Toni Morrison doesn’t include a strong sexual theme in Sula just for shock value. Rather, the author uses sex to reveal clues towards the personalities of different characters, and how traits get passed down from one generation to the next. Some of the important clues provided in each characters personality traits come from differing sexual attitudes they hold. Disagreements between sexual appropriateness develop the relationship between Nel and Sula, as well as Sula’s broader relationship with the community of Medallion. The main source of conflict in Sula comes from the community’s strong sexual standards for men and women, which sets Sula apart from Nel, her family, and the community of Medallion. While women are expected to be subservient and devoted to their men, it is accepted in Sula for men to have affairs with other women and to leave their families behind for other pursuits.
Both the Peace family and the Wright family are dominated by women, because of the lower standards for men to stay involved in their families lives. In the midst of an argument between Nel and Sula over her affair with Jude, Nel tells Sula to stop acting like a man. Sula responded by saying “Then I really would act like what you call a man. Every man I ever knew left his children” (143). This stereotype is true for many men. Even though Nel had a strong home life, her father was always away working and not very influential in her upbringing. Sula’s father Boyboy was even less involved in her life. Boyboy abandoned his wife and three children, forcing Sula to grow up in a home without a father. Many years later, when Sula sleeps with Nel’s husband Jude, Jude abandons the family leaving Nel with two young children. When Sula finally falls in love with Ajax, he leaves never to be heard again after Sula becomes too womanlike for him.
Even for independent, strong women such as Hannah and Sula, they are expected to be subservient during sex. When Toni Morrison describes Hannah’s...
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