Sula by Toni Morrison Review

Categories: Sula

This paper will demonstrate the ways in which the theme of War and Peace is used by the author within the text, especially in the context of characterization. In Toni Morrison’s Sula, the theme of war and peace is prevalent from the off. Not only is this theme demonstrated within the era, but also within the portrayal of its characters. The main protagonists of the work, Sula and Nell, demonstrate both moments of war and peace throughout their lives and consequently their relationships.

To begin with, we witness Nell’s inner-war when she first experiences the humiliation of her mother by the whites aboard the bus.

Despite the fact that Helen has always toiled after keeping a home and life that is pristine, she still somehow falls short amongst the white folk. At that point she decides within herself never to fall prey to such an instance. Then, we are met with an era of peace, through the friendship that Sula and Nel find within one another.

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Though they both hail from completely contrasting background, Nell’s being the epitome of good order, whilst Sula’s, total disarray, we see that they both have an almost ying-yang effect on eachother. Somehow, this proves to complete them.

This friendship soon takes a turn that can be likened to war, as they both part-take in the accidental death of a child from their neighbourhood, Chicken Little. This incident vicariously presents itself in another type of inner war that remains as a blockage within their friendship for the remainder of their lives.

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Even when Sula returns from her sabbatical, though she portrays herself as the stronger one, could it be argued that she does so because she knows deep down that her closest friend blames her for the death of the child?

However, Sula presents herself as a woman who doesn’t care for the consequences of her actions and this is further emphasised when she is caught having relations with the husband of Nell. At this point the war theme takes an external form, whereas up until now it has been internal. The two women, inevitable part ways and their friendship is never mended. With regards to external mentions of war, this is synonymous with the men in the village who have returned from having served in the war; Eva’s son Plum and also Shadrach, the village mad man.

Whilst Shadrach is accepted in time for the toll the war had taken on him, Plum is shown to have turned to alcohol and the like, something his mother, Eva can not accept. Ultimately, this causes Eva to take the life of her own son, after which she conveys her own level of peace. Morrison illustrates in the text how Eva would rather kill her son than let him be consumed by alcohol and drugs. Therefore, not only are we as the reader shown war, but also a form of victory.

The final form of war we are shown is the war that Nell has with herself. Throughout the text, the whole town of Bottom deems Sula as the Evil being, the one who has chosen to lead a ‘wicked’ as a loose woman and one who has refused to embrace the norms of her a gender (which incidentally is a war within itself! ). However, by the time Sula is on her deathbed, she questions Nell of her own actions, it is then that she suggests that maybe it was Nell who was the more responsible one for the death of Chicken Little.

As, despite the fact that Sula was the one who had let him slip from her hands, Nell too witnessed the even yet still kept it to herself. It is at this point that we, as the reader, begin to see that whilst Sula may have lived a life that was unconventional, she was still honest to herself and others around her. Nell, however, was so desperate to live a ‘conventional’ life and make a success of it, she was willing to do it at any cost, even if it meant herself, and ultimately her friendship.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Sula by Toni Morrison Review. (2017, May 01). Retrieved from

Sula by Toni Morrison Review essay
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