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Presentation of Womanhood in Toni Morrison's Sula

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Introduction

Presentation of Womanhood in Toni Morrison's Sula In her moving and astonishing novel Sula, published in 1973, Toni Morrison presents the lives of two black heroines - Nel Wright and Sula Peace. The author pictures their growing up together in a small Ohio town, their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, and their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation. Nel Wright chooses to stay in the place of her birth, to marry, to raise a family, to become a pillar of the tightly knit black community. Sula Peace rejects all that Nel has accepted. She escapes to college, submerges herself in city life, and when she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel, a mocker, a sexual seductress. Both women must suffer the consequences of their choices; both must decide if they can afford to harbour the love they have for each other; and both combine to create an unforgettable rendering of what it means and costs to exist and survive as a black woman in America. Sula chronicles a community in which black women dominate public and private life. Sula Peace is conceived outside of the constraints ordinarily felt by women in her community (she is "dangerously female"). She rejects every available social script, which as a result generates public tension. Despite any real or perceived limitations imposed by her family, her community, or the era in which she is depicted, Sula does not put any limits upon herself. ...read more.

Middle

Even though she is not part of a couple herself, to simply reject the notion out-of-hand is incomprehensible, even to her. It is the accepted template for women's lives, even though it is, more often than not, a failed or malfunctioning model. Furthermore, to Eva and to people in the Bottom, children are part of the order of things, the literal outgrowth of a concept of womanhood that is valued by what it produces and tends. To Sula, however, being a wife and a mother are not pre-requisites for selfhood. Her own "business"- the business of being, of living, is not dictated by family or community. From the beginning of her return to the Bottom, Sula is perceived as evil- so evil that the townspeople believe that she has supernatural powers. Sula is conceived, in part, as an enchanter, she is also affiliated with the antidote to the kind of power or black magic she is ultimately accused of inflicting upon the town. Certainly, Sula's birthmark "marks" her as different from conception, but her second birth or incarnation in the Bottom is also "marked": "Accompanied by a plague of robins, Sula came back to Medallion. The little yam-breasted shuddering birds were everywhere, exciting very small children away from their usual welcome into a vicious stoning"5. Essentially, Sula's return to the Bottom is greeted with a stoning, a punishment traditionally reserved for the public humiliation of a criminal or, more to the point, a witch. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Show? To who? Girl, I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me". "Lonely, ain't it?" "Yes. But my lonely is mine. Now your lonely is somebody else's. Made by somebody else and handed to you. Ain't that something? A secondhand lonely". (...) "I always understood how you could take a man. Now I understand why you can't keep none". "Is that what I'm supposed to do? Spend my life keeping a man?" "They worth keeping, Sula". "They ain't worth more than me."9 Nel is the one who survives, but it is only on the final page of the novel that she begins to understand that it is Sula, and not Jude, who she has been missing for decades. The parable is seemingly complete: one must strive to strike a balance between self-knowledge and narcissism. Perhaps Nel should have known herself better, Sula should not have known herself quite so well, and the people of the Bottom should have recognized the good that their perception of Sula's evil fostered. Although perceived by others as evil, Sula simply tries to live her own life in her own way. Her resistance to the values that the Bottom's community would like to impose on her (being a wife/ a mother), is due to her want of staying true to herself. And sometimes by affirming own mode of being in the world one has to pay the price of such a choice. ...read more.

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