In Sula, the concept of class and its relation to sex and race occupies much of Morrison’s attention as she chronicles the development of Sula and Nel. A few fundamental concepts shape Morrison’s vision of the human condition—particularly, as critic Dorothy Lee points out, her preoccupation with how a community affects the individual’s achievement and retention of an acceptable self.
The African American citizens of “the Bottom” were victims of a cruel joke begun by the white farmer who gave the hilly land its ironic name by refusing to surrender to the slave the land that he deserved. Although African Americans work hard and serve their country in war, their rewards are few. Morrison’s presentation provides a bleak look at a community suffering from oppression and the denial of rewards or even acknowledgment. The men are limited to menial jobs that do not even give them the pleasure of muscle-fatiguing labor; they cannot work on the tunnel. The women are placed in the positions of mothers, wives, or whores; there is no in-between. Though victims, they all victimize one another, maintaining a status quo that they themselves did not set.
Sula Peace is a significant part of this community’s history. As her name suggests, she seeks inner peace, a personal wholeness that the restrictions of life deny her. These restrictions are largely a result of limited traditional roles designated for women and racial prejudice aimed at...
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