Free Study Guide: Sula by Toni Morrison: Chapter Summary|
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STUDY NOTES / ANALYSIS: SULA BY TONI MORRISON
Feeling very sad, Nel leaves the cemetery. She sees Shadrack on the
road walking toward her. He looks at her with muddled recognition, but
he does not seem to really know her. He is thinking of fishing and of
the people who have died in the river. As Nel and Shadrack pass one another,
it is appropriate that both of them are thinking negative thoughts about
the past. Nel stops, because her eyes seem irritated. She notices that
there is a smell of old green things and a stir of leaves. She sees a
grey ball of fur breaking and scattering in the air. Suddenly she realizes
that it is Sula that she misses, not Jude. She calls out the name of her
old friend and then cries out loud; her wails seem as big as The Bottom.
The last section of the novel takes the narrative to a point in time immediately preceding the opening section of the novel; it is twenty years after the death of Sula. In this chapter, the golf course is an event being planned. In the opening chapter, it is already being built. The final chapter begins with the sentence, “Things were so much better in 1965. Or so it seemed.” The latter statement reveals that on the surface all seems improved for Medallion; but in truth, the progress for The Bottom is not really all it appears to be.
Though blacks have begun to work in formerly all-white jobs, the community has lost its vitality. There is no longer a sense of closeness or an excitement about life; even the prostitutes of The Bottom have become “dull.”
Nel's visit to Eva brings up two important events from the past, knitting the novel together into a whole. The first is Chicken Little’s death, which Eva talks about in a confused way. She does, however, point out that Nel is not innocent in the death of the child, for both she and Sula were there; in truth, the two girls are one in the same, two sides of the same coin. Nel is forced to reflect on the fact that she has always blamed Sula for the loss of the boy, judging herself to be totally innocent. Now she remembers how Sula was devastated by the drowning and had tried to seek the help of Shadrack; but she herself had remained calm and composed, which made her feel proud at the time. Nel also remembers how she was the first to pick on Chicken Little that day; she now knows that is was simply fate that Sula had caused his death, not her. Nel finally admits her part in that tragedy, if only to herself.
Eva also forces Nel to analyze the fact that evil was always associated with Sula, the thing she once called Sula’s meanness. Nel has always believed in her own basic goodness, feeling she has been victimized by Sula. Nel suddenly realizes that she herself had been the evil one that day at the river. She had been pleased to see Chicken Little drown, while Sula was in anguish. The day shaped both of them forever. Sula lived the rest of her life as though she was a bad person, as though nothing she did could redeem her from the evil she had done to Chicken Little. Nel lived all her life with the appearance of goodness, never even admitting to herself that she, not Sula, had had the evil heart that day.
When Nel comes to grips with the truth about herself, she has a terrible sense
of guilt. She feels responsible for the fact that her life and Sula’s
unfolded in tragic ways. The acknowledgement of the truth brings her an
unbearable anguish. She calls out to her dead friend and cries out in
agony, realizing that she will never be complete now that Sula is gone.
Eva has made her realize that she is only one-half of a coin, and she
needs Sula, not Jude, to feel whole.
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. 15 May 2008