Racism and sexism are both themes that are developed throughout the novel Sula, by Toni Morrison. The book is based around the black community of "The Bottom," which itself was established on a racist act. Later the characters in this town become racist as well. This internalized racism that develops may well be a survival tactic developed by the people over years, which still exists even at the end of the novel. The two main characters of this novel are Nel Wright and Sula Peace. They are both female characters and are often disadvantaged due to their gender. Nel and Sula are depicted as complete opposites that come together to almost complete one another through their once balanced friendship. Nel is shown to be a good character because she plays a socially acceptable role as a woman, submissive wife and mother, while Sula conforms to no social stereotypes and lets almost nothing hold her back, thus she is viewed as evil by the people in her community. Both women are judged by how well they fit into the preconceived social conventions and stereotypes that exist in "the Bottom."
The social conventions that are set up in this book play out in a small black community in Ohio called "the Bottom." The community itself formed when a white slave owner tricked his naïve black slave into accepting hilly mountainous land that would be hard to farm and very troublesome instead of the actual bottom (fertile valley) land that he was promised. The slave was told "when God looks down, it's the bottom. That's why we call it so. It's the bottom of heaven-best land there is" (4), and on the basis of this lie a community was formed. Its almost as if the towns misfortune is passed down ...
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... what happened as a turn in life and does not feel like she is the cause of Chicken Little's death. She mourns his death and then moves on.
Sula has a feminist spirit and refuses to melt into the typical mold of a woman. She "discovered years before that [she was] neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to [her]" (52). Because of this she decides to lead her life on her own terms. Sula encounters both racism and sexism and is placed in a situation in which she has no release for her wild spirit. She cannot live out in the world with the freedoms of a man, but doesn't want to live as a stereotypically sheltered woman either. In attempting to break these boundaries she is hated by the town and viewed as an "evil" person by the community in which she lives.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. Plume. New York: 1973.
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