“Sula” and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Sula from the novel Sula is an independent character who tries to avoid attachments and commitments to other people as much as much as possible. However, she violates this sense of independence twice with Nel and Ajax. She later feels rejected when Nel gets married and when Ajax leaves for good.

This form of betrayal leads her to sleep with Nel’s husband. Sula’s character makes the society shun her. She feels isolated and dies a sad woman. Just like Sula, Beloved is a strange character who is too selfish to care about other people’s feelings. Her mother tries to provide her with everything that she wants but she does not appreciate it.

Instead, she throws childish tantrums demanding more from her mother. Her mother goes to the extent of trying to starve herself to provide Beloved with what she wants. The society saw these two women as evil because they had no remorse for what they did. The society, therefore, tries hard to get rid of these women by isolating them. Nobody wanted to be associated with them apart from some close friends and family.

Nel is portrayed as a quiet and obedient girl right from when she was a little girl (Morrison 22). Even in her adulthood, Nel remains to be a calm and composed woman. She gets married after finishing high school because her family strongly believes in social conventions. After Sula had destroyed her marriage, Nel did not seek revenge.

Instead, she spends years thinking that she misses her husband while in the real sense its Sula that she misses. She forgives Sula at her deathbed and also realizes that Sula was not evil as people perceived it. Nel realizes that it was she who was evil by rejoicing in Chicken Little’s death while Sula was so scared about it. Nel accepts the fact that her friendship with Sula was the best thing that ever happened to her. Their friendship was a very strong bond characterized by a love so strong.

Sethe is a desperate woman who kills her children in the name of protecting her from slavery (Morrison 32). Initially, she wanted to kill all her children but succeeded in killing her eldest daughter. Sethe, just like Nel, maintains her calmness and strives hard to provide for her family.

She is obsessed by Beloved due to the guilt of killing her two year old daughter such that she goes without food to meet Beloved’s needs. It takes the intervention of Denver and the community to bring Sethe back to reality. Denver was Sethes daughter. It takes tough situations for Nel and Sethe to realize that something is not right in their lives. For Nel, she came to realize how wrong in life she had been when Sula was about to die. Similarly, had the society not intervened, Sethe would have died of starvation while trying to please, Beloved.

Plot

Beloved is a book that tells of a story of Sethe, a woman who has escaped from slavery in Kentucky to Ohio. Seethe has escaped together with her daughter Denver and settled at 124 Bluestone Road Cincinnati (Morrison 56). Sethe’s home is haunted by a ghost who is believed to be her daughter who died when she was two years old. Paul D a slave who has recently escaped tried to bring a sense of reality to the house by leading the family into a carnival outside the house.

When the family gets home from the carnival, they find a young girl seated outside the house. The girl calls herself Beloved just like Sethe’s dead daughter. Paul D and Denver have a terrible feeling about this girl but Sethe likes the girl so much that she takes her into her house. Sethe showers Beloved with a lot of love such that she goes hungry sometimes just to provide this girl with whatever she needs.

On the other hand, Beloved throws tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. Beloved goes as far as possessing Paul D and forcing him to have sex with her. Later, when Pail D finds out how Sethe’s daughter died, he leaves the town for good. Denver asks the black community to help her mother when Beloved’s tantrums become too much. While exorcising Beloved, it is discovered that she was pregnant as a result of the encounters she had with Paul D (Morrison 79).

Sula, on the other hand, is a book also by Toni Morrison exploring the lives of two black, American women Sula Peace and Nel Wright. The two women were best friends despite their different family settings. Nel comes from a stable home where they believe in social conventions.

Sula comes from a family that the society deems as loose. Sula and Nel’s friendship is very tight when they are young girls. Their friendship is affected when Sula accidentally causes the death of Chicken Little a small boy from the neighborhood. They decide to keep this as a secret. After completing high school, both women take different routes in life. Nel settles into the marriage life and becomes a wife and a mother.

Sula disappears from Bottom for ten years a time during which she had many affairs with different men. When she comes back to Bottom, people see Sula as a common enemy. This is because Sula had gone as far as having affairs with white men. They see her as an evil person. Sula kills her friendship with Nel completely when she sleeps with her husband Jade. Jade leaves his family as a result of this. Later, Sula apologizes to Nel on her deathbed (Morrison 210).

Symbolism

A symbol refers to an object, idea or action representing something other than itself. Symbolism is the act of using symbols to represent things. In the book Beloved, Toni uses a ghostly character to show the damage slavery did to the slaves. The character, just like slavery, creates a lot of emotional damage in the form of fear. We are told of how the ghost used to break mirrors and throw things around the house which is so scary.

The slavery just like the ghostly character, created a lot of fear due to the physical torture involved. In Sula, Toni uses Sula to symbolize freedom. Sula chooses to live an autonomous life where she’s free to do anything she pleases. This is because nobody can stop her. However, this freedom comes with its disadvantages because Sula ends up hurting the people around her while exercising her right of freedom.

Conflict

Conflict refers to a disagreement about something. First and foremost, the names of the main characters in both books bring a lot of conflict. Sula Peace name differs with her character. In fact, she is everything but peace. She is the complete opposite of peace. A peaceful person does not go sleeping around with other people’s spouses.

If she had any traces of peace in her, Sula should have confessed to causing Chicken Little’s death. Instead, she decided to keep it a secret (Morrison 34). Beloved should be something or someone that is adored by all because of good deeds. In my own opinion, Toni should have used the name trouble instead of beloved. This beloved character causes people a lot of sleepless nights with her childish tantrums.

In a normal setting, a family should love and protect one another. A family should guard one another because of that blood bond that binds them together. This is not the case in these two novels. In Beloved, Beloved lets her mother suffer by emotionally imprisoning her. She is not satisfied by what her mother offers her and is always asking for more. On the other hand, Sula watches her mother as she burns to death. She had the chance to help her but, she did not (Morrison 201).

Themes

Slavery is a common theme in both books. The whites dominated over the blacks. In Beloved, we are told of how the blacks used to work in the whites plantation. The blacks were underfed and subjected to hard labour. The punishments given to the blacks by their white masters were extremely cruel.

For instance, they were forced to put on a headgear that was so heavy (Morrison 76). In Sula, we learn of a certain master who gives his slave a piece of land convincing him that it was near heaven. After seeing how convenient location of the piece of land is, the whites want to take it and make it a golf course. This is totally unfair of them because they don’t care where the blacks will relocate to.

The blacks dreaded slavery very much, and that is why they took extreme measures to save their loved ones. For instance, Sethe murders her child because she does not want her to suffer in the hands of white masters. Likewise, Eva intentionally lets her leg be run over by a train in order to receive insurance money to support her children.

Immorality is also another theme that features in the novels. We are tempted to think that people involve themselves in immorality to cover the pain caused by slavery. Beloved possesses a man old enough to be her father and has sex with him.

She clearly has no respect for herself or the people around her. Sula, on the other hand, has many affairs with men. Her morals are rotten and just like Beloved, she has no self respect. Rochelle, Nel’s grandmother, used to be a prostitute. The society dislikes people with loose morals and sees them as outcasts.

Betrayal is witnessed in the two novels. Betrayal involves a violation of trust which brings a strain in a relationship between individuals. Both novels feature family and friendship betrayal. In Beloved, Beloved betrays her host Sethe by sleeping with her boyfriend Paul D. Paul D also to some extent betrays, Sethe by leaving for good when she opens up to him about how her daughter died (Morrison 230).

As a friend, Paul should have comforted her and supported her. In Sula, Sula betrays her best friend Nel by sleeping with her husband and consequently breaking up her marriage. Betrayal brings mistrust in a relationship. Once trust is violated, it becomes particularly hard to maintain the same relationship. Betrayal breaks friendships and families.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.

Morrison, Toni Sula. Michigan: Infobase Publishing,1999. Print.