Sula Summary and Analysis of 1927


Nel Wright is married just after general school graduation to Jude Greene, a good-looking choir singer and waiter. In celebration, Helene throws a reception at her home and the entire neighborhood attends. Tired and stressed from the planning and preparation Helene finally relaxes during the reception after drinking the punch, which has been spiked with liquor.

The entire wedding is remarkable for the people of the Bottom. No other wedding had ever been so formal and extravagant, complete with a church service and reception. In fact, people in the Bottom typically went to the courthouse or invited a preacher to their home when they wanted to be wed.

Jude, at 20 years of age, did not consider himself the type to be married. When the city announces the construction of New River Road, he is eager to participate in the road work. People in the Bottom are excited about the prospects of trade between Porter’s landing, a bordering town, and Medallion that the road would allow for. Jude is most excited about trading in his work as a waiter for construction work. In particular, he looks forward to making friends with the other workers and contributing to something tangible and lasting.

However, when the employers repeatedly turn Jude away, he becomes angered. He watches as less muscular, white men get the jobs but he is passed over. Anxious to assert his manhood in some way, he becomes determined to marry. Seeking companionship and compassion, he chooses Nel to become his wife because he had always known her to be a kind woman. Sula continues to be a good friend of Nel’s and is very excited about the wedding. She insists that she be the one and only bridesmaid and arranges most of the wedding details.

During the wedding, the town realizes that the Deweys have not and will not grow to adult size. They maintain the form of young boys and continue to act childishly as well. As the reception goes on the newlyweds become anxious to leave and spend time alone together. While they embrace, Sula traipses into the room and passes by them, smiling. The chapter ends stating that this moment would be the last time the girls would see each other for ten years.


Nel and Jude Greene are wed in one of the fanciest and most formal weddings of the Bottom’s history. Ironically, Sula plays a large role in the wedding though she later becomes a critic of the traditional domesticity into which Nel enters. She insists on being the only bridesmaid and organizes most of the wedding details.

With Nel’s wedding, Helene’s aspirations to redeem herself through her daughter are fulfilled. She is exhausted by all the preparation, however, and finally relaxes during the reception. This relaxation is partially aided by the alcohol someone snuck into the party punch. Helene’s character is at least partially satisfied by the attainment of traditional success for her daughter. She is further distanced from her life in New Orleans as the daughter of a prostitute.

The theme of permanence emerges when the people realize that the Deweys will never grow to full adult size. They have the stature of children and continue to behave like children. The Dewey’s appear to be in a state of eternal childhood. They also continue to be mistaken for one another. It is as though they have become so close that they have become one person.

Jude Greene, Nel’s husband, is also introduced in this chapter. Ironically, he marries not because he loves Nel, but rather because he is frustrated about not getting a job to work on the New River Road. Feeling emasculated in his job as a waiter, Jude seeks work constructing the New River Road. He is overlooked however, sometimes in favor of white or immigrant workers. The marriage is thus a way for him to assert his manhood, to be defined by something associated with masculinity instead of merely being identified as a waiter.

There is a ten-year gap between this chapter and the next. After the wedding of her best friend, Sula leaves town to go to college and to travel the country. The celebration is thus accompanied by a tone of sadness and loss. The two friends are separated when Nel enters into marriage, and as long as they live, the original bond is not restored.