In the novel Sula, by Toni Morrison we follow the life of Sula Peace through out her childhood in the twenties until her death in 1941. The novel surrounds the black community in Medallion, specifically "the bottom". By reading the story of Sula’s life, and the life of the community in the bottom, Morrison shows us the important ways in which families and communities can shape a child’s identity. Sula not only portrays the way children are shaped, but also the way that a community receives an adult who challenges the very environment that molded them. Sula’s actions and much of her personality is a direct result of her childhood in the bottom. Sula’s identity contains many elements of a strong, independent feminist character. However, the people in Medallion do not see Sula in a positive light. When she returns to Medallion as an adult Sula is seen as evil and regarded with much fear. The reason Sula outcast from the community is specifically due to the fact that she is a woman who refuses to contain herself in the social norms set up for the town. She refuses to marry and frequently sleeps around. The characters that exist around Sula serve as a point to compare the different ways the community treats those who are different. Specifically the way the characters, Shadrack and Hannah are treated by the community can be compared to the way the community treats Sula. In one way or another, Sula, Shadrack, and Hannah are outcast from the community in the bottom. Shadrack and Hannah however are not regarded with near as much fear or resentment the town feels towards Sula. The difference between the way the town treats Hannah and Sula is particularly alarming. After the death of Sula’s father, Hannah has no real relationships with men. She sleeps only with the husbands of her friends and neighbors husbands. Although Hannah sleeps with married men the people in Medallion have a certain respect for her. "The men, surprisingly, never gossiped about her. She was unquestionably a kind and generous woman..."(p 2013). Hannah has affairs with the same men over and over again. Because of this most often the wives of those men take it as a compliment when Hannah sleeps with them. Hannah is Sula’s mother and has indirectly taught a young Sula to view sex as a source of pleasure. "Seeing her step so easily into the pantry and emerge looking precisely ...
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... views on life to any man. There is an imagination in Sula and an intelligence which can be seen in all her actions. This imagination allows her to look closely at the community surrounding her and rise above it. She sees herself not so much in the community but separate from it, and the town does make a separate place for Sula. She doesn’t take what is given to her, she doesn’t blindly accept the social norms the community has set for women. In the end of the novel, right before Sula dies, Nel, Sula’s old best friend, sums up why the whole community has viewed her as evil, a roach, a bitch and feared her so greatly. "You can’t do it all. You a woman and a colored woman at that. You can’t act like a man. You can’t be walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don’t." (p2057). Throughout the novel however, that is exactly what Sula does. She attempts to live her life the most free she can. Free from the social norms of a patriarchal community who sees a woman solely in relationship to a man. If a woman doesn’t have a relationship with a man and take up socially accepted responsibilities, she is seen as evil, inconceivable.
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