Ch. 1940 1. Nel talks to Sula about many different topics, and their dialogue reveals their different views on these points. Explain how each of them feels, their point of view on the following...

Ch. 1940

1. Nel talks to Sula about many different topics, and their dialogue reveals their different views on these points. Explain how each of them feels, their point of view on the following topics.

a) Jude, and what happened, their view on marriage

b) about the role of a “colored woman”

c) about friendship and love,

d) about who was good

Ch. 1941

2. Just after Sula dies it felt like there was a brighter day dawning. But as November came around “a falling away, a dislocation was taking place” (153). What are three signs of this dislocation? How did things change up in the Bottom after Sula’s passing?

3. Why did things change up in the Bottom after Sula’s passing?

4. How did Shadrack change after the death of Sula?

5. What happened during this particular Suicide Day and why?

Expert Answers
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Chapter: 1940

From their conversation, it is evident that Nel and Sula harbor different perspectives about marriage, life, and love. While Nel blames Sula for having an affair with her husband, Jude, Sula merely sees the affair as an entertaining diversion.

For her part, Nel believes in absolute principles. She maintains that a "colored" woman must know her place in order to survive in a cruel world. In contrast, Sula believes in living life to the fullest, even if it means repudiating social traditions and conventions in the process. To Sula, a woman must be willing to indulge her senses, without fear of the consequences.

While Nel believes that "colored" women must live inconspicuously, Sula believes otherwise. The latter insists that other "colored women are like "stumps," while she is a "redwood," flamboyant, exciting, and majestic. Sula finds the conventional life boring and meaningless. She has an extremely cynical view about love and completely rejects the traditional definitions of feminine "goodness."

During their conversation, Nel becomes upset when she discovers that Sula never loved Jude. To Nel, it is inconceivable for a woman to carry on an affair without any consideration for the parties involved. For her part, Sula confesses that her affair with Jude was exciting and nothing more. Additionally, she is not particularly disturbed by the fact that she repaid Nel's past kindnesses with a devastating betrayal. Essentially, Sula does not believe in the conventional definition of friendship. When Nel protests, Sula cruelly retorts:

What you mean take him away? I didn't kill him, I just fucked him. If we were such good friends, how come you couldn't get over it?

Before Nel leaves, Sula challenges her friend's definition of "goodness." She demands to know why Nel's definition is the right one and why it should take precedence over her own. Essentially, Sula is the quintessential "bad" girl; she refuses to conform to society's expectations for women.

Chapter: 1941

To many residents of the Bottom, life seems to improve after Sula's death. However, everyone's happiness is short-lived. The text discloses that a "dislocation"—a correction—soon occurs. People become short-tempered, cruel, and malicious. Now that Sula is deceased, there is no further need to keep up appearances. When Sula was alive, her apathy and callousness lent her an air of malevolence. Then, each of the Bottom's residents could indulge sanctimonious attitudes and pride themselves on their moral superiority.

After Sula's death, however, a sort of "dislocation" occurs. Mothers begin displaying harshness towards their children, both physically and emotionally. Wives stop coddling their husbands, and daughters begin complaining about the burdens of caring for the aged. Even Northern Blacks turn against their Southern peers. Meanwhile, a harsh winter, hunger, and sickness add to the misery of the Bottom's residents.

Shadrack also changes. The voices in his head begin to recede. He does odd jobs to earn enough money for buying liquor. However, his drunken bouts decrease in number. With his recovery from a perpetual drunken stupor, Shadrack begins to experience the feeling of loneliness. He becomes less fastidious and begins to mournfully prepare for National Suicide Day.

Many of the residents die on this day. They march on Main Street and then turn down onto the New River Road, where the unfinished tunnel still sat. Since no African Americans were hired to rebuild the tunnel, the residents express their anger by destroying steel implements, bricks, and equipment at the job site. Their destructive work leads to the shifting of the tunnel's foundations, and the tunnel eventually caves in. This leads to many of the residents drowning. On this particular National Suicide Day, many of the Bottom's residents die, echoing the strange promise of the hymn they sang at Sula's death, namely, "Shall We Gather At The River."