A Theme Of Female Friendship In Sula By Toni Morrison

Sula, Toni Morrison's second novel published in 1973 is a story that speaks about African Americans, civil rights, motherhood, and above all friendship. This last one is represented by two important characters Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who along the novel will share a unique bond from their childhood to adulthood. In Sula, Morrison uses the characters of Nel and Sula to prove the role of lifelong relationships in the formation of identity, despite family backgrounds, betrayal or social prejudices.

In the novel, the families and most important, Nel and Sula’s mothers play an important role in the personality of these characters. Hannah, Sula’s mother taught her daughter an unconventional way on how to be a woman in the historical moment that the novel was placed, because of Hannah’s free spirit with men, Sula learns that she does not need to be sentimentally attached or married to men to have pleasant moments with them, or as Rita A. Bergenholtz said “Sula doesn't care that the men she sleeps with are married”. On the contrary Helene, Nel’s mother raised her to be afraid, “Under Helene’s hand the girl became obedient and polite. Any enthusiasms that little Nel showed were calmed by the mother until she drove her daughter’s imagination underground”. This latter on will make these two girls different, but because of these differences they would complement each other.

In the same way Morrison used the character Nel as an example on how the formation of the identity in a person could be affected by the influence of a friendship. A great example of this statement is reflected in one of the passages of the novel where Nel traveled with her mother down South, and on her return she decided to be herself aside from her family influence and formation, been her own persona, making in this way the decision to be friends with however she decided to . And according to how Barbara Christian writes, 'It was her new sense of me-ness that allowed her to cultivate a friend, Sula Peace, of whom her mother initially disapprove'(Bloom, Sula 30) constituting this moment the one that introduce this friendship between Nel and Sula and wish will be important in Nel's performance in the novel. This bond that Toni Morrisons describes as, “They found relief in each other’s personality. Although both were unshaped, formless things, Nel seemed stronger and more consistent than Sula, who would hardly be counted on to sustain any emotion for more than three minutes”.

On the other hand, this friendship also had its up and downs, moments that make them accomplices, and others that make them enemies. The first is represented in one of the chapters of the book with the death of Chicken Little in which both girls where playing and by accident, the boy died, this experience was never shared with anyone by either Sula or Nel, it was their secret, “They held hands and knew that only the coffin would lie in the earth; the bubbly laughter and the press of fingers in the palm would stay aboveground forever”.

On second place latter on Sula and Nel will became enemies, this staged as consequence of the betrayal of Sula to her friend Nel. After been away from each other for ten years Sula returns to Medallion and visited her old friend Nel wish was married to Jude, with who Sula would had an adventure latter that is going to make their friendship go away her betrayal had make Nel to hate her. However latter on Sula would turn sick and that would make Nel to go back and check up on her and in some way forgive her.

All things considered as Tony Morrison expressed, “In Sula I wanted to explore the consequences of what that escape might be, on not only a conventional black society, but on female friendship”, the novel brings the reader in the unwritten book of what a friendship must be based on, considered all said this characters shared a friendship without borders or prejudices. 

16 August 2021
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