Authors developed the canon in order to set a standard of literature that most people needed to have read or to have been familiar with. The works included in the canon used words such as beautiful, lovely, fair, and innocent to describe women. The canonical works also used conventional symbols to compare the women to flowers such as the rose and the lily. Thomas Campion depicts the typical description of women in his poem, "There is a Garden in Her Face." He describes the women by stating, "There is a garden in her face/ Where roses and white lilies grow,/ A heavenly paradise is that place,/ Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow" (1044-5). The roses and lilies are used to portray beautiful, frail women who are admired by all and placed high on a pedestal for all to adore. Going against the canon, Toni Morrison still uses flowers to describe the women in her novel Sula. The women Morrison describes are not fair, pure, or innocent. Sula, the main character compared to a rose, is not admired by all in society. Society looks down upon her because of her promiscuity and her carefree attitude.
In Sula, Morrison depicts Sula as having a birthmark in the shape of a stemmed rose over one eye. Sula's birthmark "spread from the middle of the lid toward the eyebrow, shaped something like a stemmed-rose... [that] gave her other wise plain face a broken excitement" (52). At first, when Sula is young and inexperienced, the mark is the "same shade as her gold-flecked eyes" (53). The light shade of the mark represents the time before Sula goes to college and experiences men and her sexuality. When Sula returns from the outside world to the Bottom, Sula's best friend Nel notices that "[the mark] was dark...
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...and does not need the approval of the Bottom.
Toni Morrison clearly depicts an opposing view of the traditional symbolization of the rose. Although Sula is not frail and beautiful, she is still set on a pedestal. Instead of people admiring her, they fear her and the life she leads. The use her as an excuse to lead better lives. However, when she dies, the Bottom falls apart. The people no longer have a common bond of hatred towards Sula. Reality befalls the community with Sula's death. At first, the Bottom seems content with Sula's death, however, "[people of the Bottom] returned to a steeping resentment of the burdens of old people. Wives uncoddled their husbands; there seemed no further need to reinforce their vanity" (153-4). The town no longer has a rose to blame their mishaps. Instead, they must face up to their reality and their misfortune.
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