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Evil in Toni Morrison s Sula In Toni Morrison s novel Sula, the conflict of good verses evil is embodied into the story in various forms to question what defines right and wrong. Good verses evil is presented in forms that are interpreted on the surface and beneath the surface which give it multiple meanings. The relationship between Sula and Nel is the main manifestation of this theme, however, there are also many other contributors such as color schemes, gender and race differences, and life and death. This theme sheds light on the significance and interpretation of issues of everyday reality which includes controversies related to identity struggles, super natural forces, the impact and relevance of upbringing on development, family structure, and racism. Morrison demonstrates the importance of good verses evil with her writing in the way that she overlaps them and interprets them as products of one another. The friendship of Sula and Nel creates a presence of good and evil within their relationship to each other and their community. In their youth, Morrison gives Sula and Nel a single identity. That is, she gives the idea that both girls share an intimate bond that goes beyond a normal friendship. The girls are able to share dreams. Morrison writes, they had already made each other s acquaintance in the delirium of their noon dreams. They were solitary little girls whose loneliness was so profound it intoxicated them and sent them into Technicolored visions that always included a presence of someone who shared the delight of the dream (Morrison 51). Their bond represents a binary concept that connects them as a single unit but separates them into two distinct ideas of good and evil. To add to this effect, Morrison uses color schemes to emphasize their identities. As they gaze at their environment, Morrison notes, there was nothing on their minds but the grey sky
Nel s persona along with the general woman lifestyle of the Bottom embodies what is perceived to be the concept of good. Sula believes herself to be evil because of her actions and goes about life refusing to follow the rules. and ignorance. She also takes in the . motherhood defines what the Bottom considers to be good. Eva Peace sacrifices her leg so that she can afford to take care of her children. Sula s actions can be considered a manifestation of evil because they represent everything that the Bottom community aggressively strives to avoid. and they didn t stone sinners for the same reason they didn t commit suicide. Sula s manifestation as evil acts as a super natural force in the way that it changes the mood of an entire community (Page 32). Black and white represents two opposite concepts. and lacks maternal instincts. In a way. white people. They perceive it as the purpose of evil was to survive it and they determined to survive floods. According to critic Missy Kubitschek. famine. the Bottom community shuns her behavior and attempts to act intuitively to protect themselves. it was beneath them (Morrison 90). has promiscuous sex. Because this approach is so unheard of in the Bottom. Sula refuses the role of wife and mother unlike the other women in the story. the community considers it evil and battles it as a whole. She refuses to marry. unkempt personality makes her the manifestation of what is assumed to be evil. When Sula and Nel witness the accidental death of Chicken Little. On the surface. their approaches to life become apparent. It is understood that Sula s carefree.(Morrison 54). Both girls represent this idea but in different demeanors. tuberculosis. Because of her headstrong attitude. but grey represents a combination of the two. To contrast that of Sula. This is done in order to blur the lines of good and evil in the way that Sula and Nel embody them. They knew anger well but not despair.
Nel fills his desires by becoming his wife. showing her maternal instincts and giving the community the belief that she is indeed good (Kupitschek 60). Morrison writes. giving them full reign. hers was an . to care very deeply (Morrison 82). Sula represents evil because of her rebellion against motherhood. However. the role of the typical woman takes the manifestation of what is considered good. he needed some of his appetites filled. Nel follows the same pattern of life by marrying Jude. Morrison reverses the roles and gives her good qualities. but mostly he wanted someone to care about his hurt. feeling no obligation to please anybody unless their pleasure pleased her. she refuses to address it and continues with her life as a woman from the Bottom would. Eva nearly dies attempting to rescue Hannah. (Kupitschek 61). That is.Deweys and treats them as if they were her own. not determining their own actions. The concept of evil is shunned in the community. When Nel witnesses the death of Chicken Little. Morrison writes. Sula is the only character that does not fall victim to this entrapment. therefore. Although good and evil are presented with Sula and Nel. As willing to feel pain as to give pain. she lived out her days exploring her own thoughts and emotions. In order to embody what is good. Sula escapes the mental prison that the Bottom shares by refusing to allow it into her methodology. Morrison questions this attitude by concealing further interpretation beneath the surface level of the story. nurturing his empty void with a caregiver s touch. Kupitschek says women use motherhood as an excuse for not facing their own feelings. making the Bottom community follow this way of life almost religiously. in turn. motherhood strips the Bottom women of their individual desires and identities. Morrison emphasizes the role of motherhood with self-sacrifice. In simple form. By living carefree. This contrasts that of Sula who does not play the role of mother or wife at point in the novel.
robs her of her ability to experience any true emotion (Kupitschek 62). With Sula. Helene is permanently distanced from Nel and focuses on reshaping her nose. the second that there was no self to count on either (Morrison 118). Morrison questions good with the ability to choose. motherhood strips the children of their individual identities in order to avoid the notions of evil. She does not seek moral gratification or avoid evil. while at the same time. Morrison uses Sula to question the ideals of right and wrong with her bravery and inability to subject to the shared ideals. In this instance. good takes on a form of power in the sense that Sula allows herself to feel and experience life in the way that will please her.experimental life ever since her mother's remarks sent her flying up those stairs the first experience taught her there was no other that you could count on. Eva justifies killing her own son by saying I had to keep him out so I just thought of a way he could die like a man not all scrunched up in my womb (Morrison . unlike the other characters in the story. Similarly. The idea of good motivates the women in this story to follow a certain way of life but this way of life encompasses neglect. Eva Peace sacrifices her leg so that she can support her family. She takes in the Deweys but treats them as a unit causing them to develop poorly. Because of her self-removal from the larger context. and even murder. Sula s resistance to the Bottom lifestyle shows her commitment to her gender and her race and questions the good that is motherhood in the story. Nel and Eva justify their actions as motherly constitution. Nel s maternal instincts flaw her own approach to life because her care for her children is existent yet lacking. Sula embodies good in the manner that she shuns the surface depiction of both evil and good in the Bottom. thus stripping her of her uniqueness (Page 67). In most instances. uniformity. but fails to nurture them properly. making her selfauthoritative.
Shadrack stared at the soft colors that filled these triangles: the heavy lumpy whiteness of rice. but they fail to attack the source. The Deweys demonstrate more racism through the manner in which they all look alike. distinctly crystalizing the separation between the races. race becomes an apparatus for discovering the true source of evil. thus creating the realm of the Bottom community. but Sula s individuality misguidedly . The quintessence of good and evil take form in Sula and Nel s binary friendship but also is relevant in the struggles between whites and blacks in Morrison s novel. rather than focusing its attention on the pervasive evils of racism and poverty that continually threaten it. The slave masters gave the hilly unfertile land to their slaves. In this case. the community expends its energy on outlasting the evil Sula (Mbalia 46). the grayish brown meat. Critic Doreatha Mbalia argues. (Morrison 8). though subtle in her tactic. questioning whether the women are indeed avoiding evil or perhaps creating it. Morrison makes it apparent that the African American Bottom community suffers from the oppression of whites. society is the source of evil. That is. Morrison even uses color schemes to emphasize this struggle. Morrison aggressively. the idea of race causes the Bottom inhabitants to hate evil. Sula never attempts to justify her supposed evil actions. The colors are used together to emphasize the depth of the existent oppression. In the context of good verses evil.72). defines the concept of white as evil and black as morally just through the eyes of her characters. Sula s refusal to wear underwear to community gatherings gives the impression that she sleeps with white men. the quivering blood tomatoes. She writes. The idea of maternal instinct is considerably flawed in the Bottom. which causes shared feelings of disgust throughout the community (Mbalia 45). stereotyping African American development as akin.
Eva does not understand Plum s desire for her nurturing. Death represents fear of change and the unfamiliar. they fear aspects of life that they do not understand. However. making them truly unforgiving and unable to empathize. In sorting it all out. Morrison questions the definition of good and evil by playing with the trials and tributes of living and dying. the only character other than Sula to combat the presumed existence of Bottom life. Good and evil are embedded deep within Sula and are a direct cause for the ongoing search for identity of self and community. which is considered evil (Galehouse). ultimately allowing racism to isolate them from any form of freedom. but the unexpectedness of both. Nel and Sula characterize a binary relationship in the sense that they complete one another. embodying good. Morrison writes. for it is something that she extends no control over (Kubitschek 56). Shadrack s postwar trauma reveals that death represents the unknown and change. Sula watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed. The struggles of good and evil take form in the identity of life and death. This sheds significance on . it is understood that evil represents all conceptions that are unknown to the Bottom. In the community. but because she was interested (Morrison 78). That is. As stated earlier. he hit on the notion that if one day a year were devoted to it. causing her to kill him. the Bottom inhabitants have distinct ideas of what is considered evil such as being promiscuous and failing to raise children. Shadrack creates National Suicide Day to contest the indefinite feature of death. everybody could get it out of the way and the rest of the year would be safe and free (Morrison 14). Hannah and Chicken Little s death grabs Sula s attention. it was not death or dying that frightened him.draws the community s attention to her. In the novel. life is an assumed pattern that all are expected to follow.
Sula s mind continues to function after her body ceases to do so. especially in Sula. Toni Morrison s perception of good and evil is clearly a broad definition in the sense that she does not create a single depiction of either. and death all involve direct confrontation with the faces of god. Jude considers Sula as a funny woman. good cannot exist and without good. community life. (Mbalia 44). Instead. distancing her from her other half. Sula. so she lives out her life alone and unable to truly empathize with the oppression that the Bottom inhabitants feel. products of one another. but not his body (Morrison 104). Sula is a powerful novel with an intended message in . Sula does not understand the relationship the Bottom has to acting good and self-righteousness. According to critic Doreatha Mbalia. not that bad looking but he could see why she wasn t married. both girls are doomed to struggle for accepting of good and evil throughout the novel (Galehouse). Morrison uses her novel to question the constitution of right and wrong. Without evil. evil cannot exist. but behind the classic acceptance of good is the presence of a fourth face. having clear effects on the human condition. In contrast. Nel. evil. good and evil are not separate entities but more so. In religion. the body. Nel s mind dies when Sula leaves Medallion. there are three faces of god. but her body continues to perform the routine. Sula and Nel represent the paradox of this conflict in order to demonstrate that both concepts are not black and white in definition. Nel similarly is unable to understand Sula s struggle for total human independence. Moreover. Without a complete identity. With this notion. Morrison shows that everyday matters such as child rearing. necessary chores traditionally associated with women. This lack of identity causes both girls to seek out their other half.the struggles of good verses evil but also shows that their identities are incomplete when they are apart. the mind. she stirred a man s mind maybe.
it is not up to us to avoid or apprehend both concepts. .regard to good and evil. but to understand that nothing contains a pure incarnation of either.
. Mbalia." Papers on Language & Literature (1999): 339. ""New World Woman": Toni Morrison's Sula. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press. Kubitschek. Print. 2002. Toni Morrison's Developing Class Consciousness. Jackson: University of Mississippi. Maggie. 1991. Morrison. Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison's Novels. Toni.Works Cited Galehouse. Missy Dehn. Westport: Greenwood. Print. Toni Morrison: a Critical Companion. 1998. Page. Philip. Doreatha D. Print. Print. Waterville: Thorndike. 1995. Sula. Print.
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