The Vegetarian

The Feminine Ultimatum: How Sula and Yeong-Hye Became Anti-heroines College

In the novels Sula by Toni Morrison and The Vegetarian by Han Kang, the main characters, Sula and Yeong-hye, are presented as extreme forces of nature grasping desperately for freedom in surroundings attempting to stifle these attempts. Resulting backlash and substantial desperation are at the apex of each novel’s message, revealing an issue not with the women portrayed but with the society that they are born into. This society impedes their inherent feminine--and human--desire for liberation.

As evident in both Sula and The Vegetarian, social pressure compels women seeking freedom into deranged, removed, and selfish states of being. Ultimately, they are only offered two choices: succumb entirely to a lack of self or drift away from society for a chance at total autonomy. Albeit extreme characterizations of this spectrum of feminine freedom, Sula and Yeong-hye both serve as examples of the ultimatum that the constraint on expression inflicts. The result is disastrous, destroying the women and the family and friends around them. Because of this pressure, Sula and Yeong-Hye serve as anti-heroines, coerced by this “feminine ultimatum”, that have no other option than to cause destruction to secure their self-actualization.

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