Female Identity in Literature
18 October 2010
The Role of Motherhood in Sula by Toni Morrison
As seen by many different mothers in the novel Sula by author Toni Morrison, mothers play an important part in kid’s life, shaping how they view different beliefs in the world and setting up values in their child. Every individual’s life is shaped by personal relationships they have with others. The mother and child relationship greatly affects the identity development in the kid. As seen in the racist community in the novel, the mother and kid relationship is important in the sense that the mothers and children share understanding of the sexist oppression, intertwining their lives together even more than they already were. As seen in different mother and daughter relationships including, Eva and Hannah Peace, Sula and Hannah Peace, and Helene and Nel Wright, readers come to terms that mothers and their children represent the connection between future and past.
The relationship between Eva and Hannah Peace later affects how Hannah raises Nel, due to Eva not being a significant mother figure for Hannah to look up too. Eva was a good mother from the beginning. She always wanted the best for her family and most importantly her kids before taking care of herself. Though hard to understand by her children, Eva even kills one of her sons in order to release Plum from his heroine addiction and she leaves her family for eighteen months in order to make money and fend for her family. The eighteen month gap severely influenced the emotional relationship between Eva and Hannah. Eva never even chooses to share her misdoings with her daughter Hannah. At one point, Hannah even says to her mother, “ ‘Mamma, did you ever love us?’ ” (Morrison 67). (Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Vintage International, 2004. Print. Further references to this work will be documented parenthetically in the text.) In order to deal in which the poverty her family was living in, Eva detached herself emotionally from her kids. To Eva, giving up many things to insure the well being of her children shows sufficient proof of her motherly love. Eva then replies to Hannah’s question by saying, “ ‘You settin’ here with your healthy-ass self and ax me did I love you? Them big old eyes in your head would a been two holes full of maggots if I hadn’t’ ” (68). However, to Hannah, providing material needs does not add up to her definition a loving mother: “ ‘I didn’t mean that, Mamma. I know you fed us and all. I was talkin’ ‘bout something else. Like. Like. Playin’ with us? Did you ever, you know, play with us?’ ” (68). Though Eva has sacrificed everything for her kids, Hannah thinks that personal attention from her mother is imperative for feeling loved. In response to Hannah, Eva can only respond in terms of how she tried everything to secure their survival. Hannah, then, goes on to ask her mother about why she killed Plum and Eva’s response was “[l]ike two people were talking at the same tine, saying the same thing, one fraction of a second behind the other” (71). This narrative reflects Eva’s double identity. Eva, goes on to explain how she killed Plum because she could not handle to see her son deteriorate and behave like an infant. Hannah with replies with such a little response, acting like nothing had even happened. Although Eva and Hannah attempt to discuss important issues, their lack of communication in the end show how neither women receive the acknowledgment and understand they each long for. The unsuccessful communication between mother and daughter, and the lack of a mother figure influences Hannah’s ideas about parenting, resulting in Hannah not knowing how to raise her child properly. The deteriorating relationship between Hannah and Eva Peace affects their mother-daughter bond and how Hannah chooses to raise her child on her own.
The denial of love between Hannah and Sula Peace forces Sula to find someone else to confide in,...