Sula, a novel written by Toni Morrison touches on various themes in the modern society including family relationships, madness and evil, racial identity, generational conflict and community of women among other themes. The themes of the book are well developed through the contrast between sula and her best friend Nel who differ right from their roots, their lifestyles and the choices they make. This essay will present interpretation and analysis of communities of women as developed in Sula using an article from a scholarly research journal titled "`New World Woman': Toni Morrison's Sula by Maggie Galehouse.
According to Galehouse (339) sula is a chronicle of a community where black women dominate both public and private life as she quotes the words of Mae Gwendolyn Henderson who describes it as “intercultural/racial sites from which black women speak” (339). However, sula has managed to curve herself an identity outside or having just a little fraction of women in her community. Her personality reflects a defiance to the norms and mores characteristic of the women in the community. She does not see herself as a woman, and as a black woman. Rather, she is filled with an individual, jazz inspired, internal and fundamental world that comes out through a resistance to the status quo with an eager to explore the new and the unknown.
Sula Peace comes out as a very unique character among a community of women as she has defied mainstream culture. In spite of the fact that Sula represents a lot of things about women in the community she chooses a different approach of living within the society. For instance, according to Galehouse, Sula does not have a vision, boundaries, an ego or a dignity to protect, property, greed, desire, money to chase after, goals or ambitions and does not live within the limits imposed to the women by the community and the family. As a result, sula comes out to be disliked by both the society and the readers of the book. Her singularity of judgments and actions in a native land within Ohio community represents a new woman in a singled secluded zone and even after coming back from outside countries. She has refused to continue maintaining the ways of her mother and her grandmother for instance, in maintaining the house and adopting monogamy.
The main question is why sula emerges as a heroic character despite not being the “favourable” and “conforming” daughter of the community. Women of the community seem to be somewhat or secretly admiring her. Her mother says “I love Sula. I just don’t like her.” According to Morrison, sula has managed to gain shape from her shapelessness, and this comes out as very ironic. It is paradoxical that sula a girl without a foundation, structure affecting ideas and actions because she lacks sensitivity and standards to verify herself.
Morrison creates sula in a natural setting not connecting her to medallion a small town on a hill in Ohio. This shows a connection between people and place because, sociologically place is as important as its human actors. The truth of the matter is medallion city is as paradoxical as sula. For instance, to survive in bottom one requires a form of hardiness and humour that is reflected in the personality of the sula. Bottom, medallion is a joke in itself given its origin as black Americans were fooled being told that the land was arable, only to find that it was a dry region that did not produce anything. To make matters worse, the inhabitants are fighting for their land as the white men have threatened to give the land for a golf club.
In a nutshell, the rules of the society governing women are made among the community women themselves. Sula stood out because she chose to defy those rules. According to Galehouse (349), defying the ways of the community gave sula a bible resonance of Cain because of her actions and selfishness. In no time, she found herself alone and secluded, though by choice. Nel represents the perfect community of women which follows a definite path like getting married, giving birth or even seeking employment. Sula on the other hand is a perfect opposite representing the new world woman who is a free spirit that is not bound by the expectations and limitations of the society. So by the ways of community and definition of women, sula is evil and Nel is good. Nel like Bottom is dependable, accessible, reliable and likeable and fits into the shoes of the community (343).
Nel has been swallowed by the sensibility of Bottom because she believes in all the laws of the society. Sula’s concern is to establish a community of dominion where people are governed by sovereignty in actions and decisions. Bottom community does not understand a woman without a man, and a woman without children as eve her grandmother encourages her to get children and settle down. Sula says “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself” (Galehouse 352).