Representation of the Culture of Medallion in Sula by Toni Morrison: Analytical Essay

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Sula by Toni Morrison develops a story with Medallion’s women, especially Sula Peace and Nel Wright in the 20th century. The part one is talking about Sula’s childhood and character’s background, and Part two is talking about Sula’s comeback and her ‘evilness’. Readers can find many themes in this novel kinds as Racism, community identity, or gender role and motherhood. This paper will focus on the gender role with Sula Peace’s challenge. Sula always acts opposite to traditional gender role and act like a man at that time. While Morrison suggested that Sula and Nel’s arguments about gender role, it also implies that how hard to survive as a challenging woman like Sula.

First of all, Morrison suggests two concepts to describe traditional gender roles via Nel Wright and the culture of Medallion. The first one is a sacrifice. In chapter 1923, Ajax said that “all they want, man, is they own misery. Ax em to die for you and they yours for life.” (83). Also, in chapter 1940, Nel said that spends her life to support her husband is worth to do; “Spend my life keeping a man?” “They worth keeping, Sula.” (143). Ajax and Nel’s statement shows this concept directly. They thought that spend women’s life for their husbands is worth it and the natural one. The second one is freedom. Nel thought that it is natural for women doesn’t have any freedom. In chapter 1940, Nel said that Sula can’t act like a man since she is a colored woman; “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.” (142). Nel’s statement shows how women’s life was controlled at that time well. Nel said that since Sula is a colored woman, she cannot act like a man. This colored woman cannot walk around independently, do what they want, and take what they want. People thought that women, especially colored women have to be controlled and that’s the natural one like Nel did. These two concepts are closely connected to describe gender roles. Since people had a prejudice that women have to bring up children in the house and support her husband at home, they thought women like to do sacrifice and stay at home. “The traditional view of the male as breadwinner and the female as homemaker has shifted over time.” (Kristin, Stephen, and Vance). Morrison suggests Nel Wright as a representation of this gender role concepts.

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At next, Morrison suggested Sula’s challenge to traditional gender roles via contrast Sula’s attitude with Nel. In the whole story, Sula simply acts like a man and do what man did. Sula disappeared for a decade to travel the world, and she also slept with Jude Greene like her grandfather’s ‘womanizing’. (quotation for evidence). These kinds of actions show her incompliant attitude and challenging; “Sula does what she likes; she challenges the traditional gender roles and acts in ways that are associated with men.” (Khamsa, Mazhar, and Uzma, 2012). This is opposite what Nel’s did. She married early and take care of her children like other women in Bottom did. Morrison clearly shows this difference via Sula and Nel’s argument. While Nel said they don’t have freedom and Sula have to stop acting like what men did, Sula said she has her freedom and mind; “Girl, I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me.” (Morrison, 143). Morrison emphasize her challenge to traditional gender role via contrast with Nel’s perspective; “Through opposite and contrasting ideas, writers make their arguments stronger, thus making them more memorable for readers due to emphasis placed on them.” (Literary Device, 12). While Nel has traditional thought like other people in Bottom that women have to stay in the home and bring up children, Sula thought that even black females also had their freedom and independence like other people.

At last, Morrison expresses how hard to survive women at that time via Sula’s bullying and death. Sula is a challenging woman. She acts like a man and all the people in the Medallion blamed her and called her ‘evil’ (evidence quotation for evil) She was blamed for all the bad events that she has nothing to do with her in town. Although Morrison described that she was blamed because of her adultery with her best friend, actually it implies that people in Medallion couldn’t accept her challenging to the traditional gender role. Morrison described women’s life as dying stump via Sula; “Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I’m going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.” (143). Morrison suggested that colored women in that century dying like a stump with nothing. Sula said they are left and no freedom in their life. She also said that she is lonely, but that lonely also her mind and thought that she has her freedom, unlike other people. However, while Sula said that she dying like one of the redwoods, readers can see that she died alone in her room silently. Morrison described her as a typical woman in the country.

Lisa William said, “her death is emblematic of the many unrecorded death of black women” (27). Sula’s dream also implies the same thing. “she disintegrated into white dust, which Sula was hurriedly trying to stuff into pockets of her blue-flannel housecoat.” (147). Her dreams show her challenging to freedom and independence collapse into ‘dust’.

Work Cited

  1. Toni Morrison. (11.1993). Sula. Vintage International.
  2. Kristin M. Perrone, Stephen L. Wright, and Z. Vance Jackson (N/A) : Traditional and Nontraditional Gender Roles and Work-Family Interface for Men and Women : 247762743_Traditional_and_Nontraditional_Gender_Roles_and_Work- Family_Interface_for_Men_and_Women/links/53f94b360cf2e3cbf5603aa0/ Traditional-and-Nontraditional-Gender-Roles-and-Work-Family-Interface-for- Men-and-Women.pdf
  3. Khamsa Qasim, Mazhar Hayat, and Uzma Asmat (5.2012) : Black women and racial stereotypes: a black feminist reading of Morrison's novels p=AONE&u=embry&id=GALE%7CA290418494&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon
  4. Lisa William, Introduction, Artist as Outsider in the Novels of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. (Westport: Greenwood Press 2001)
  5. Literary Device. (N/A). Literary Devices: Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.
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