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PM - said by Professor Montgomery!IOW - In Other Words!!African American Literature !!Toni Morrison’s Sula!!The unresolved ending reflects inconsistency of life.!!Sula evolves out of a number of sources, of which one is The Bible, another is folktale, another is storytelling, another is classical mythology, and another is history.!!It is a very circular novel, as it begins with the ironic start, and Nel goes through her psychological circle in realizing her identity in relationship to Sula, not Jude. (intertextual relationship to Eyes). This is relationship to the past—circular existence. The characters of the novel have an idea of an existence even before slavery. This exists in contrast to Western Linear History.!•both Sula's and Plum’s death are references to circular existence.!•Sula becomes a child again—sucking her thumb, fetal position. She is aware of her death like when she talks about it. Similar to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, but different because Morrison says that time is in continuum. It’s psychological dualism. This is potentially conversation with W.E.B DuBois’ double consciousness — the dual western and african identities on American blacks. Contrasting DuBois, Morrison says the dualism is reconcilable, but she brings it to a gender identity issue, saying heterosexual is harmful and homosexual is beneficial.!•Remember: Morrison reconciles while DuBois does not.!!Sula is more than flesh and blood because she has an influence postmortem.!!Many ironies:!•slave gets opposite of what he expects to receive !•character nomenclature. for example, Shadrack is crazy unlike his biblical counterpart. Nat’l Suicide day is a release for the characters’ fear of death in the bottom—that’s why they accept him. Not many ppl actually off themselves on NSD, but instead, many people die on other days, which makes the day more of a symbol for sanity-containment in the bottom.!•Taking two girls from diff backgrounds and making them compatible. They are “halves of the same whole.” In other words, they are a commentary on women in America and their limited roles. This forces us to question stereotypes of black women’s roles.!•Eva is a very dynamic character, fulfilling both natural and supernatural roles. She is Morrison’s ancestral trope. !! !There’s something about life in the bottom the prevents the characters from fulfilling their full potential. This is evident in the IRONIC nomenclature: !•Shadrack is the biblical character from the firry furnace. In Sula, his venture in WWII reflects!•Ajax in Sula, in contrast to his character in Mythology, is very non-heroic.!•The Right and Peace families are and are not what their names signify.!•The Dewey boys all receive the same name.!•Eva (Eve) Peace is willing to take her son’s life rather than have him emasculated. !! ! …It seems that nothing is the way it should be…!! ! ! …even the Bottom is on a hill…!! …this is the descent trope (the Bottom is its own unique reality)…!•We have to abandon out notions and enter Morrison’s world. Morrison wants us to abandon that objective, empirical perspective and enter into the part of the slave.!!Sula was written within the contemporary period!•post 1970 (to present)!•many women making their appearance!!The end of the novel is actually at the beginning, while the beginning is at the beginning.!•in other words, she puts preference on memory over order. This is a storytelling convention.!!Inter-textual relationship!•there arises the idea that the african american reality is apart from the western reality.!•this arises from almost all the novels we’ve read!!Two important indebted elements of Morrison’s writing:!•1) storytelling - oral language; similar to Hurston’s Eyes!•Principal storyteller is Nel Wright. !•2) memory - recollection of past events !!Plum’s Death - very important in Eva’s characterization !•a scene of infanticide!•Plum is emasculated because he is PTSD stricken and a heroine addict.!•this is potentially a death-rebirth scene; he returns to another realm to gain his fuller, true self. This belief in a continuum of life, in temporal life or another, is an African Cosmological belief. It is circular (Zamani) as opposed to Western linearity. Eva is crucial to this process.!•Eva is also responsible for Nell’s revelation. She compares Sula’s ambivalence to Hannah’s death is the same as Nell’s ambivalence to Chicken Little’s death.!!Sula becomes a scapegoat because she left the bottom. She is an outlet just like NSD. She is a major sacrificer for the community. She is almost a hero. She is just as influential postmortem as pre.!!“A man can’t do everything a woman does and still be called a man; a woman can’t do everything a man does and still be called woman.”!!The novel, first and foremost, addresses gender roles.!•evidenced by Nel and Sula’s diametrically split paths comments on women’s identities.!•Nel want to jump out and be her own person in response to her repressive mother, but her marriage to Jude causes her to lose her identity. Morrison says heterosexual relationships result in a loss of female identity. !•However, at the end of the novel, Nel learns most about herself when compared to, and in relationship with, Sula. (chicken little drown and Sula’s mother’s burning death)!!Social Commentary!•there is a healing power in women-women relationships.!•nobody can be in a heterosexual relationship before finding him/herself, which can be done in relationships with same-gender


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FSU AML 2600 - African American Literature

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