Racism And Motherhood In Toni Morrison's Sula

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Sula Thematic Essay Around the first half of 20th century, African American experienced a state of fear and poverty, and they were pushed aside to the margin of society by white people. Even though African American was liberated from slavery after the Civil War, the seeming form of liberation didn’t free them from other aspects of discrimination such as economic depression and unfair social statuses. Especially African American women were the victims of both racism and gender discrimination; they not only suffered from the confused identity but also limited by the conventional stereotype of what women should be. All of those conflicts and issues are combined together and represented in Toni Morrison’s famous novel—Sula, which mainly tells the…show more content…
When Morrison comes to describe the motherhood in Sula, she reflects the subtle relationship among mothers and children with the impressive description about their actions and thoughts. In the novel, the motherhood of Eva is an interesting point for readers to think about. Eva is the mother of three children—Plum, Pearl, and Hannah—devoting her life to raise them up ; however, she ends one of those child’s life by herself. “[Eva] rolled a bit of newspaper into a tight stick about six inches long, lit it and threw it onto the bed where the kerosene-soaked Plum lay in snug delight. Quickly, as the whoosh of flames engulfed him, she shut the door and made her slow and painful journey back to the top of the house”(47-48). Plum goes back form World War I with heroin addiction and immerses in great misery. Eva is unable to watch her own child live in deep suffering, so she decides to burn Plum to death; she thinks the fire can give Plum’s life a clean and painless end. Nevertheless, Eva indeed feels sorrow and grief after burning her own kid—“ ‘There wasn’t space for him in my womb. And he was crawlin’ back. Being helpless and thinking baby thoughts and dreaming baby dreams and messing up his pants again and smiling all the time. I had room enough in my heart, but not in my womb, not no more’ ”(71). Even though Plum has already grown up to an adult,…show more content…
Friendship is the central topic in Sula, supporting the characters and making them get through difficulties in their lives. The strong and vulnerable friendship between Sula and Nel is the combination of two very different souls, which guide them to divergent life paths. When Sula and Nel first meet each other, they like two pieces of puzzles finally become complete—“their meeting was fortunate, for it let them use each other to grow on… they found in each other’s eyes the intimacy they were looking for”(52). And their distinctive personality is one of the reason that attracts each other “although both were unshaped, formless things, Nel seemed stronger and more consistent than Sula who could hardly be counted on to sustain any emotion for more than three minutes”(53). Sula and Nel have two different personalities, but they are able to compliment each other. Their opposite natures also influence the ways that they see the world. Nel, influenced by her conventional African American mother, accepts the passive role of a daughter and a wife. She deeply believes that the ultimate goal of her life is to find a husband to become complete. After Sula comes back to Bottom, she visits Nel; during their conversation “Nel dipped her fingers into the bowl of water and sprinkled a diaper”(96). The traditional meaning of happiness limits Nel to only a few boring things such as cleaning the
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