Toni Morrison: The Manifestation of Tough Love in Sula

The concept of tough love is one that is prevalent in many African-American fictional texts. Toni Morrison's Sula is one such example of the way that tough love manifests itself through African-American parent-child relationships. It can often be mistaken for contempt, selfishness, carelessness, or all three of these elements. The discerning factor for tough love, however, is either the acted or unspoken impetus for the child's well being. In the case of Plum and also in the case of Hannah, Eva repeatedly demonstrates this paradoxical act of selflessness. Ultimately, the relationships between Eva and her children, particularly Hannah, provide key examples for the concept of tough love, in all its misunderstood glory, as an element that results from experiencing 'the struggle'.

A key element to understanding the concept of tough love is the background from which one emerges; moreover, by emerging from the African-American struggle as Eva depicts. When Hannah approaches Eva and asks her the childish question, "Mamma, did you ever love us?", the reader is startled by the response. This reaction is what gives tough love its edge. The shock value that Hannah, as well as the reader, has to Eva's response...

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