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The friendship between Ajax and Sula leads us to talk about the relationship between freedom and responsibility. It's a classic set of oppositions. One way to read the book is that Sula equals freedom; Nel equals responsibility. Nel had grown up with a clothespin on her nose so that it would get narrow—I've talked to people from New Orleans who'd actually had that experience themselves.

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eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of Sula

One of the things that freedom can cost you is community. If you're going to insist on your independence, you lose your place in the community quite often. Sula in some ways is typical of all those students who go off to college and then come home and nobody quite knows what to do with them. They don't quite fit anymore. They don't fit with their families. They don't fit with their friends. They just don't quite fit. Multiply that to the nth degree and you've got Sula. When she gets sick, who's going to take care of her? This woman puts her own grandmother in a nursing home, not because Eva needed to be in a nursing home because she was ill or because she was incapacitated, but because Sula was afraid of her. Freedom is costly, as is responsibility.

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If you associate personal identity with freedom, with individual choices, then the question becomes by what do you measure your success or failure at achieving identity? Morrison has said that Sula was an artist without a form. What she wanted to make was herself. How do you go about doing that, independent of context, independent of community, especially when you have a grandmother like Eva and a mother like Hannah? It complicates the notions of womanhood for you. If your mother is Helene, you know how to establish your identity. You take off the clothespin. In some ways, that's simple. It's something Nel never actually does, but it's relatively simple. If you live in Eva's house, what do you measure yourself against? What do you use as the friction by which you shape yourself and the things that carve out your face? Personal identity is crucial in this book.

Is all the terrible stuff that Sula has done in her life symbolized by the disease that kills her?

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On the other hand, what about freedom? Choosing to cut off the tip of your finger. Choosing to walk away when Nel gets married and be gone for years. Choosing to come back and sleep with all of the men, some of whom probably slept with your mother—didn't sleep with, had sex with. Your relationship with them is considered an insult, but you don't care. Sula is the one with the more interesting life. Sula is the one who has experienced the larger world. Sula knows things that Nel can never know. But Sula is alone.


Dr. Keith Byerman: This is not made up. It's another aspect of colorism [the belief that the lighter one's complexion, the more beautiful, and/or intelligent, and/or sophisticated one is; a form of internalized racism in African diasporic communities]. Nel is the one who gets married. Nel is the one who rejects Sula, because Sula has an affair with her husband. We need to clarify some things about that relationship too.

After Sula got us started taking a big boat to a dive site, it became tradition to pile everyone and all their gear onto Livin’ Life

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One of the things that Morrison did, especially in the early novels, was that she had certain female characters' names end in "a." She's very consistent about this. We have Claudia and Pecola in The Bluest Eye and Sula, Hanna, and Eva in Sula. Then she has another set of female characters whose names end in consonants, usually "n" or "l." They seem very different. The “a” characters are always key sympathetic kinds of characters.

Inside the most violent city in the world: Horrific collection of photos show grim reality of life in San Pedro Sula, Honduras

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For Nel to marry Jude in order to make one Jude, that makes Nel an object or maybe a parasite. Or maybe Jude is the parasite. Women traditionally took the last names of their husbands because implicitly they were the property of their husbands. Women were literally the property of their husbands throughout much of human history. Children were the property of their fathers. What if people aren't property but are truly free agents and can make their own choices not once in a while but daily, from hour to hour, minute to minute? Why shouldn't Sula engage in sexual play with Jude?

29/04/2013 · Inside the most violent city in the world: Horrific collection of photos show grim reality of life in San Pedro Sula, Honduras

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The islands lie in the path of the Gulf Stream and so enjoy a climate milder than would be expected so far north. Being a very flat series of islands they are a tad windy, to say the least, and for this reason the islands are almost totally treeless. Life in the Orkney Islands has always been mainly based around traditional system of farming, which is a system of subsistence farming common in Scotland.