Sula

The Deconstruction of Binaries in Sula 11th Grade

In her fascinating 1973 novel, Sula, Toni Morrison deconstructs traditional understandings of the oppositions between self and other, rationality and emotion, and good and evil to reveal the similarities and differences among all people, adding up to nothing. If there is truly no superior option, what Morrison proposes by dissolving these ancient hierarchies is nothing more or less than the radical idea that there is no right way to lead a life.

Many significant relationships depicted in Sula are of an intensely personal nature, to the point that multiple people are shown as one whole being. The most striking case of this is that of the deweys, who “[speak] with one voice, [think] with one mind” (39). Though they begin as three different boys, the Deweys soon meld into one, a “trinity with a plural name” a metaphor for societal conformity (38). Sula and Nel’s intense friendship, the focus of the novel, depicts an entirely different sort of closeness. The girls are two distinct beings, but they appear to have a psychic connection of sorts (58), having “made each other’s acquaintance in the delirium of their noon dreams” (51). The way they naturally begin to “use each other to grow on” (52) reflects some of the qualities of the...

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