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Sula and Nel

The 1920s was a time of racism, sexism and discrimination. No freedom compared to the one we have today and not many who were brave enough to create it. In Toni Morrison’s novel “Sula”, two girls named Sula and Nel dreamed of living their lives to the fullest since they were little, but as they grew older their lives separated into different paths. Sula decided to get out of town and live her life searching for freedom and Nel ended up living the typical town life marrying a man she barely knew if she loved. Sula demands and seeks freedom while Nel continues her life playing by the rules and misses out on freedom.

Sula is really complex and hard to understand at times. We sometimes feel sorry for her, sometimes appreciate her courage, and sometimes hate her for being so insensitive to other people's feelings. She's anything but boring, and she challenges herself to earn her freedom. We first encounter Sula as a child living in a chaotic household run by some pretty strong-willed women. Because her surroundings are so noisy, messy, and busy, she prefers the quiet and neatness of Nel's house. We learn much about Sula through her relationship with Nel. However, as these two women mature, they begin to separate and each start to grow into different perspectives on the community in which they live. Growing up Sula witnesses a lot of events that shape her into becoming an adult. But unlike Nel, Sula decides to leave the Bottom and live a more exciting and free life. After an absence of ten years, Sula return to the Bottom, looking like a movie star, in a foxtail stole and a black crepe dress splashed with color. Earlier that day, the town suffers a bizarre plague of robins, and because of the townspeople’s long concern with sign of nature as representing omens; they see Sula’s return as a sign of evil. Sula’s experiences in life reflect her freedom, at a young age she watches her mother burn, she sends her grandmother to a nursing home, and she has sexual affair with her best friends husband. As Morrison notes of her, “She was completely free of ambition, with no affection for money, property of things, no greed, no desire to command attention or compliments - no ego. For that reason she felt no compulsion to verify herself – be consistent with herself.” In this passage, Morrison gives the reader an insider’s look into Sula’s thoughts about her relationship with Nel after she betrayed her, describing her as someone who isn’t like the rest of the human race, who has a different perspective on life. Through her contrasting lifestyle we realize that Sula remains true to herself until the end.

Nel is a product of an overly strict upbringing. Her mother Helene has succeeded in driving her imagination underground which causes her to lose her individuality and sense of freedom. Earlier in life, she watches as her mother is humiliated by a train's white, racist conductor; she sees the personal indignity of her mother having to squat in a field to urinate while in full view of the train's white passengers; and in New Orleans, she realizes her mother's shame at her own Creole mother's life of prostitution. These earth-shattering events in Nel's young and impressionable mind cause her to vow never to lose her own individuality. As a young Nel looks in the mirror, she tells herself, "I'm me. . . . Me.” At this moment she is in complete control of her life and identity. This streak of independence isn’t something we remember when we continue reading but its there. As an adult Nel is the complete opposite of Sula. She has gotten married, stayed in the Bottom, and had children. She attends church and fills the expectations of her society as an African-American woman. On the outside Nel seems uncomplicated but a lot changes when she witnesses her best friend Sula and her husband Jude having sexual relations. The one thing that upsets Nel the most is her inability to talk to the one person she would normally turn to. She convinces herself that its Jude’s absence from her life that causes her pain. So she continues her life not forgiving Sula.

When it comes down to it, Nel and Sula are equally devoted to each other. As kids, they cling to each other, learn from each other, and balance each other out. But their life experiences tell otherwise. Sula deciding to leave town in search of freedom presents herself as more of the brave one, someone who isn’t afraid to cross lines and use her freedom. Nel on the other hand stays in the Bottom, gets married to Jude, has children and never has the courage to create her own freedom, one she has dreamed of since she was a little girl. Her pride never allows herself to forgive Sula and to realize how much she misses her. I prefer Sula’s approach to freedom because later in the book we find out that Nel has a lot of regret when Sula dies and she wishes she had forgiven her and had more freedom like she did.

In conclusion, in the time of racism, sexism, and discrimination Sula doesn’t give up on freedom until the end, she fights for it no matter what her community thinks but Nel doesn’t get a chance to enjoy her freedom because she is too busy worrying about her perfect life in the Bottom and doesn’t forgive Sula for betraying her. We probably feel that Sula should know better, that she should understand that her best friend's husband is off-limits. But we also have to remember that she is so secure in her friendship with Nel and the fact that they have always shared everything, including boyfriends, that she doesn't think Nel will be angry. Her deepest affection is for her friend, and she assumes that that trumps everything else. When it doesn't, Nel's reaction leaves Sula confused and saddened. Later when Sula dies her last thought is of her friend, she cant wait to tell her about death which proves that Toni Morrison also prefers Sula’s approach to freedom because despite what we might consider Sula’s great fault, she is loyal and devoted to Nel until the day she dies.…...

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