Sula Societal Identity

Decent Essays
Individual identity: societal identity; the struggle between the two define a person, but what happens when societal sways overcome individual desires? What happens when a person turns away from societal ideals in order to pursue their own? This is a key idea explored in Toni Morrison’s novel, Sula, as characters like Sula and Nel appear to be searching for that very individuality, despite the nagging glares of their communal society. The overarching message of Morrison is clear, despite the security of adhering to traditional societal views, the benefits of individuality far out shadow the backlash of society. To begin, simply look at Nel at the beginning of Morrison’s novel; she’s controlled by her mother’s whims. Under this control by…show more content…
Despite having already known about Sula for about five years at school, Nel had avoided becoming friends with Sula, as her mother had disapproved of Sula’s mother. However, Nel’s “new found me-ness, gave her the strength to cultivate a friend in spite of her mother” (Sula 29). Thus, Nel and Sula’s friendship began to blossom, as did their sense of individuality. The key to the growth of their individuality is the acknowledgment of the societal expectations around them as both Sula and Nel “had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be” (Sula 52). Thus both Sula and Nel are aware of the societal expectations and limits that are imposed upon them due to their race and gender, choosing instead to pursue their own path and create their own…show more content…
Upon her return, Sula notices the affect societal ideals has had upon Nel, who is now a mother and homemaker, fitting the perfect description of a wife for her husband. Sula tells Nel, “You’ve changed too. I didn’t used to have to explain everything to you” (Sula 100). In this statement Sula points out how Nel’s new domestic lifestyle has altered her, removing her individuality and diminishing the unspoken understanding they used to have between each other when they were children. What ultimately solidifies Nel’s loss of individuality for about 25 years is the end of her friendship with Sula. When Nel walks into her bedroom to see that “they had been down on all fours naked, not touching except their lips right down there on the floor” (Sula 105), she feels betrayed by both Jude and Sula. She had trusted both and yet they had betrayed her. And so, both left, leaving Nel dependent to society’s grasp as a single mother. Thus, due to the untimely end of both her marriage and friendship, Nel lost the remnants of her individuality, trading it in for the security society could offer her and her
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