Exploring the Theme of Broken Trust in Toni Morrison’s Sula

Trust is both an emotional and logical act. On the emotional level, you expose your vulnerabilities to people, hoping that they will not benefit from your openness. Logically, it is when you evaluate the chance of gain and loss and conclude that the person in question would behave in a predictable manner. Some philosophers like Paul Thagard, a Canadian philosopher, and cognitive scientist would say that trust is a propositional attitude, an abstract relation between an abstract self and an abstract meaning of the sentence. But these selves, relations, and meanings are utterly mysterious. With that being said, trust is rare. It is something that takes years to build, and only moments to destroy, it is beautiful, lethal and deadly, when given to the right person, but when given to the wrong person, you may never trust anyone again. Therefore, the following question can be asked: is the theme of broken trust at the heart of the novel Sula? Regarding the novel Sula, written by Toni Morrison, although it deals with the theme of racism, it is found that the existence of a broken trust has had a greater impact on the lives of each person, through relationships, treason, and family. For starters, we will discuss broken trust through friendship. Then, the broken trust will go through betrayal and finally by the family.

To begin, friendship is the purest of love because it is the only love where there is no constraint. All the relationships and connections in this life are empty if friendship is not at the back to strengthen them. Friendship is the universal spiritual energy that unites souls in the bond of divine love. True friendship consists in seeking the progress of the soul together. Toni Morrison was attached to the fact that it is sometimes enough to have something in common with an individual to develop a friendship that can sometimes be eternal. For example, in her work Sula, she says: So when they met, first in those chocolate halls and next through the ropes of the swing, they felt the ease and comfort of old friends. Although the girls come from different backgrounds, the fact that they both lack something from their mother creates a bond. They feel comfortable with each other because they know what the other person is going through and that they are the only source of true friendship and understanding. No other character, answers this need of Sula and Nel. It also refers that friendship is a universal spiritual energy that unites souls in the bond of divine love.

In addition, during the First World War, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was called Shell shock. It is a mental state, depression, provoked, involved or witnessed an extremely traumatic event, usually related to extreme physical violence, injury, or death. Like many diseases, a person can suffer for years. The events that Shadrack went through left him a huge impact. He was practically perceived as a madman by the inhabitants of the Bottom. Because of the conditions he has developed, he has not been able to establish any relationships with anyone since then. The author comments that in Sula's youngest years, she had dropped her purple and white belt when she went to his house in search of comfort, frightened by the incident that occurred, is for him a proof that she was 'his visitor, his company, his guest, his social life, his woman, his daughter, his friend'. Here, Morrison puts into perspective that the smallest things can make the biggest difference in someone's life, such as Sula's belt which for her was maybe just a piece of fabric, but for Shadrack, it was more, it was the sign of his only visitor.

Furthermore, connecting with others is like learning a new skill or language. The concept is quite simple since the connection is based on shared interests and common grounds. Despite this, Hannah struggles to form long-standing connections with the women in her surroundings. Her friendships were rare and short-lived because of her unpleasant behavior. This issue is proven when the narrator says in the novel that, after her husband dies, not being touched was not an option for her. She slept mostly with her husband's friends and neighbors. A few pages later, a woman comments that the only thing she cannot stand was whores. In this quote, one can understand that Hannah's character sleeps with many men throughout the novel, since she only wants the touch and embrace of another man, who could fill that void in her heart, a man who could heal her affliction.

How parents treat their children, and the influence they have on them shapes them and prepares them for the world. Unfortunately, however, parents do not exert a positive influence on their children. This is the case for Sula who grew up with an absent father, and a mother who roamed everywhere with men. For example, Sula grew up understanding that sex “was pleasant and frequent, but otherwise unremarkable”. With that being said, Sula sleeps with Jude, her best friend's husband, and leaves him for the same reason that she left all the men she had slept with before, he was no longer something new and different and she fears what could happen if things start to stay the same. Betrayal is a word used to play with someone's emotions, break trust, be dishonest for ulterior motives. One cannot be betrayed by a stranger walking in the street.

Moreover, betrayal usually comes from people of knowledge, who matter much to one's eye. As mentioned above, a person gets usually betrayed by an individual of knowledge. For instance, on page 105, the perfect incorporation of imagery shows how Nel enters her room to find Jude, her husband having sex with Sula, her best friend. Yet, she does not say anything but looks at them smiling, thinking they could not have done it. The reader understands that Nel is in denial. She refuses to believe that Sula could have done such a thing because she is her best friend. This part highlights how anyone, even those closest to one, is capable of betrayal. Being faithful means having love for one person and deciding that this love for that person means everything, even the desire to be with someone else. Unfortunately, Jude could not restrain this desire. At first, he was not physically attracted to Sula, but that he saw how she engaged a man's mind intrigued him, and he decided to sleep with her, knowing that he was married to Nel. To give an example, on page 104, while Jude and Nel are having a flirtatious conversation, he thinks to himself how she is a funny woman, not that bad-looking... that stirred a man's mind.'' The fact that he even had the audacity to flirt with another woman, more specifically the best friend of his wife, knowing that he is married and then makes the decision to sleep with her, explains how he could not be greater than his desires, and that must be one of the greatest betrayals in a relationship.

Words are powerful, they can hurt people in many ways. For instance, it can seriously affect their self-esteem and make that person feel useless. Sula is hurt and loses trust in her mother when she overhears her mother speak ill of her. For example, on page 57, she hears a conversation that her mother has with her friends, and she explained to them how '' she loves Sula. But she only don't like her. That's the difference.' However, for a child, there is a difference, and this comment creeps into Sula's consciousness, filling her with a feeling of her own unpleasant nature and destroying her sense of trust. A mother loves her child unconditionally and never asks for anything in return, that love goes even further to protect her child, even if it sometimes means losing the trust of their child. In the novel, Eva decides to kill her son, Plum, out of love for him. As an illustration, Eva says to Hannah with great sadness that: She done everything she could to make him leave her and go on and live and be a man but he wouldn't and she had to keep him out so she just thought of away he could die like a man not all scrunched up inside her womb, but like a man”. Even though Eva's action in killing Plum, is the ambiguous power of love, this can be considered a betrayal since Plum trusted her with his health and instead of gaining the courage to help her son gradually stop his addiction, she chose to kill him.

Commitment is a single word representing loyalty and faith, it is an invisible bond that holds two people together during good times, bad times and the worst times. This invisible link that keeps two people together had faded when Ajax realized that Sula wanted to settle down, start a family. To illustrate this, in the novel, the author quotes, Sula stood up and placed himself on the arm of the rocking chair. Putting his fingers deep in the velvet of his hair. He looked around and saw the sparkling kitchen and the table set for two and detected the smell of the nest. Every hack on his body was getting up, and he knew that very soon she, like all of her sisters before her, would ask her the death knell of the question ``Where were you?’’. Because Sula started stroking his hair to comfort him, warned Ajax of the growing comfort of his relationship with Sula. He notices all the signs that they were becoming a couple and that scared him. That night, he decided to leave for Dayton. When Sula found out, she feels hurt, but then again remembered that she could not trust anyone but herself. In short, it can be seen that the existence of broken trust has had a greater impact on the life of each individual, through friendships, betrayal, and family.

To conclude, broken trust is the central theme of the novel Sula, written by Toni Morrison. She had the idea to write Sula, after divorcing her husband, at the time. She was inspired by her life as a single mother and a more complex and ambivalent vision of 'sisterhood'' Toni Morrison was a big feminist herself, many people understood it in her novels. That being said, feminism is a historical, political and social movement of women who have defended the political, economic, social and personal equality between the sexes. It is only because of feminism that women can now vote, go out unaccompanied by men, study in schools and universities, wear what they want and work where they want. Thus, one can ask the following question, what are the impacts of feminism on modern education? 

16 August 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now