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Sula Essay, Research Paper

In their life, at one point or another, people deny to themselves and others what they really feel and what really happened. Some people go on living their entire lives denying their true emotions. In Toni Morrison s novel Sula, characters constantly denied their feelings and their actions. Sula Peace, her best friend Nel Wright, and Nel s mother do not listen to their feelings and hide from their true emotions.

Sula Peace is one of the protagonists of the novel. She is born to a very unstable family and is from that moment treated differently in the Bottom , the black section of Medallion, Ohio. From the time that she was very young, right up until her death, Sula denied her true emotions. She refuted her need for love and did not acknowledge her family and its impact on her.

Sula s need for love was first expressed in the beginning of the novel when she is twelve years old. Not realizing that Sula is nearby, Hannah, her mother says: I love Sula. I just don t like her. Sula only heard Hannah s words, and the pronouncement sent her flying up the stairs. In bewilderment, she stood at the window fingering the curtain edge, aware of a sting in her eye. (57) Sula did not show that her mother s words truly hurt her. She ran away from the problem when she heard Nel call for her. Sula just went on to continue playing with Nel like nothing happened even thought the words of her mother would ring in her head forever reminding her of the hurt and betrayal she felt when those words left her mother s lips.

Sula s lack of love continued in 1923 when she turned thirteen. She was changing into a woman, but the words of her mother were still with her. In the summer when the entire community began to can fruits and vegetables for the winter, Hannah began to do the same. She lit a fire, which in turn caught her dress and soon engulfed her in flames. Sula sat on the back porch simply looking on as her mother burned. Sula continued to keep standing as Eva, her handicapped grandmother dived out the second floor window in an effort to save Hannah. When Eva told people that she saw Sula standing by and not even trying to help anyone they responded by saying: Sula was probably struck dumb, as anybody would be who saw her own mama burn up. (78) Eva agreed with them, but inside she disagreed and remained convinced that Sula had watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested. (78)

Eva s suspicions were right. Sula was not so much paralyzed by the sight of her mother s burning body, but by the words that her mother said last year. Sula could not bring herself to help her mother and because of the pain she felt, she also could not help her grandmother.

As Sula became older she continued to run from her emotions and from her problems. When Nel married Jude Greene in 1927, Sula ran away after the wedding. She ran for ten years because she thought that her and Nel s friendship would not say the same and that Jude would replace her in Nel s life.

When Sula returned to Medallion, she came back the same person as the one who left. She was still running from her problems and her past. Sula put Eva into a nursing home because Eva brought back memories of how Sula watched her own mother die. Once again Sula ran away fro her past trying to change the future. A little after, when Nel asked Sula why Eva was put in a nursing home, Sula lied to Nel saying: I m scared Nellie. That s why… (100) She once again turned her face away from her past and lied to herself and her best friend about what really happened.

Sula s best friend and the other protagonist of Sula was Nel Wright. Nel was the exact opposite of Sula. Nel had a light skin color, almost like the color of sand; in contrast, Sula s skin was dark like the rich earth. Nel was the picture of innocence and purity; Sula had a birthmark in the shape of a rose over one of her eyes, giving an impression of something mysterious. Nel was a calm and constant person, while Sula could and would flare up with emotion. However, the two friends shared the fact that they both ran from their problems.

In 1927 when Nel married Jude Greene, she did not marry out of love. Nel married Jude because she thought it was the proper social thing to do, to accept a marriage proposal. Just as her mother had taught her, Nel wants to settle down and gain the respect that comes with marriage. She seemed receptive but hardly anxious (82). It was a sad reason to get married. She wanted to run from her mother s restrictions into her own life. Nel like Sula began to run from her problems.

Ten years later when Sula returned to The Bottom, she slept with Jude. Jude ashamed of what he did left Nel and their three children on a one-way ticket to Detroit. Nel wished that she could express the pain she felt, but all that she could think of was the way women cried at Chicken Little s funeral, and how she wanted to cry like that also. Nel waited, Waited for the oldest cry. A scream not for others, not in sympathy for a burnt child, or a dead father, but a deeply personal cry for one s own pain. A loud strident: Why me? She waited. (108) Nel ran away from her emotions because she wanted to deal with them the way most people deal with them, by crying. She did not want to face her own personal emotions and her own private way of dealing with Jude s departure and the loss of her best friend.

Although Helene Wright was not a protagonist in the novel, she like Sula and Nel ran away from her problems and her past. Helene married a distant cousin of hers and moved out of the racist South to a more accepting town of Medallion, Ohio. She also ran from the South to forget the life she lived there. Being raised by her grandmother because her mother was a prostitute who was incapable of raising a child. When Helene got notice to come to Louisiana because her grandmother was sick She did not want to go, but she could not ignore the silent plea of the woman who had rescued her. (19). Helene did not want to go because she would once again have face her past in the racist streets of Louisiana. For her trip Helene sewed herself an elegant dress hoping that it would ease some tension of the fact that she was black. It was almost as if Helene was trying to hide the fact that she was black.

Although Sula, Nel, and Helene were all running from their past, it finally caught up to them. Sula as much as she did not like her other, became like her by becoming the town whore and sleeping around with the married men of Medallion. Nel who throughout the novel tried to break the social conscience shell her mother put her in, wound up worrying what the town would think of her. Helene Wright went back to Louisiana and was forced to look her mother in the eyes. By running away from their past and their emotions they were forced to encounter them in much more difficult situations than if they were to have faced their feelings head on


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