Identity In Toni Morrison's Sula

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It is often impossible to truly understand the extent of a person’s character. Consequently, the generalizations that other people make, abstract a person’s identity. These issues and many more are discussed in Toni Morrison’s novel Sula, which follows the lives of two best friends and how their actions ultimately lead to the demise of their friendship. In between this plot, the characters find themselves and their actions misconstrued to what their community wants to believe, bringing about Morrison’s overall message of her text. Through her novel, Morrison states that once a community has an idea of an individual, it can be difficult for them to believe something that contrasts their ideas. This is depicted through how the actions of Sula…show more content…
As a returned World War I veteran, Shadrack is traumatized from the scenes he witnessed and took part of during his time there. Consequently, as a way to take control of his fears he institutes National Suicide Day, a day dedicated to all the negative feelings he has, so that the rest of year can be enjoyed without these negative feelings. As he shares this holiday with the townspeople it is described, “The people in the town were frightened; they knew Shadrack was crazy but that did not mean that he didn’t have any sense or, even more important, that he had no power. His eyes were so wild, his hair so long…” (Morrison 15). The townspeople are frightened because the idea behind Shadrack’s holiday is not completely unfounded, as Shadrack is capable of being crazy, as in having mental issues from the war, but also sensible, as in being able to produce intelligent thought. Morrison includes a physical description of Shadrack’s appearance to emphasize the town’s justification of Shadrack’s craziness as wild eyes and long hair in this time period are characteristics of the insane. The repetition of the word “so”, as in “so wild” and “so long”, displays the importance of his appearance, as these “crazy” characteristics directly contrast Shadrack’s ideas. Instead of making it known in her writing by subtly hinting at it or even writing it in italics, Morrison writes the words “even more important” that comes before “power” to stress this idea of Shadrack’s power being denied. The inclusion of “power” is not meant to evoke the meaning of physical power, but instead intellectual power, that can persuade the town to believe in the meaning of this holiday. The conditions the townspeople are currently facing, due to living in The Bottom, and the conditions that they will face leads them to need an outlet for all their worries, so National Suicide Day can be quite
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