Research Paper Sample on Love and Duty in Sula

Love and Duty in Sula

Sula is a novel published in 1973 by Toni Morrison who is an American novelist, author, and an editor. It depicts the lives of two African-American childhood friends, Sula Peace and Nel Wrightv (Spillers 113). The setting of the story is in Medallion near Ohio in a place called Bottom where the African American community lived. The story development relies on the characterization whose narration is told in the third person manner. The book revolves around an African American setting during the slavery era and it elicits the kind of social ills and issues that revolved in that period. Additionally, the novel highlights various themes, concepts and unifying ideas based on the chronology of the story. Therefore, this paper delineates the relationship between love and duty in Sula and it depicts which theme between love and duty is ultimately privileged.

The main characters in this novel are two girls named Sula Peace and Nel Wright. Sula, comes from a poor background with a grandmother, Eva Peace, who has no one leg and a promiscuous mother, Hannah Peace. Nel Wright is a daughter of Helene Wright who has a better living standard as compared to Sula based on how she organized herself. As depicted in the novel, “her daughter was more comfort and purpose as she had ever hoped to find in this life. She rose grandly to the occasion of motherhood…” The plot of the story develops from a white farmer who promises freedom and land to his slave if he managed to accomplish a very difficult task. Upon completion, the farmer was willing to free the slave but not to part with his land. As a result, he convinces the slave that he will give him the land on the hills called “bottom.” The word bottom is satirical because the land is on the hills, but the farmer says it is bottom of the heaven where God sees first when he looks down (Spillers 116). The slave was convinced, and took the land where the story of Sula and Nel develops. 

Love is an intrinsic feeling that brings together a strong bond between human beings. It aids in bringing cohesion between people of different class and create harmonistic in their activities and perceptions. On the other hand, duty refers to the expectation or an obligation that an individual has to perform; it is morally or legally right responsibility. In most cases, duty and love display a relationship like in the story of Sula. For example, Sula and Nel are depicted to be friends since in their childhood times until they come of age. Their love for each other is inseparable that they share the deepest secrets in life. ―their friendship was so close, they themselves had difficulty distinguishing one‘s thoughts from the other‘s (Sula 83) However, their love does not tear between their lines of duty in any instance. Nel is a student who concentrates on studying to improve her life. She even decides to leave Sula to go and attend school and this does not affect their relationship. Sula on the other hand becomes promiscuous just like her mother. She goes on to sleeping with men and engaging in the condemned deeds in the community, but their relationship with Nel still prevails. In spite of these unfortunate behaviors, the relationship between Nel and Sula still manifests. This shows that their social duties do not compromise their friendship and love for each other. Friends are characterized by supporting each other’s responsibilities and their obligations.

Sula has an issue with family love, as Hanna and Eva have been Sula’s principal models. Hannah at one point questions whether her mother loved her and whether she is demonstrating enough love to her daughter. Eva and Hannah engage in a conversation that shows that even adult female intricacies require guidance from the mothers love (Bloom 71). Sula takes the promiscuity behavior from her mother who believes in sleeping with as many men as she can. This tarnishes her mother’s name in the society to an extent of lacking friends and confidants. The objects-relation psychology suggests that life entails the cohesion created between personal relationships with others. Chodorow asserts that female identity lies behind their connection and closeness to the mother and the placement of women in the society (100). The love from the mother to the daughter defines her career and the duties she undertakes. For Sula’s case, she inherits her behavior from the mother based on the love she receives from her. This makes Sula feel obliged with her mother’s actions; hence, she has no objection to her behavior.

Similarly, Nel’s mother portrays mother-to-daughter relationship by trying to bring her up as a respectable person in the society. This love defines her ambitions and her passion in life since she is much intrigued in studies (Chodorw 123). Significantly, the novel does not include a lot of male characterization into the limelight. This is due to the duty of the masculine beings of providing for their families; hence, in most of the occurrences men are out engaging in economic activities. Actually, one of the characters Shadrack, is a World War 1 veteran; this show men duties in that society.

However, the childhood love between Sula and Nel takes a turn when they grow up and have different aspirations in life. After completing high school, Nel decides to settle down with his boyfriend Jude while Sula decides to leave the village of Bottom. Their bond does not prevent them from taking divergent paths in choosing their long-time objectives and decisions. Nel’s love for Jude leads her to absorbing the duties of being a wife and up taking household chores. Sula on the other hand has negative attitude to men all together, although she becomes very much promiscuous. Things falls out of place when Sula sleeps with Nel’s husband Jude. Their friendship collapses and their love comes to an untimely demise in their relationship (Sweeney 445). Nel feel bitter for her friend’s betrayal even after Sula’s return, Nel does not forgive her. She feels that it was Sula’s moral obligation to respect her family and create limitation in her promiscuous life. Nel maintains her bitterness even when Sula meets her sudden demise; she finds it hard to forgive her. The theme of love dominates the better part of Sula and Nel’s life; however, Nel’s failure to forgive her friend shows that the moral obligation triumphs at the end. Sula fails on maintain the duty of their friendship that destroys their long-term love and friendship. Therefore, Toni Morrison gives duty the ultimate privilege over love in the novel Sula

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Toni Morrison’s Sula. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publ, 1999. Print.

Chodorow, N. The Reproduction of Mothering – Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of

Gender. University of California Press, 1978.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Penguin Books. (1973).

Spillers, Hortense J. Black, White and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print

Sweeney, Megan. ―‗Something Rogue‘: Commensurability, Commodification, Crime, and

Justice in Toni Morrison‘s Later Fiction.‖ Modern Fiction Studies 52 (2006): 440-71.