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174 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1973
Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.
It was not really Edna Finch's ice cream that made them brave the stretch of those panther eyes. Years later their own eyes would glaze as they cupped their chins in remembrance of the inchworm smiles, the squatting haunches, the track-rail legs straddling broken chairs. The cream-colored trousers marking with a mere seam the place where the mystery curled. Those smooth vanilla crotches invited them; those lemon-yellow gabardines beckoned to them.
They moved toward the ice-cream parlor like tightrope walkers, as thrilled by the possibility of a slip as by the maintenance of tension and balance. The least sideways glance, the merest toe stub, could pitch them into those creamy haunches spread wide with welcome. Somewhere beneath all of that daintiness, chambered in all that neatness, lay the thing that clotted their dreams.
She had no center, no speck around which to grow.
There, in the center of that silence was not eternity but the death of time and a loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning. For loneliness assumed the absence of other people, and the solitude she found in that desperate terrain had never admitted the possibility of other people.
They were solitary little girls whose loneliness was so profound it intoxicated them and sent them stumbling into Technicolored visions that always included a presence, a someone, who, quite like the dreamer, shared the delight of the dream.
The children needed her; she needed money, and needed to get on with ehr life.But the demands of feeding her three children were so acute she had to postpone her anger for two years until she had both the time and the energy for it.Despite their differences, Sula and Nel become fiercely attached to each other and do almost everything together. The girls also come to share a dark secret when they participate in the accidental death of a young boy named Chicken Little. And he's not the only one to die. Around the same time, Plum returns from war with a drug addiction. Eva, in an act of "ensuring" her son would die like a man (and not a sick child), sets him on fire. Hannah also dies, burning alive after accidentally setting herself aflame while trying to do laundry.
Sula: “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”The townspeople regard Sula as the very personification of evil for her blatant disregard of social conventions. And so, Sula spends the rest of her days hated and judged by the people of Medallion, since she frequently sleeps with the men/ husbands of the village. Ironically, the community's labelling of Sula as evil actually improves their own lives, as her presence in the community gives them the impetus to live harmoniously with one another, as well as treat each other better.
Eva: “Selfish. Ain’t no woman got no business floatin’ around with no man.”
Sula: “Why? I can do it all, why can’t I have it all?”That conversation was the nail in the coffin for me. I hated Sula and her self-righteous ass so much. This woman never worked a single day in her life, lived off the business her grandmother started, never had to take care of a single child in her entire life, and yet she was the one trying to lecture Nel on the topic of freedom and responsibility. Gurl, please, sit your ass down. You lived your whole life like a child, having no responsibility at all. Your notion of what freedom is isn't worth anything to tell. Nel can't just fuck off and leave her children starving, she literally HAS to work to provide for her family.
Nel: “You can’t do it all. You a woman and a colored woman at that. You can’t act like a man. You can’t be walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don’t.”
Sula: “Work’s good for you, Nellie. It don’t do nothing for me.”Sula's privileged ass was really embarrassing herself throughout this entire conversation. And to top it all of, she had the nerve to accuse Nel of never getting over her cheating with Nel's husband ("If we were such good friends, how come you couldn’t get over it?"), when SULA NEVER (!! NOT ONCE) APOLOGISED FOR SLEEPING WITH JUDE???? The audacity was real with one.
Nel: “You never had to.”
Sula: “I never would.”
“You been gone too long, Sula.
Not too long, but maybe too far.”
Ignor[ing] the gentle welcome [would] put the reader into immediate confrontation with his wounded mind ['the emotional luggage one carries into the black-topic text']. It would have called greater attention to the traumatic displacement this most wasteful capitalist war had on black people, and thrown into relief their desperate and desperately creative strategies of survival. In the revised opening I tried to represent discriminatory, prosecutorial racial oppression as well as the community's efforts t remain stable and healthy: the neighborhood has been almost completely swept away by commercial interests (a golf course), but the remains of what sustained it (music, dancing, craft, religion, irony, wit) are what the “valley man,” the stranger, sees – or could have seen. It is a more inviting embrace [...] it helps to unify the neighborhood until Sula's anarchy challenges it.The friendship in question is between two girls who have extraordinary women among their foremothers. Nel's conservative mother Helene, raised by her grandmother, has come to the town to get away from her own mother, sex worker and thus 'outlaw' woman Rochelle, who has no role in Nel's life. Sula's mother and grandmother are accepted by the community but widely censured for their promiscuity and disorderly household.
Outlaw women are fascinating – not always for their behaviour, but because historically women are seen as naturally disruptive and their status is an illegal one from birth if it is not under the rule of men. In much literature a woman's escape from male rule led to regret, misery, if not complete disaster. In Sula I wanted to explore the consequences of what that escape might be, on not only a conventional black society, but on female friendship.