While it is in chapter three that Nel Wright and her mother Helene move to Medallion, the greatest change in this chapter is the internal change in Nel. After Nel sees her mother turn to "custard" after the white train conductor insults her, she "resolve[s] to be on guard" against men. After the trip Nel realizes she is different and observes: "I'm me. I'm not their daughter. I'm not Nel. I'm me. Me." It is the beginning of Nel's building of a separate identity apart from her mother.
Nel at the very beginning reasons that she is her own human being, she is herself and she does not have to conform to anything. That she herself will be who she wants to be. However, the irony is that as Sula and Nel grow older, Sula herself tries to create her own identity and Nel conforms to the life of a married woman.