Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sula: A Hero in Disguise?

The question of heroism in Toni Morrison’s Sula will no doubt provide ample room and inspiration for discussion. Sula is an extremely complex personality – her character is difficult to interpret and analyze as a result of her independent qualities. Still, a close reading of Morrison’s protagonist (for whom the book is named) rouses questions of identity and the value of actions. Through Sula, Morrison seems to deconstruct the traditional notion of heroism; many of Sula’s actions are difficult to justify until the ends of these actions are fully realized.

I may be in the dissenting minority, but I see value in Sula’s traditionally reprehensible actions. Clearly, Sula’s role in dissolving Nel’s marriage contradicts accepted morality. So does her frequent interracial fornication. But I feel strongly that such transgressions are what define Sula as a disguised hero. She lives for herself, according to her own principles. She bears the contempt of her community that ultimately leads to better communal awareness and establishment of a cultural identity for the people of the Bottom. Teapot’s death and the ramifications that come from the accident provide evidence for my claim: Teapot’s negligent mother realizes her shortcomings as a mother after her son’s death and changes her methods of parenting. By shouldering the contempt of her community, Sula gains heroine status – untraditional as it may be.

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