In her novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Dominican author Julia Alvarez demonstrates how words can become strange and lose their meaning. African American writer Toni Morrison in her novel Sula demonstrates how words can wound in acts of accidental verbal violence when something is overheard by mistake. In each instance, one sees how the writer manipulates language, its pauses and its silences as well as its words, in order to enhance the overall mood of each work.
In Toni Morrison's Sula, the reader meets the protagonist, Sula, and her friend Nel when both girls are roughly twelve years old. Both girls are black, intelligent, and dreaming of their future. Early on in the novel, two events occur which change Sula's worldview. First of all, she overhears a conversation in which her mother says that she loves Sula, but she does not like her (Morrison 57). Sula is deeply wounded by the off hand remark.
Soon afterwards, she and Nel are playing near the river when they encounter another friend-Chicken Little. The children begin to play together. Sula is swinging Chicken Little around when she accidentally knocks him into the river. "The pressure of his hand and tight little fingers were still in Sula's palms as she stood looking at the closed place in the water. They expected him to come back up, laughing" (Morrison 61).
This incident, combined with what feels to Sula like her mother's rejection, cause the child to turn away from the conventions of society and to avoid even the trauma of her own emotional reactions. Morrison writes that Sula was:
As willing to feel pain as to give pain, to feel pleasure as to give pleasure, hers was a...
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...cess that led from the Garcia girls' past to their present. In so doing, Alvarez illustrates the realities of assimilation for the Garcia family. It is a poignant story as Alvarez dramatizes the multiple complexities that permeate family life, but it remains a story of ordinary life-not tragedy.
Morrison's book, on the other hand, is a tragedy. Sula becomes trapped in a downwardly spiraling cycle of negativity that causes her to become the personification of evil in her community of Medallion. It is not until Sula commits suicide, and her consciousness lives on that she fully realizes that she was not intrinsically evil, but that there is good and evil in everyone (Morrison 146). Thus, it can be seen that while there are similarities between these two novels in their basic orientation, the way that each author uses language results in very different perspectives.
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