Toni Morrison continues to amaze me with her writing and complex and heartwrenching plots about African American lives. Sula focuses on the tight friendship between two African American girls who drift apart as they grow, and the novel also focuses on the independent Sula who has a peculiar habit of watching things even deaths. Sula becomes the town Medallion’s pariah; her refusal to bend to social customs/rules and independent thinking leads to the town branding her an evil entity. Yet her presence ironically makes things better including harmony among residents and negligent parents finally taking care of their children properly.
Along with a detailed description of life after WWI for a black veteran, Sula explores the struggle of being black, female and independent in a conservative place, a place still haunted by the past and racism, and is decaying. The idea of fear/paranoia leading to chaos is twisted into fear/paranoia leading to harmony among a society and once the source of that fear/paranoia goes away, everything crumbles. Sula also depicts conservatism being more stable than “unconventional” – the “unconventional” is chaos, but the town of Medallion is decaying anyway. Sula is just there to mess things further.
Sula is the antagonist and yes, I didn’t like her but there were moments where I felt sorry for her. All she wants is love, and I do like that she represents feminism – even the struggling and often forgotten part of including everyone, not just white feminism. I understand her frustration with the town but her actions…they make you hate her. Thanks Toni for writing a complex woman and making me cry again.