The Theme of Abandonment in Toni Morrison's 'Sula'

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Abandonment is defined as leaving completely and finally or to forsake utterly. Sometimes in the case of abandonment it causes women to switch roles with males and become the head of the household. Women can use sex as a means of switching roles also and that is what we see in the book ‘Sula’. Men use sex as a way for pleasure and now since the roles have switched women have taken control of their bodies and gained pleasure of their own. Additionally, as a result of being abandoned the females had to take on the role of a male and provide for the household. In the novel ‘Sula’ by Toni Morrison, five of the female characters experienced the problem with abandonment and this resulted in the females switching roles with men.

The first female character who experienced abandonment was Helene Sabat Wright. In Sula at the beginning of 1920 we see Helene marrying Wiley Wright who is a seaman. Toni Morrison says “he was a ship’s cook on one of the Great Lakes lines in port only for three day out of every sixteen” (Morrison 17). The newlywed couple then move to Medallion where he puts her in a home. His long bearable absences were quite bearable for Helene wright, especially when, after some nine years of marriage, her daughter was born (Morrison 17). Basically, Wiley was only the sperm donor in their marriage because he was barely home and this led to Helene taking control of the household and raising her daughter on our own for most of the time. The second female character who is struck with abandonment is Eva Wright. After five years of a sad and disgruntled marriage BoyBoy took off (Morrison 32). Again another female is left to take over and provide for their children. However, Eva could not completely provide her children until her last child was nine months. She then left her children with a neighbor for eighteen. This action that was taken may have been mistaken to be abandonment but the difference is Eva came back to her family. Although Eva returned her daughter Hannah Peace is affected by the abandonment of her father and mother and it later changes her. In Hannah’s adulthood she had a daughter named Sula and because of the abandonment she endured she ended up repeating the cycle with her own daughter.

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In 1937 Morrison says “So how could you leave me when you knew me?” (Morrison 104). This question was asked by Nel to Jude her husband right before she caught him in the act of kissing her best friend. Nel could not fathom ever being left by the person she loved so much. To lose Jude and not have Sula to talk to it about because it was Sula that he had left her for (Morrison 110). Nel did not know how to feel but yet again she had to take care of her children on her own because not too long after Jude left her, he left the city as well. These three females were faced with the same fate and they each handled their fate the same way. They had no time to sit back and cry of sit back and process what had happened to them. They had to find ways to now take care of their children on their own.

Another female character that was abandoned was Sula, however, her situation is a slightly different from the other females. Sula Mae Peace started a sexual relationship with Ajax whose real name is Albert Jacks. That’s all their relationship was supposed to be, sexual. Despite this Sula started to develop feelings for Ajax and he did not want any part of that. Morrison says “He dragged her under him and made love to her with the steadiness and the intensity of a man about to leave from Dayton” (Morrison 134). Although Ajax left Sula she was happy. Why would someone be happy if they are left by someone they love, you may ask. Sula was happy because she would’ve only killed Ajax. The emotions and love she felt for him was something she had not expected but she could not control her emotions. As a result, she just let him go. Additionally, Sula did not have a child or children to take care of when Ajax left compared to the other women. It was just herself that she had to look after.

Role reversal is defined as a situation in which two people exchange their usual duties or positions. After each of these females experienced abandonment it took a toll on them and their mindsets, actions and personalities switched. Normally in the society we live in men are supposed to provide for their household, yet after BoyBoy leaves Eva we see that she has to now find a job to provide for her household. “Two days later she left all of her children with Mrs. Suggs, saying she would be back the next day” (Morrison 34). Eva had to leave her children and find a source of income to make ends meet. When she returned she had money but she also only had on leg. Her leg was more than likely sacrificed to make money or she lost it in an attempt to make money.

Another way the roles switched is biblically. In the Bible, we see God who is the creator of life and he is the one that takes it away as well. Also, found in the Bible is Adam the founder of the creation story. He is the one that names the animals. In Sula Toni Morrison gives a swing on the creation story. Eva is similar to the name Eve and Eve was the wife of Adam. In the novel Sula Eva gives life just as God does and she takes it away. “She rolled a bit of newspaper into a tight stick about six inches long, lit it and threw in onto the bed where the kerosene-soaked Plum lay in snug delight” (Morrison 47). Moreover, Eva gave three boy characters one name and the forced them to become one character. There are numerous ways that role reversal could take place.

Women also switched roles with men through sex. You would hear stories about men having sexual intercourse with multiple people and this is exactly what Hannah did. Hannah also had male tendencies because she hated when the men she would have sex with fell asleep in her bed. She paid little attention to any details regarding the men she had sex with including if they were married or not. Morrison says “She would fuck practically anything...” (Morrison 43). This showed that Hannah had no remorse to messing up relationships she did what and who ever she wanted. This shows how abandonment affects women in different ways.

Sula followed into her mother’s footsteps concerning sex. Sula saw the way that her mother was with men and how happy having sex with men made her so she followed in her footsteps. Morrison says “Seeing her step so easily into the pantry and emerge looking precisely as she did when she entered, only happier taught Sula that sex was pleasant and frequent, but otherwise unremarkable” (Morrison 44). Therefore, Sula started to have sex with any man that she chose to. When she left and came back to the Bottom there were rumors that she had sex with white men and she was hated for it. Sula even slept with her best friend’s husband and she saw absolutely nothing wrong with it. Sula was cold hearted just like some men are today. She only had sex with men to fill her desire for sorrow and misery. Sula was a female but she surely had a male’s mindset and it showed in everything she did. She lived her best life with no regrets.

Is the novel ‘Sula’ by Toni Morrison a male bashing story? Yes I do believe it is. All the males in this story have a childish name such as Tar Baby, BoyBoy and Chicken Little. Furthermore, the males in this story don’t have a position. For example, when Helene got pregnant with Nel Wiley was only the sperm donor because he wasn’t there for the majority of Nel’s life. The males in this story have bad habits as well. BoyBoy was best at womanizing and drinking alcohol. He also abused Eva whiles they were together. Tar Baby was locked up twice in this book. Morrison says “I bet you ain’t even missed Tar Baby, have you? He asked. Missed? No. Where is he? Jail” (Morrison 132).

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The Theme of Abandonment in Toni Morrison’s ‘Sula’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-theme-of-abandonment-in-toni-morrisons-sula/
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