Toni Morrison’s novel, Sula, features several different aspects of women, and begs the question of who the real “hero” of the book is. The title character, Sula, is a rebellious woman, one who tests the limits of being a woman by, as her friend says, “walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don’t” (Morrison 143). She sleeps around, denies men control over her life, and flaunts her sexuality. Her “sister” Nel, however, is the opposite; she respects society’s restrains, and embraces her passionate emotions. These two women explore two polar ends of the feminist spectrum, yet still share the title of “woman.”
Sula is the protagonist of the book, as her free spirited nature allows her to push the boundaries of what women can and can’t do. By acting like a man, she has shunned the cultural chains and gives herself what she perceives to be success. Furthermore, by acting as a pseudo-martyr, Sula is able to unite the people against a common enemy, and bring out the best motherly care the woman can produce. Her death results in women falling back into a subservient role, and revert to a malicious state. Morrison states that, “Other mothers who had defended their children from Sula’s malevolence (or who had defended their positions as malevolence…now had nothing to rub against” (Morrison 153), which demonstrates that Sula is an enemy for the mothers of the Bottom. By seducing men, Sula had gotten women to step into their roles as protectors of the family, and daughters as caretakers. Without the pressure of a "female man," women turn into abusive witches, who shun their responsibilities that they once so proudly displayed. Sula's “wicked” ways of freedom symbolizes a feminine storm that results in womankind uniting, and her death equals the loss of female independence.