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Celeste  Moore  –  312070454  –  ENGL1026  –  Stephen  Atkinson  –  Wednesdays  3pm   CHICKEN  LITTLE’S  DEATH  pp.

 57-­61     The  crux  or  pivot  moment  in  the  creation  of  the  fictive  self  for  Mia  in  Fish  Tank  is  the   kidnapping  of  Keira,  which  forces  Mia  into  a  position  of  “mothering”  and  caring  for  the   first  time,  a  role  she  probably  has  not  been  exposed  to,  judging  by  the  mother-­‐daughter   relationships  we  are  exposed  to  in  the  text.  From  here,  Mia  must  start  to  make  self-­‐ consciously  adult  decisions  about  the  course  of  her  self  and  life.     In  a  similar  vein,  the  drowning  of  Chicken  Little  is  a  “crux  point”  in  the  selves  of  Sula  and   Nel.  It  teaches  Nel  that  not  only  is  there  “no  other  to  count  on,  there  is  no  self  either”,   and  it  lays  the  foundations  for  Sula’s  involvement  in  the  African  spiritual  tradition  in  the   novel.  In  the  case  of  Chicken  Little,  the  drowning  is  an  accident  –  gleeful  playing  turned   tragic  thanks  to  the  frailty  of  human  physicality.  This  physical  frailty  feeds  into  the   traditional  African  spirituality  present  beneath  the  surface  of  the  novel,  and  brings  to   the  fore  the  incident  of  Chicken’s  death,  which  haunts  the  identities  of  Nel  and  Sula  for   the  remainder  of  the  novel.     One  of  these  many  elements  of  traditional  spirituality  integral  to  understanding   constructions  both  of  the  text  and  the  characters  is  that  of  Nigerian/West  African  spirit   children,  known  as  ogbanje-­‐abiku,  whose  signifiers  include  many  violent  deaths  and   repeated  births  to  the  same  mother.  Okonkwo  argues  that  the  character  of  Sula  is  an   ogbanje-­‐abiku  due  to  her  recklessness,  havoc-­‐causing  mischievousness  and  repeated   births  and  deaths  of  self,  two  of  which  take  place  in  this  chapter.  First,  when  she   overhears  her  mother  saying  she  loves  her  but  doesn’t  really  like  her,  and  then  when   Chicken  Little  slips  through  her  fingers.  Traditionally,  ogbanje-­‐abiku  would  be   mutilated,  defaced  and  cast  out  in  an  attempt  to  prevent  them  from  returning,  in  a   similar  vein  to  that  of  Sula,  who  self-­‐mutilates  when  attacked,  causes  havoc  within  the   community,  and  then  disappears  for  ten  years.  Sula  is  on  a  perpetual  quest  to  “make”   herself  in  a  manner  consistent  with  a  spirit  child  who  is  without  self.  Her  ogbanje   qualities  are  implicitly  recognised  by  the  community  of  the  Bottom  who  refuse  to  grieve   at  her  funeral  for  fear  she  might  return.     Sula,  as  well  as  being  represented  as  a  spirit  child,  is  shown  to  be  one  with  nature,   particularly  water  and  this  aspect  of  her  self  is  the  driving  force  behind  the  natural   imagery  and  focus  in  the  novel.  Trees  signify  “death,  life  and  the  afterlife”  in  African   spirituality  which  makes  the  tree-­‐climbing  incident  just  prior  to  Chicken  Little’s  death   significant  because  it  represents  all  three:  the  beauty  of  life  in  Chicken’s  glee,   foreshadowing  of  his  death,  and  the  upwards  movement  “towards  heaven”  from  the   Bottom  indicating  afterlife.  The  importance  of  trees  is  again  underscored  when  Sula   appears  to  Nel  after  her  death  in  a  tree,  the  dead  appearing  to  the  living  from  the   afterlife.  This  incident  also  highlights  the  importance  of  the  girl’s  predicted  identities,   despite  the  split  which  occurs  after  Sula  sleeps  with  Jude.     Chicken  Little’s  role  is  that  of  a  rewritten  White  folk  tale,  and  also  that  of  a  child  sacrifice   in  the  tradition  of  West  African  culture.  Like  his  namesake  he  is  gullible  and  engulfed.  It   his  engulfing  he  is  predicated  with  Sula,  who,  as  a  ogbanje-­‐abiku  and  water  goddess,   swallows  characters  in  the  same  way  water  swallows  things.  Should  he  be  read  as  a   warning  of  the  troubles  and  deaths  attributed  to  Sula  yet  to  come,  or  is  the  hysteria   surrounding  and  focus  on  his  death  to  come  merely  paranoia  in  the  vein  of  the  “sky  is  

 when  Nel  visits  Eva  in  the  nursing  home.  no.  4  (2003):  517-­‐533.  Eva  accuses  her  of  murdering   Chicken  Little.  no.  4  (2004):  651-­‐668   .  London:  Vintage  1998.  and  the  instinctive  knowledge  about  their  children  the   mothers  of  ogbanje-­‐abiku  are  said  to  have.   1  (1987):  91-­‐97   Mayberry  Susan  Neal.  His  sacrifice  should  “calm  and   please”  the  river  gods.   Chicken’s  gentle  death  is  reminiscent  of  those  of  children  who  were  sacrificed  in  the   Bight  of  Benin  during  its  time  as  a  slave-­‐trading  port.  The  interweaving  of  strong  women  selves   with  rewriting  of  white  and  black  traditions  is  typical  of  Morrison’s  writing.  Phylon  (1960-­)  48.     Finally.  which  aims   to  obliterate  any  preconceptions  of  gender.  race  or  spirituality.  no.  This  intuition  mimics  the  ancestral  eminence   afforded  in  African  spirituality.   playing  a  crucial  role  in  her  establishment  of  a  self  which  is  permanently  grieving  for  her   innocence  and  childhood  lost  in  that  moment.  “A  Critical  Divination:  Reading  Sula  as  Ogbanje-­‐Abiku”.  something  she  could  never  have  known  about  or  witnessed.  the  predication  of  Nel  and  Sula’s   identities  and  the  African  spirituality  of  the  novel.  but  instead  ironically  haunts  her  throughout  her  life.  that  is.  the  matrilineality  involved  in  the  post-­‐death  selves  of  Sula  and  Nel  draws   together  the  tortured  mother  of  the  ogbanje-­‐abiku.     My  question:  Is  Sula  rewriting  black  or  white  history  and  tradition?     Bibliography:   Crutcher  Lewis  Vashti.  “Something  Other  Than  A  Family  Quarrel:  The  Beautiful  Boys  in   Morrison’s  ‘Sula’”.   Okonkwo  Christopher  N.  bring  the  calm  and  reckless   halves  of  their  selves  into  completion  again.  African   American  Review  38.  The  interaction  leads  Nel  to  break  into  the   uncontrolled  area  which  had  always  been  Sula’s  domain.Celeste  Moore  –  312070454  –  ENGL1026  –  Stephen  Atkinson  –  Wednesdays  3pm   falling”?  It  should  be  noted  that  a  number  of  the  deaths  attributed  to  Sula  contain  the   theme  of  “chicken”  –  choking  to  death  on  a  chicken  bone.   Morrison  Toni.  Sula.  and  Chicken  Little  himself.  African  American  Review  37.  and  declares   that  Nel  and  Sula  are  “one  and  the  same”.  This  occurs  nearly  a  hundred  pages   after  the  fact.  “African  Tradition  in  Toni  Morrison’s  Sula”.  causing  chicken  pox  etc.  Sula.