Black Feminist Theory Essay
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Sula is Morrison’s main character and is a perfect example of a Liberated woman. According to Lois Tyson’s definition of a Liberated Woman, Sula has “discovered her abilities, knows what she needs, and goes about getting it. ” Along with all these activities, comes pride and independence. It began when Sula was younger as she had Nel, her best friend, by her side. “In the safe harbor of each other’s company they could afford to abandon the ways of other people and concentrate on their own perceptions of things,” (55).
Her friendship gave her the comfort to be herself and confident on acting on her own terms. Sula continued this attitude into adulthood but not everyone agreed with her actions towards getting what she wants. Sula leaves for 10 years to go to college and live her life beyond the Bottom. When she finally comes back, she and Eva get into an argument. Eva brings up her disappointment in Sula for not settling down with a family and Sula lashes back with, ”I don’t want to make somebody else.
I want to make myself, ” (92).
She displays her aversion to not have anyone dependent on her and she wants to only care for herself. Having a family and a husband, in her opinion, would stop her from getting what she wants or needs and would put herself second in her life. Sula doesn’t want to be tied down and oppressed by a man, she wants to be independent and she’s not ashamed about being the only woman wanting her independence . When Nel finally confronts Sula about her affair with Jude, Nel accuses Sula of being proud but she responds with “‘What you talking about? I like my own dirt, Nellie.
I’m not proud’,” (142). This shows how Nel, along with everyone in the bottom, thinks she’s proud or conceded, but in actuality, she’s just not ashamed of her decisions or life style. Lois Tyson continues the definition of a liberated woman with “the ‘liberated woman’ has already found herself and likes what she has found. ” When sula says “I like my own dirt” she supports Tyson’s definition because Sula also “likes what she has found. ” Sula’s independence, and her pride in being so, fully supports Tyson’s complete definition of a Liberated Woman.
Nel’s character fits into an Emergent Woman as she “[comes] to an awareness of her own psychological and political oppresion… usually through a harsh experience of initiation that makes her ready for change. ” On Nel’s trip to meet her grandmother, Nel witnesses her mother’s “custard” being revealed. From then on Nel “resolved to be on guard- always. She wanted to make certain that no man ever looked at her that way. That no midnight eyes of marbled flesh would accost her and turn her into jelly” (22).
Ashamed of the “jelly” or the weak substance “custard” that Morrison also associates with Helene, Nel makes certain that no man shall look at her, and make her into anything weak. In this secne, she becomes aware of her mother’s oppression and makes the decision to never allow it in her life. At the end of their trip, Nel lays in bed thinking about the possibility of ending up like her mother. To establish her independence separate from her mother, Nel states, ”I’m me. I’m not their daughter. I’m not Nel. I’m me. Me,” (28).
As an Emergent woman, she demonstrates her ability to make her own choices and establish her own independence. Years Later, filled with resentment towards Sula, Nel visits ill Sula in her deathbed. For years, her depression was encouraged by the thought that her husband was taken and now she is alone to take care of her children. She believed it was all Sula’s fault and she hated her for this, but one day she confronts Sula about taking Jude away from her, and Sula asks “What you mean take him away? I didn’t kill him, I just fucked him.
If we were such good friends, how come you couldn’t get over it? ” Nel starts to think of the idea of it not being Sula’s fault, that Jude was the one who put her through the heart break of being alone. Sula dies and Nel attends her burial. There she realizes that “all that time, [she] thought [she] was missing Jude,” but actually, she missed her friendship with Sula (174). Their friendship was more supportive than her marriage as Sula helped bring out the ’me’ in Nel that she lost in her marriage to Jude. Her epiphany helps her to notice how Jude was the one who hurt her , and now she can move on.
Toni Morrison portrays Eva Peace as a suspended woman. According to Mary Helen Washington, a suspended woman is a “victim of men and of society as a whole, with few or no options. ” Morrison starts off Eva’s story with her discontented marriage to her husband, BoyBoy. BoyBoy “liked womanizing best, drinking second, and abusing Eva third,” (32). Eva, disappointingly, tolerates all his abuse, because of her dependency on BoyBoy. One day, when he leaves her and their three children, her dependency becomes clear.
Being inconsiderate of his family’s welfare, he leaves as his worst affliction to his wife. Now, abandoned with nearly no money,Eva realizes that “the children needed her” and “she needed money,” (32). This shows her desperation and how BoyBoy belittled her as she had to beg and rely on the neighbors for basic necessities like food for her children. Her Neighbors “were very willing to help, but Eva felt she would soon run her welcome out” and the fact that she had to continue begging, knowing she had ask for enough, embarrassed her.
Eva struggles to raise them on her own and one day her son, Plum, stopps having his bowel movements. When all the stress and pressure gets to her, “Eva squatted there wondering… what was she doing down on her haunches… She shook her head as though to juggle her brains around, then said aloud, ‘Uh uh. Nooo,’”(34). Eva leaves her children with her neighbor for more than a year and comes back with one leg, losing the other for money to care for her children. If BoyBoy had never abused or had left her, she would have never been a victim and never would have had to sacrifice her pride and her leg.
This proves she’s a suspended woman because BoyBoy’s abuse and abandonment left her with the only option to leave her children and sell her leg, because as a black woman in their society, she had very few options. Toni Morrison exemplifies Mary Helen Washington’s definitions in Nel, Sula, and Eva through out Sula, using their experiences and personalities. Sula’s independence, Nel’s epiphany, and Eva’s abuse all characterize them into their type of African American female character, making Sula a Liberated Woman, Nel an Emergent Woman, and Eva a suspended woman.