15th May 2014
Unit title: Narrative Fiction
Unit code(s): FC3/3/LN/047
Word Count: 1548
“You love her like I love Sula. I just don’t like her. That’s the difference” (p57). The ambiguities and contingencies of love are central to ‘Sula’. Analyse Morrison’s depiction of love with reference to her development of character, relationships, structure and stylistic devices.
In the novel Sula, It can be viewed that the author Toni Morrison takes an irregular view on the theme of motherly love that affects both the Sula and Nel characters throughout their lives. The absence of Wiley Wright has a damning effect on Helene, after all, the marriage between them is deemed to have followed the conventional views of the time. “Helene became a marriage proposal” (Morrison, 19), indicates that marriage as a thing to be done to create respectability in women rather than being based on love. Subsequently, Wiley’s absence creates an unwanted independence in Helene thus leaving her to raise Nel on her own causing her to take a stern stance on Nel’s upbringing. In turn, Helene plays the role of both mother and father causing the sentimental aspects of loving her child being made secondary to the practicalities of raising her. Moreover, Morrison overlooks the elements of the absence of maternal love during the early years of Helene and Nel’s relationship, but rather focuses the reader on Helene’s impeccable behaviour towards her town folk and the “oppressive neatness” of her house. (Morrison,29) which draws the conclusion that respectability amongst the cohabitants of Bottom took precedence over the love Helene shows towards Nel. In contrast, Sula’s household has the same male absence as Nel’s but dissimilar in the region of it being all the more chaotic. Unlike Helene, the Peace household has a vast parade of men passing through their home, but Eva’s dominance is overwhelmingly apparent as the male characters; for example the Dewey’s lives, can be viewed as sexless as well as devoid of truer identities by fact of Eva changing their names. Furthermore, Morrison’s focus on the maternal love (or absence of it) in both households that Eva and Helene show towards their biological children and their adopted/fostered children are ambiguous and the affect this has on the children in their lives is the antecedence which shapes their attitudes towards love; in particular Sula and Nel. By the same token, Eva doesn’t appear to take an interest in her children that ever goes beyond making sure that their basic needs are met in regards to the necessities of shelter, water, food and clothing. This is evident when Hannah questions her mother on whether she ever loved her, Eva retorts: …”you want me to tinkle you under the jaw and forget about them sores in your mouth. Ain’t that love?” (Morrison, 69) “To Eva, her definition of love is shown in an unromanticised way. Eva accentuates this further: “Pearl was shittin’ worms and I was supposed to play rang-around-the-rosie” (Morrison, 69). The basic simplicities of a mother playing with a child were of no importance to Eva. Morrison draws loosely on the constraints that kept the black community fully focused on survival as being the main priority, especially in 1895, living in the midst of racism and racial segregation. Morrison also emphasises that the sacrifices Eva has made for her children, including the ambiguous reasons for the loss of her leg for apparent insurance money, must override the sentimentalities of love and this should be enough for Hannah to suffice and not question. Of course, the settings of the Peace and Wright households are just the hors d’oeuvres and the stage dressing to the theme of love in Sula. More significant are the dynamics of the women living there. Hannah’s unemotional attitude towards sex, having a “ steady sequence of lovers, mostly the husbands and her friends and neighbours” (Morrison, 42) shows that emotional love has no place in her life and...
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