The novel Sula by Toni Morrison exemplifies the new feminist literature described by Helene Cixous in "The Laugh of the Medusa" because of the final portrayal of the two main characters Nel and Sula. However, it is clear throughout the novel that both Cixous's and Gilbert and Gubar's descriptions of women characters are evident within this novel. The traditional submissive woman figure paradoxically is set against the new woman throughout the novel. It is unclear whether the reader should love or despise Sula for her independence until the very last scene. Although both the perspectives of Cixous and Gilbert/Gubar are evident within the text, ultimately it is the friendship of the two women that prevails and is deemed most important. This prevailing celebration of womanhood in all of its dualistic and mysterious aspects is exactly what Cixous pushes women writers to attempt.
First there is the presence of the old stereotypical woman character, a woman split between the conventional and nontraditional roles of women. No differences are apparent initially between Morrison's Sula and any other women's literature in the past. Women are depicted either as docile servants to men, like Nel, or ball-busting feminist monsters like Sula. The hidden aspect of the novel lies underneath these stereotypical surface roles, in the incomprehensible and almost inappropriate bond of the two women. In the final scene of Sula, Nel comes to the realization that the emptiness inside her is due to the loss of Sula, not Jude (Morrison 174). Her friendship with Sula is all that matters.
The development of a feminist reading from the perspective of Gilbert and Gubar...
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... but instead reunites the two women's spirits. "We was girls together," Nel says, and it becomes clear the importance of this revelation to her. She cries "circles and circles of sorrow" for the lost itme between herself and Sula (Morrison 174). Perhaps she also cries for a whole history of lost women seperated by societal functioning and a world built my men.
Cixous, Helene. "The Laugh of the Medusa." The Critical Condition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1453- 66.
Gilbert, Sarah M. and Gubar, Susan. "From the Infection in the Sentence: The Woman Writer and the Anxiety of Authorship." The Critical Condition: Classic Texts andContemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1361-74.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Plume Printing, 1982.
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