Sula: Prompt 3





Sula: Prompt 3


Sula by Toni Morrison is a novel that delivers the revolved issues of friendship between two characters and their effects towards the society. The Bottom is a neighborhood in Ohio consisted of African Americans. A former white farmer had promised freedom to his slave once completion of difficult chores in addition to the land in Bottom. The farmer reneged on his earlier promise, only delivering freedom without the land. The families of Sula and Nel thrived in the neighborhood. Nel was from a family that believed in social conventions while Sula hailed from one that did not. The two characters became attached despite the differences. When Chicken Little was swung and drowned by the river, the lives of the two characters took a different dimension from the expected. Their lifestyle choices conflict through conventional living as they make a half-hearted reconciliation towards their end. The community’s harmony is also dependent on the two. Friendship between Nel and Sula depicts good and evil in the society while it is affected by betrayal, love, and affection.


Friendship between Sula and Nel at the onset had to stand the test of time, especially borrowed from their different upbringing. Nel was from a conventional family, which valued good morals and social consciousness at all costs. On the other hand, Sula was from a stark contrasted family, which had a history of unwanted values and characteristics. Upon meeting each other and getting to interact, the strength of their friendship had to survive the backgrounds. Thus, the characters’ friendship was instrumental in helping them overcome their difficult moment in life. Novak (186) argues that the community could have easily sided with Nel since she belonged to conventional upbringing and it was symbolic of good values, one for reflection of the status. However, the friendship blossomed for the benefit of the two and helped them sustain their depiction. In addition, the representation of one friend to the other made up for what they lacked.

            Friendship between Nel and Sula was characteristic of loyalty as displayed throughout. It was significant basing on the friendship as it became complicated. Once they approached womanhood, the two characters chose their lifestyle paths according to suitability. Nel remained conventional as she purposed to bring up her family and settle down. On the other hand, Sula was unconventional and did not follow the family-route. Instead, she became untenable and when to the extent of snatching Nel’s husband once she was back to Bottom (Andersen 24). In this context, friendship had to withstand loyalty. It was important for the characters since it generated necessity on the community itself. Loyalty to family was differential to friendship and it was significant leading to half-hearted reconciliation at the end by the two.

            Friendship between the two characters was not on equitable basis. It was significant when suitability was needed. During childhood, Nel and Sula valued their friendship as one represented what the other wanted in some part. For example, Nel at times felt that she could be comfortable at Sula’s home, which was disorganized and not presentable. On the other hand, Sula felt she needed the exquisite setting of Nel’s home, which was more organized and setup compared to theirs. However, the friendship takes a turn into significance when they need each other. Nel stayed true to the friendship despite Sula’s betrayal when she was back. In comparison, Sula forgot the adversities faced between them before, and betrayed Nel. In the end, the re-union of the friendship is only availed as Sula was about to pass. Friendship at the juncture could not be sustained by loyalty.

            The friendship between the characters was defined by gender and relevance according to circumstances. The convenience of friendship between the two was demonstrated at the beginning when Chicken Little died at the river after drowning. Sula was responsible for handling Little’s arms while they walked together with Nel. After swinging it, she lost control accidentally and it caused Little’s death. In the aftermath, both friends decided not to tell anyone about the circumstances. Later on, Nel is guilty of not helping Sula forget the ordeal and forgive herself from any wrongdoing. In the first instance, friendship was convenient especially with scrutiny of the death in the horizon. At least then, both friends could be free from any form of blame. However, with Sula facing the ordeal on a personal level, the friendship could not suffice, as Nel did not help in anyway (Novak 188).

            The women’s relationship was responsible for the definition of their friendship and redemption. Through imagery and satire, the author uses them to depict the levels of strained strife in maintaining the friendship against adversity. Once adultery was detected between Sula and Jude, the test on friendship was evident, as Nel had to deal with the consequences. Morrison equates the situation to a ball of muddy strings, which had no weight, was fluffy but more so terrible in its wickedness. There had to be self-awareness and validation in contrast to the actions and lasting friendship from before. Strife at the first hurdle made it possible for the two characters in their longevity and gained friendship. In addition, the affirmation was personalized despite the significance to each other. Self-destruction was resultant as shown by the mention of Shadrack’s National Suicide Day.

            The test of friendship between Nel and Sula was important for the harmony of the community in Bottom. The area, predominantly dominated by the African Americans had communities who shared similar ancestry and origins. Despite the lives of the two main characters, there were already divisions in the community. Thus, the friendship helped realize strength and unity at times of adversity and foster togetherness. Due to the conventional upbringing between Nel and Sula, the people were divided on good and evil characterization of manners (Andersen 22). Once the friendship faced strife after Sula’s adulterous ways, the community was united in condemning her actions and lifestyle choices. There was harmony amidst all the proceedings and differences in conventional living between families. Later on when the half-hearted reconciliation between the two is realized, the reign of harmony comes to an abrupt end in the area.

            Friendship between Sula and Nel was responsible for maintaining of their differential upbringing. The author is categorical in the choice of character formation since one relied on the other to prosper. Good and evil require each other in order to thrive. From Sula’s heritage, their ancestry was not one to be exemplified by the society. On the other hand, Nel’s heritage signified the model upbringing that the community favored. By bringing the two characters through friendship and having love, affection, and sincerity between them, it necessitated for cooperation. At the time of their interaction, they were both too young and not fully mature. Once they approached womanhood, each of them took a different path in their lifestyle from the other. Nel chose her rightful path since she did not want Sula’s heritage and non-conventional kinds in her own. On the other hand, Sula wanted the carefree lifestyle unlike the one perpetrated by Nel.

            Friendship lasts on true values, emotions, and appreciation between two individuals while reconciliation is easily achieved. Nel valued Sula’s friendship as it taught her on the inference of life without the strict nature of self-evaluation. In addition, it is the same characteristics that made them apart especially after the adulterous ways with her husband. Sula on the other had envisaged the need for self-awareness depicted by Nel in life. It had significance to having a bearing and purpose. Novak (192) notes that the friendship was through tests of loyalty, betrayal and delivered love for each other. In the end, reconciliation between the two was imminent despite Sula having wronged Nel. The complexities and nuances faced were then put side as the basis of the friendship was demonstrated by the reconciliation before Sula was about to pass.                                  


Friendship between Nel and Sula depicts good and evil in the society while it is affected by betrayal, love, and affection. It was friendship marred by various complexities and nuances between the two’s upbringing, characters, values and development into adulthood. Despite the differences, the friendship was solid through until their reconciliation. Both characters were important in each other’s lives due to the vital lessons learnt from experience and their unity. The shared affection and love brought out the unifying factors as well as the separation pointers.

Works Cited

Andersen, Richard. Toni Morrison. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006. Print.

Novak, Phillip. “Circles and Circles of Sorrow.” PMLA, 114.2 (1999): 184-193. Print.

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