Sula Summary and Analysis of 1923


It is especially hot in Medallion during canning or harvesting season as people prepare to jar crops and food for winter. One night a strong wind blows through the Bottom. It disrupts the yards, breaks windows, and blows the limbs off trees. People believe the wind is an indicator of rain but are upset when no rain, thunder, or lightning comes.

The next night Hannah asks Eva if she loved her and her siblings when they were younger. Eva tells the Deweys, who are playing in her room, to leave before she answers the question. When they leave, Eva says that she didn’t love her children and suggests that it was an “evil” thought for Hannah to have. Eva is offended by the question. She views it as a sign of ungratefulness and says that Hannah would have been dead if Eva did not love her. She tells Hannah that times were hard in 1895 and that they were lucky to be alive, she did not have time to play with them.

Hannah then asks her mother what made her kill Plum. Eva confesses that she could not handle Plum’s behavior when he returned from war. He was regressing and acting like a baby. Exhausted by his neediness, Eva recounted dreams she had of Plum climbing the stairs and trying to crawl back into her womb. Though Eva had room in her heart for Plum, she says that she could not have him re-enter her womb.

In an attempt to give him the death of a man, not of a baby, Eva lit him on fire. While telling the story Eva cries and attempts to soften her actions by telling Hannah that she rocked Plum in her arms before killing him. After the story, Hannah leaves the room to finish preparing the peas. Eva remains, crying and repeating Plum’s name to herself. Hannah takes a nap and has a dream the she gets married in a red dress.

Sula interrupts the dream when she enters the room where her mother is sleeping. Now thirteen years old, Sula begins to misbehave. Sula steals food from the newlyweds and provokes the Dewey boys by threatening to give them a bath. Neighbors assume this is just a consequence of adolescence. Meanwhile, the birthmark over her eye grows darker and begins to look more like a stem and rose than ever before.

Hannah’s dress catches fire while she is trying to light the fire in the yard. Seeing the image of her daughter aflame, Eva throws herself out of her third floor window in an attempt to put the flames out. Unfortunately, she lands a dozen feet from Hannah and is unable to extinguish the flames. Hannah runs out into the street still on fire. The Suggs see her and pour water on her but she is already disfigured and severely burned.

An ambulance arrives to take both Hannah and Eva to the hospital but Hannah dies en route. Eva survives but is greatly injured by her fall. In the hospital bed she reflects on the day’s events and recognizes Hannah’s earlier dream as an omen of death, weddings always had been symbols of death for her. She also remembers seeing Sula watch her mother burn while standing on the porch. Though neighbors tell her that Sula was probably shocked, Eva believes that Sula watched out of fascination.


This chapter is characterized by a series of “strange” occurrences. Morrison again uses the fragmented chronological structure to describe the events in this chapter. As with the preface, she does not proceed in a linear fashion, the times and events are jumbled and disordered. The narration begins with the second “strange” occurrence without explaining the first. The narration also goes backwards to discuss the wind that appears the night before Eva and Hannah discuss motherhood.

When the wind arrives, it destroys houses and land in the Bottom. A strangely strong wind affects the economic prosperity of some in the Bottom who are growing crops. The wind is another instance of nature in excess in the novel. It foreshadows the occurrence of something dramatic like most strange weather patterns do in Sula.

The theme of motherhood is reinforced when Hannah asks Eva if she loved her children. Eva is unable to vocalize the sacrifices that she had to make for her children, sacrifices that prevented her from playing with her children but still indicate a deep love and devotion to them. She is angered by Hannah’s question, calling it “evil,” and begins to insult her daughter for being ungrateful.

Maternal love is scrutinized once again when Eva confesses why she burned Plum in his bed. She says that she does it for his own good, to allow him to die like a man even if he could not live like one. Eva’s decision presents a moral dilemma. However, Morrison does not indicate whether this one should be viewed as a good or a bad action.

While trying to do laundry, Hannah is accidentally lit on fire. The flames catch her clothes and spread to her whole body. Eva is shocked to see her daughter burning in the yard. Eva reveals that she does not wish ill on her children when she jumps from a 3rd floor window to try to save Hannah from the fire. Eva blames Sula for watching her mother burn in the fire and not reacting or trying to save her .She perceives a wickedness in her granddaughter long before the rest of the Bottom is convinced that Sula is evil.