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Toni Morrison, author of Sula is an American novelist, essayist, and editor that writes books that unravel bigger issues. During this book, she shows the betrayal between families and friends. Toni Morrison’s novel Sula uses the developing duality of sex and death to demonstrate that in patriarchal societies women find it hard to come together and will easily betray each other. First, it is important to understand the different paths women took to fight for their own rights. In society, women have always been seen as inferior to men.
To combat this oppression, women have set up protests to fight for their rights. In first-wave feminism, there was a focus on women’s suffrage. During this movement, women fought for their right to vote which they eventually they gained.
Then in the 1960s-80s, there was a shift in second-wave feminism where women placed they’re focused on general societal inequalities and, such as poor working and housing conditions. Despite the efforts of these women, patriarchy is still happening in society today.
Men in society make it hard for women to properly function to their best abilities because women are always in the shadow of men. In this book, the actions that the men took were less likely to be judged by the Bottom. This made it harder for women to do anything without all eyes being on them because they were watched by most people. This made it more difficult for women to come together as on when society itself put women against each other.
Through the duality of sex and death, betrayal among women can be tracked. Betrayal in this sense is when one person is disloyal to another. In the book, sexual intercourse has led to many relationships dying such as Sula betraying Nel. Starting off sex has lead to the death of Nel and Sula friendship. Towards the beginning of the book, Nel and Sula became fast friends right after they first met despite their different upbringings and personalities. Nel considers herself more controlled and calm, while Sula the spontaneous and irrational one. The two girls consider themselves to be two sides of one person because they experienced different milestones together. For example, as Nel and Sula reached the riverbank, “Sula lifted her head and joined.
Nel in the grass”, “Sula threw hers in too”, “carefully they replaced the soil and covered the entire grave with uprooted grass”. This situation demonstrates that Nel was in the lead and Sula was following her. This reveals that two young girls figuratively lose their innocence by “making a small neat hole that grew deeper and wider.” This reveals that they were no longer innocent young girls but together they were now entering womanhood together. Toni Morrison’s uses this the duality of sex in this example to connect to the horrible death that happened to Chicken Little as soon as the girls lose their innocence. As the girls enter womanhood together, Nel got married to Jude and Sula left the Bottom to pursue her education. After many years of being getting an education, Sula has returned back to the Bottom and she went to visit Nel.
During this visit, Nel walked in on Sula and Jude “down on all fours naked” with nothing touching “except their lips right down there on the floor”. Sula had sexual intercourse with her own best friend’s husband. Morally is it right not to sleep with someone else husband but Sula was only thinking about pleasuring herself at the moment and not the value of friendship her a Sula have. Only focusing on one’s else can cause a person to be disloyal to people that are close to them. Jude is a man that isn’t judged as much as the betrayal between Sula and Nel because men have more power so actions they take doesn’t really affect them. Betrayal leads to the death of friendship because of sexual intercourse.
Betrayal didn’t only kill friendships but it caused family relationships to also die. When talking to her friends about children Hannah says to them “Sure you do. You love her, I like love, Sula. I just don’t like her. That’s the difference”, Sula hearing those words from her own mother made her “fly up the stairs.” Hannah completely betrays Sula in this instance. A mother is supposed to be a role model for their children but instead, Hannah just talks about her own flesh and blood. At a young age, hearing such a thing from your own mother can make a person feel devastated and grow up with stored anger because of the rejection when they when they were younger. Talking behind Sula back and saying hurtful demonstrates the betrayal between mother and daughter.
The betrayal between families didn’t just stop there. Hannah also betrayed her own mother Eva by asking “ Mamma, did you ever love us?” This question shows disrespect towards the sacrifice a mother makes towards making sure her children have everything they need to survive. In this context, the sacrifices Eva made to make sure all four of her children didn’t die without any help from the children dad, BoyBoy. Both these situations happened while Hannah no longer had her husband in her life and without the help of BoyBoy, Eva had to take care of the children on her own. The betrayal among women in the context happens when men are absent. Another mother and daughter betrayal was between Nel and Helene. While Helene and Nel were on their way to visit her mother, Helene had a incident with the train conductor. Nel “wanted to make certain that no man ever looked at her that way”. This reveals that Nel didn’t want to be anything like her mother.
It is a set norm in society that children should look up to their parents but this situation shows the opposite. This demonstrates betrayal because Nel is embarrassed by the actions of her mother and wants to be nothing like her. Not having that role model makes it harder for younger children to do what’s right or wrong when they get older because there was never really anyone to teach them. Betrayal has lead to the death of man relationships throughout Sula. In most of these broken relationships that ended up dying, men played a factor towards them. Men made it tough women to be close together. Women fail to realize that men having most of the power causes them to disregard each other rather than them working together to make society equal.
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