Friendship in Sula
In Sula, Toni Morrison questions what true friendship is by putting Nel Wright and Sula Peace’s friendship to the test. Morrison tests the phrase “opposites attract” in this novel. Nel and Sula have two different personalities yet they are able to compliment each other. They are opposites in the way that they relate to other people, and to the world around them. Nel is rational and balanced; she gets married and gives in to conformity and the town’s expectations. Sula is an irrational and transient character. She follows her immediate passions, completely care free of the feelings other people might have about her. To Nel, Sula’s return to Medallion is like “getting the use of an eye back, having a cataract removed”(Morrison 95). Sula’s thoughtlessness, irrationality and transience are rounded out by Nel’s sobriety, solicitude, and commitment to people and things. Life puts their friendship to the test by toying with love, sex, life, death, good, and evil, eventually breaking their strong bond apart.
These two girls are like two opposite sides of a magnet, strongly attracted toward one another and useless when they are split apart. Sula represents the negative end and Nel represents the positive end of the magnet. When Nel and Sula become friends they produce a perfect combination. They both grow up in completely different households and encounter different upbringings. Nel’s mother, Helene, does what she could to drive “her daughter’s imagination underground” (Morrison 18), raising her to be polite and obedient. Nel grows up to be a calm and well-behaved girl who has no choice but to follow her mother’s every Smith 2
wish. Sula, on the other hand, grows up in an opposite environment, which is seen as a highly negative one by most people. Wooly house, where a pot of something was always cooking on the stove; where the mother, Hannah, never scolded or gave directions; where all sorts of people dropped in; where...
Cited: Demetrakopoulos, Stephaanie. “Sula and the Primacy of Women –to-Woman Bonds.” Holloway and Demetrakopoulos 51-66.
Morrison, Toni. Sula New York: Vintage Books, 1973.
Tate, Claudia. “A Conversation with Toni Morrison.” In Black Women Writers at Work. New York: Continuum, 1983, 117-131.
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