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By lwest4 Feb 17, 2014 1349 Words
Good vs. Evil

“The novel invokes oppositions of good/evil, virgin/whore, self/other, but moves beyond them, avoiding the false choices they imply and dictate,” (McDowell 79). Sula is portrayed as bad/evil, and a liar/betrayer to the people around her. She has been gone from the bottoms for ten years and then returns unknowingly. Nel, Sula’s bestfriend, is thought to be good and caring towards Sula always trying to be a good friend to her. Every time something goes wrong in the Bottoms, it is blamed on Sula. Toni Morrison speaks of good/evil; the characters show conflicts they are engaged in, due to the self/others and right/wrong. Morrison challenges our ideas that it is not always good/evil right/wrong or black/white, there will always be grey areas in everything that is expected. Sula refuses to settle for a woman's expectancy in the bottom community. She does not partake in marriage, child rising, or labor. The women of the Bottom hate Sula because she is living criticism of their own lives. Sula embodies freedom, adventure, and is very unpredictable. We see this when she states, “The narrower their lives, the wider their hips.” (Morrison 121). She says this because she does not believe in the way her society expects of women. She is spontaneous and unable to reflect on what her sudden actions might have on her community. We see that she has a sexual affair with Jude her “best friend's” husband. A quote from Claude Pruitt explains it perfectly. Sula feeling no sorrow from the harm she has caused but yet Nel feeling all the sorrow for Sula and Jude actions. “ In completing the loop of this circle of sorrow, and by emphasizing the plurality of the circles of sorrow, Morrison throws into relief the fact that Sula is metanarrative, a story about stories. These include all of the stories contained within the text of Sula, and as I with argue, a set of foundational texts upon which Sula is written in a kind of postmodern palimpsest.” (Pruitt 116) She often seems to be stuck in a kind of childlike mindset. Sula must actually experience events in order to reflect on them: She watches her mother burn, she commits her grandmother to a nursing home, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her or who she is affecting. Sula is portrayed by the town’s people as “evil”, however, she never surrenders to being in the wrong, in order to keep up appearances or to be accepted by the towns people. Sula and Nel are represented as two parts of a self, those parts are distinct; they are complementary, not identical. Although Sula and Nel might share a common vision “one eye”, their needs and desires are distinct “two throats”. (McDowell 81). Nel is the complete opposite of Sula. She has gotten married, stayed in the Bottom, and had children. She attends church and is aware of the expectations the community abides by. Nel seems pretty uncomplicated, but a lot changes when Jude leaves her for Sula. Nel finds Sula and Jude in the bed having sex and she can not believe her eyes. “Nibbling at each other, not even touching, not even looking at each other, just their lips, and when I opened the door they didn’t even look for a minute and I thought the reason they are not looking up is because they are not doing that. So it’s all right. I am just standing here. They are not doing that. I am just standing here and seeing it, but they are not really doing it.” (Morrison 105). Nel does not forgive Sula while she was still alive, but her sadness at the end of the novel, when it's too late for her to forgive Sula, says a lot about how things weigh on Nel, like the regret of not forgiving Sula. Nel seems to be a very forgiving person; a person the town’s people would consider to be “good.” She follows all the roles that an African American woman should have done at this time. The Bottom community is grateful by positive signs of good luck following Sula's death. However soon after her death, the weather shifts dramatically, and a frost covers the Bottom with disease and poverty. “Without Sula as a measure of evil, the bottom community cannot function properly, mothers begin beating the children they once protected from her, young people stop caring for the old, and forgotten rifts are rekindled.” (Santori 13) The community needed Sula to keep it in balance; after her death, people have no way of knowing what is bad in order to do what they think is good. So now, the people have no one to blame the evil on, or even know what is right or wrong because the rules and expectations set have been totally strayed away from. Shadrack is a person considered by the town’s people to be crazy or even evil. He is a man that has returned home from war and suffers from, post-traumatic stress. He institutes National Suicide Day in an attempt to gain some control over death and going crazy. It is very ironic that Shadrack is who leads the people of the Bottom community to their deaths in the tunnel. He stands back and watches the tunnel collapse. He manages to survive the one National Suicide Day that actually turns into a day of death. He started National suicide day in order to prevent death among the community and to give himself something to look forward to so he does not kill himself, due to his illness. Ajax is a man that has many lovers, and the bottom community sees as it is okay. It is very ironic that for women it is the totally opposite. Everyone is the community loves Ajax, including Sula. Sula and Ajax have had many sexual encounters, and at first everything is easy and satisfying. Later on Ajax starts to feel that the sex is meaning more to Sula, and maybe she is starting to feel passion about him and that scares him off. Eva is liked by the bottom community, and is considered to be good. She seems to be the mother of all; she has many people that live in here house. She saves her son Plum’s life, but later on she ends up taking his life. She pours kerosene on him while he is lying in bed and then lights him on fire. Morrison states,” he opened his eyes and saw what he imagined was the great wing of an eagle pouring a wet lightness over him. Some kind of baptism, some kind of blessing, he thought. (Morrison 47). With this being said, there seems to be two sides to everything. She saved her sons life, but yet in the same sense she took his life from him also, this could be conceived as being good and bad. In conclusion, what really defines good or evil, right or wrong? It is the group of people that is defining it. There is not a set rule that says something is good or bad, it is set by what the majority of the people think, that defines whether it is good or bad. Eva killed/burned her son, but the book makes it seem to be for the best. Does it still make it right to kill your own son? Sula never got married or had any children like the rest of the African American women did in the Bottom community. Is she thought to be good or bad because of this? The reason there is such defiance in right or wrong is, human nature seeks cause and effect to understand random acts of nature, accidents, or merely human difference, thus identifying the unknown or reasonable sign of evil. Sula believes that in order to understand and abide by what society deems good and positive personal attributes, people need to define and symbolize bad or evil behavior, and behaviors the majority of people do not understand.

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