child and as a teen. Sula is an exact product of her environment; even though she may not see it or fully accept it she has certain characteristics as her mother Hannah and Eva. Sula is blamed for many problems that occur throughout the town, many do not have anything to do but she is the scapegoat for the Bottom. Sula is guilty of breaking up the marriage of her best friend Nel by sleeping with her husband Jude, just as her mother use to do. Sula free spirit and embracing of her sexuality is a replica of what she saw growing up from her mother, but although this may seem proper because she is her own person, it has caused a series of problems. She is not able to look at a bigger picture and see the consequences that it has inflicted. Morrison writes, “She had no thought at all of causing Nel pain when she bedded down with Jude. They had always shared the affection of other people: compared how a boy kissed, what line he used with one and the other” (119). Clearly times had changed, the innocence of childhood had far passed both of them and Sula’s outlook on life has blinded her from seeing the reality of things. Sula is not able to comprehend and digest what consequences happened because of her actions, she is now done what other people have been speaking about around town. She has become this monster that many dislike, this now includes her very own friend that was almost a reflection of herself. Sula may have caused this, but things go around and she is able to feel what Nel has felt because of her through her roller coaster of emotions with Ajax. Morrison writes, “Sula began to discover what possessions was. Not love, perhaps, but possession or at least the desire for it. She was astounded by so new and alien a feeling” (131). Sula is beginning to change on how she views men, love and overall life. Her ideas are beginning to reshape themselves as she looks at her life through a bigger picture, Sula wants to feel real love is and say that she has a steady person in her life rather than just having sex. She is starting to part ways with what characteristics she has embodied from her family and is seeing the harm that she has caused others, I believe this is a small preview of what is going to happen with Sula as she finds who she really is and what she is capable of.

  2. Sex seems to carry a great weight in Sula, despite the way the main characters approach it. Both Hannah and Sula seem to have sex at a whim, however Hannah has it for the pleasure and seeks nothing more from it, whereas Sula seeks feeling, "She went to bed with men as frequently as she could. It was the only place where she could find what she was looking for: misery and the ability to feel deep sorrow." Sula seeks basic human feeling, and can only find it in sex. The thing that brings people joy, even to Hannah in a way, only brings Sula sorrow. It is almost sociopathic, actually, the way Sula acts. She has no basic feelings so even sorrow is a treat. She watches her sister burn with interest instead of concern, really the entire description of her predicament in 1939 shows the issue at hand: she has no idea how a real human functions. Her entire family seems to have some sort of chromosomal deficiency (or overabundance). Her brother gets addicted to heroin, not enough to imply insanity but the way his mother cures him is immolation, clearly insane. Eva abandons her kids, kidnaps the Deweys, and is capable of not loving her own children. Hannah sleeps around with everyone and ended up (possibly) committing suicide. I just talked about Sula, of course. This appears to be a recurring theme as much as any, how does insanity affect a community and friendships. How does Shadrack's (insane) creation of suicide day affect the community? Positively actually, and how does Sula's insanity affect the community? It makes mothers try harder, it makes women more affectionate, it really improves everything as a whole. Is insanity possibly not a bad thing?

    1. Hi all - I want to point out the kind of question-driven analysis that Fedor is doing here. He picks an issue, builds its meaning it in several interrelated scenes, and then builds to a insightful (if concerning) theme about it. We're finishing the novel this week, and I encourage you to start looking for similar questions and patterns that interest you to write about. Start to pull your analysis together and think about what it means.

  3. During these two chapters of Sula, Morrison pays special attention to the color blue as a symbol of both peace and chaos. Sula brings with her a chaos upon her return to the bottom after ten years of absence, which is there after followed by a stabilizing peace, which may be in reference to the calm that settles over the water after a raging storm at sea. Sula’s presence upon her return unifies the towns people in their mutual hatred towards her. Sula infuriates the town, and after sleeping with Jude, the women in the bottom were jealous of Sula because of her independence and disinterest with blending in.
    Blue comes back into context in the next chapter, where Sula is introduced to a long lived fantasy of hers: Ajax. Ajax is connected to the chaos and freedom of sky blue. Upon arriving at Sula’s front door without any warning, Ajax entices Sula with two milk bottles (something Sula collected), which were “framed by a slick blue sky”(124).
    Ajax is curious and intruiged by Sula because he see her as having a “life [which] was her own, who could deal with life efficiently and who was not interested in nailing him” (127). Thus, his offering to her is Not the milk itself but the cleanliness and aesthetic solidarity of the bottles. Similar to Sula, Ajax remains relatively untied with his community. Both Sula and Ajax are curious, fearless, adventurous, and searching/ creating themselves. Morrison conveys Ajax’s curiosity and freedom through his obsession with airplanes, which is a literal symbol of freedom, which in the sky, is always encompassed by blue. Furthermore, Blue is commonly associated with love issues, and melancholy, as in “feeling blue.” After Ajax leaves Sula, she is undeniably depressed, and dreams of blue.

    Morrison further plays with color when Sula returns to the bottom after a hefty leave, “she was dressed in a manner that was as close to a movie star as anyone would ever see. A black crepe dress splashed with pink and yellow zinnias,…so small and so charming.” (90) Morrison dresses Sula in various colors as a visual indicator to readers ( and the people of the bottom) that she has changed. In particular, the black Sula is dressed in symbolizes an intense spiritual energy that is both matured and potent. The Pink accents on her outfit are glanced upon as mild and gentle, and thus, associated with a calm, tender, pleasant, and sweetness. Moreover, the red she wears displays heightened spiritual mood, sacrifice, and struggle. However, it’s interesting that the colors Sula wears are the quite the opposite of the emotions and actions she brings back with her to the bottom. When Sula returns, she definitely doesn’t express any “gentle” or “mild” moods. Perhaps Morrison purposefully dresses Sula in these colors to indicate Sula’s heightened complexity as a character, one that is difficult to categorize, and may be deceiving at first glance.

  4. When reading the last chapter of the homework, I realized what a understandable and predictable character development that has happened in Sula and Nel. Since the beginning you easily grasped the idea that Nel would resist being like her mother Helene, but inside she knew that she would have the same characteristics. When Nel is betrayed by Sula, who slept with Jude, Nel becomes associated with the other women in the town who blame Sula for all the chaos that happens after her 'sin'. Nel wants to be looked at as perfect or to assimilate to others so she wouldn't feel and be outcasted. While Sula's character has always been easily predicated, she was always the one who spoke up for herself when others were rude to her. So when Sula became outcasted by the people at the Bottom, it was bound to happen. Both of the two girls show how a community can define who they are. While Nel wants to be appealed by everyone, Sula wants to be original. When Sula starts having feelings for Ajax, she doesn't realize that since people see her as this girl who sleeps around that she has to stay this strong person who shouldn't have feelings. Morrison wanted to use the character’s personality to highlight the idea of how people are judgemental and blame others for their bad decisions. Sula creates chaos, but more than that, she creates the truth. The other characters are scared to be who they are, and that comes with human nature. In the beginning of the novel, Shadrack, Helene, and Eva, are these charcters who want to be independent while Sula follows the need to feel independent, others in the Bottom need to feel and be part of something that makes them feel significant.

  5. In these chapters, Morrison brings in the relationship between daughter and mother. She writes about Sula coming back and cheating on Nel’s husband. This is just like her mother used to do. She slept around with married men. This already a similarity, but what’s even more similar is that both do not realize that what they are doing is wrong. Hannah slept around with men and made Sula think that it’s commonplace and normal. This is why Sula doesn’t seem to realize what she did to Nel (the sex part), but she does realize that now she lost her friend. The reason just seems unreasonable to her. So she just keeps on sleeping around with all the men she can get to, just like her mother. She seems not to care what others think of her, just like her mother did not really care. Some of the things she does are almost identical to her mother’s actions. For example, she parked cars in the same pantry her mother parked cars in years ago. These repeating events through generations is a technique Morrison uses to demonstrate to the reader how parenting affects children. In this case, a bad parenting example made the child to grow up bad. This also brings the reader to question what is going to happen to Sula next. Will she stay alive? The reader knows that Hannah got burned or burned herself to death. So if her child is following her footsteps, that should mean that at some point Sula will get killed or suicide. It is hard to tell still because, Sula seems to be the most important character in the book and it is unlikely for the main character to die. Also, Eva seems to be still alive, so maybe Hannah’s death was in fact an accident, not a suicide. We will have to keep reading to find out.

  6. Elizabeth Lee
    AP English
    Ms. D’Amato

    Reading Analysis

    In 1939, Toni Morrison writes, “But it was the men who gave her the final label, who fingerprinted her for all time. They were the ones who said she was guilty of the unforgivable thing- the thing for which there was no understanding, no excuse, no compassion.” This quote shows the human need for order. When there are things that other people do not understand, they have to categorize it so there is once again order. Sula is put to blame for the things that no one understands. As long as someone is taking the blame, everyone else could live a happier life. Sulas’ blame for all of the faults, despite how much they hate her, adds to the community’s’ benefit. Teapot’s mother was a negligent mother but once Sula took the blame, she began to care for her child. Another thing I would like to bring up is the switch of powers. Before, all of the powerful characters were women. However, once Eva was put away, all of the power went to the men. This is shown when Morrison writes “but it was the men who gave her the final label.” This shows a power shift in the Bottoms’ community. However, it could also be argued that the power has not shifted at all but is only seen that way for Sula has inherited her grandmothers talent for influencing the towns actions and thinking.

  7. Morrison continues to explore whether it is better to be comfortably within a mold or stuck outside of it through the development of her characters. Previously, the Deweys served as an argument both for and against remaining an indistinguishable part of society’s mass, and in these chapters Sula develops Morrison’s argument about the other side of the coin, being outside. Sula, who was raised in a family at the epicenter of Medallion life, leaves for ten years and returns as an external figure to the community, both as a result of her own doing and because of Medallion’s unfavorable perception of her. Unlike the other characters that are described with a tone of misery, Sula lives independently and is thus able to explore herself, yet she experiences a “loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning” (123). Sula’s human need for connection and acceptance into a community (a need unfulfilled in her isolation from Medallion) comes knocking at her door in the form of Ajax. Interestingly, Ajax initially appears to be an extension of Sula’s independence, but quickly we see that his presence actually erodes her independence, causing him to leave her. Sula is at first so devastated at the loss of Ajax because he had been the one thing she had to hold onto. When she realizes that she didn’t know his actual name, or much about him really, her independence and separation from the community is fortified.

    While Sula and her upbringing can be considered immoral for all of the murder and betrayal that transpires, she is nonetheless the most self-sufficient character in the novel, except perhaps for the similar Shadrack. There’s actually a comparison that can be made between her and the Deweys, as they are all stuck in their bubble, Sula sealing herself outside of society and the Deweys sealed within.

    One last interesting thing is the repeated returns made by characters – Shadrack comes back from war, Helene goes back home to Medallion, Eva leaves Medallion then returns, and Sula does the same as her grandmother.

  8. Independence in Toni Morrison's Sula seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the novel. Morrison depicts both Sula and Nel as independent women who, at young ages, decide to live nothing like their mother’s lives and free themselves from their constraints. In both chapters 1937 and 1939 the reader sees Sula and Nel as what they have truly become… Nel, though she declined her mother at quite a young age, finds herself married to Jude and with children. Already, her hasty marriage to Jude displays a lack of independence in her life, but it is Nel’s devastation after Sula and Jude’s affair that demonstrates Nel’s true loss of individuality. Morrison writes of Nel’s desire to be closer to her children as well, “For a long time she could not stop getting in the bed with her children and told herself each time that they… would need her to comfort them” (Morrison 109). Nel’s difficulty in leaving her children to dream by themselves displays her desire to feel comfort in and with others. The loss of Jude and Sula challenge Nel’s understanding of herself and her individuality. She had found comfort in Sula as a young girl, then Jude as she grew older, but after both deserted her, she attempts to find safety in her children, showing a lack in her ability to be independent. Though Nel loses her sense of individuality, Sula demonstrates quite the opposite. Sula’s return to the Bottom and her various actions land her in hot water... It is her independence that sets her apart from everyone in the Bottom, but it also hurts her reputation as well as herself. Both Sula and Nel at the end of 1937 and 1939 reveal through their actions and lifestyle that a lack, as well as a great possession of independence is damaging to their lives.

  9. Death is a topic that keeps rearing its ugly head in this novel. We first see this when Sula arrives back at bottom accompanied by robins. “Accompanied by a plague of robins" When I think of a “plague” of any kind of thing I think of death or disease. These omens of death come to a reality when Sula sends Eva to a bad mental hospital. In event Sula becomes the grim reaper in two ways. One is that she kills Eva’s way of life. Eva the Captain of her home becomes a beggar to the hospital’s employees. Second is the relationship with her mother. As the chapter progresses Sula death trail continues, as she becomes the grim reaper of her friend Nel’s relationship with her husband. When Nel is in shock of this event she realizes why ChickenLittles family was grieving in such a way. Nel says, “a simple obligation to say something, do something, feel something about the dead” This talk of these abrupt deaths reminded me of Shadrock and his Suicide Day. Shadrock created the day so people can get death out of their systems on one predetermined day; so all 364 days are free of such feelings. Obviously no one has listen or took Shadrock seriously and their lives are plagued with constant deaths. Chapter 1939 continues the death theme when the town starts to blame Sula for the death of Mr. Finley, who chokes on a chicken bone after just looking at her. Sula has apparently become the death whisper in the town, and the townspeople take notice. They reevaluate Sula’s birthmark of the ashes of Hannah. Now death is physically ingrained into Sula. The most obvious proof this when Shadrock becomes friendly with Sula. Shadrock is considered himself the coordinator of Suicide day, which equals death. So essentially in his mind he controls death. The fact that he’s so friendly with Sula exacerbated the point that Sula also create and controls death.

  10. Dina Kharag
    Sula 1937
    In the novel Sula, with Nel and Sula changing their attitudes about love shows how human desire for love is destructive. The relationship between Nel and her husband, Jude, starts off good as they are having a good time being married together. However, once Sula comes back to see her best friend, it shows how marriage has changed Nel. When Sula makes a small joke that was to reflect about their past, it actually made Nel feel “soft and new” (98). This diction caught my eye because whenever I think of marriage, I always think that with having children and a husband, it would make a person feeling soft all the time. However, the marriage made Nel transform to become more uptight and rigid, making her unable to let loose and relax like how she did before. With comparing to Sula, Sula has learned to always stay relaxed. It was presented when she accidentally lures Nel’s husband, Jude, to make him start to like her. Jude even sees this himself which makes him think deeply about her, “A funny woman, he thought, not that bad looking. But he could see that she wasn’t married; she stirred a man’s mind maybe, but not his body” (pg 104). With the way Jude observes Sula, it presents that the marriage is taking a toll on Jude. This leaves the question if a woman’s desire to have a man that’s faithful to her can ever to obtainable. So with Nel’s marriage on the line because of Sula attracting Jude accidentally, it shows how marriage can be easily broken.