Social Issues in Sula by Toni Morrison

Categories: Sula Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s Sula is a complex book with many layers and addresses many issues in its few pages about the place called The Bottom. Toni Morrison uses the duality of Sula and Nel to critique how society determines people’s nature ultimately criticizing the human tendency to conclude nature-based merely on social reputation.

Nel and Sula's duality throughout the book highlights their social perception to criticize how humans judge people’s nature. The perception of Sula in the book due to the actions that were put out into the public like “When the word got out about Eva being put into Sunny Dale The Bottom shook their heads and said Sula was a roach.

”The perception of Sula's decision was perceived as terrible and rightfully so as the public only knows so much and Sula's reputation is not that great so they can jump into conclusion that there is a terrible person just doing another terrible thing. But as readers, the author makes sure to include events to make readers see that the situation is a lot more complex than the public knows like Evas gruesome murder of her son Plum as she burned him alive upon his return from World War 2.

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The Death of Plum makes us see that Sula's actions aren't so evil as the public perceives it to be because as readers given the whole context we can see that Sula is putting away a woman who isn't the most mentally stable in addition to not being the most physically stable.

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This is a criticism of the public quick to judge someone without knowing the larger picture and concluding peoples nature based on their social reputation or individual actions.Sula being a character who does things and acts in line with what the public would deem as “bad” and is perceived too is a duality with Nel a character who acts in line and earned herself a “positive reputation”.

Nel’s reputation has allowed her character to be perceived as innocent but as a reader, we are given events that show us that she is not the angel she is happily seen as in contrast with Sula.An example of this is Nel who grew up more strict than Nel and in an environment where her personality could not be as robust as Nel as her mother apparently “has succeeded in '[driving] her daughter's imagination underground”Nel was purposefully put into the image of the child who had a strict upbringing and is, as a result, stuck up and really misbehaved in the real world this child is more accepted than her duality the robust child with little to no home training in Sula. Especially placed to Sula who was personally demonized purposefully throughout the book by the author to the blind eye she came off as an angel, of course, most certainly the good one between the two arguably the victim and moral compass of the book.

Morrison does this purposefully because he throughout Nel hints that she is put into an environment where she does not like who she is as she is seen as a kid preferring Sula’s house at heart and vice versa hinting that maybe her true nature was really only suppressed by her upbringing as she is constantly being seen trying to break out of her shell and Sula is allowing her to do that as they stick together as children.

Nel then continues into her life of an adult and regains her identity and having less of an urge to resist her orderly self as she is seen getting married and having a family in contrast to Sula's adventurous single life.But then Jude leaves here and even more devastatingly it was for her best friend Sula.And then Morrison further throws her innocence into question and essentially strips her of it as she reveals that “what she had thought was maturity, serenity, and compassion was only the tranquility that follows a joyful stimulation'This is her describing herself watching chicken little drown essentially claiming that she has realized that in that instance of watching the young boy drown she found a sense of joy in it.

Here is a character who has been constantly painted as innocent and has a reputation for between her and her opposing Sula was the morally compassed one and just one the “good one”and Morrison gives us good reason for that but all of a sudden all of that is thrown into question by her unveiling.Finding joy in someone's innocent death is one of the worst things someone can do and here is Nel one of the characters being painted as good is tied to this action Morrison does this to show how the conclusion of someone's nature off of mere reputation is inefficient and detrimental and critique the human tendency to do this.

The duality given by Morrison of these two characters Nel and Sula critiques the human nature tendency to conclude persons nature-based merely on reputation without context.Nels constant innocent nature and then menacing joy in death contrasted with Sulas constant robust and “bad nature” combined with flashes of morality shows how peoples true natures can supersede their nature and Morrison uses this duality to show that as these are two very gray characters and their nature is very complicated when aware of their whole personality experiences and actions.

But this complication of these dualities shows how someones nature is much more than what the reputation of a person is and by showing this Morrison looks to critique the human tendency to conclude someones personal nature based sincerely on how they are perceived without looking to know who that person is passed that. Overall Nel and Sula's duality is included to show how a persons nature can supersede how they are perceived to be due to reputation and Morrison shows this to critique the human tendency to conclude someones nature-based merely on reputation without context.

Updated: Feb 10, 2022
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Social Issues in Sula by Toni Morrison. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from

Social Issues in Sula by Toni Morrison essay
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