Sula Questions and Answers
by Toni Morrison

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How are Sula and Eva similar and different in Sula?

Sula and Eva are family, as Eva is Sula's grandmother. Both women are strong and assertive, and have to overcome many obstacles. But where Sula throws caution to the wind and defies social norms at every turn, Eva understands the importance of taking responsibility for oneself.

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Toni Morrison portrays Sula as a strong person, who understands her feminine energy as a positive element in helping her navigate life’s challenges and in realizing her ambitions. Sula disregards many social conventions, engaging in sexual relationships with a number of men. She also embodies the paradoxes of upward mobility for African-American women, as her opportunity to attend college opened some doors for her, but she ended up returning home. In her own community, as she finds herself resented more than welcomed, she continues to seek ways to fill the emotional void created by the loss of her friend Nel. Failing to admit her own responsibility for this loss, through her affair with Nel’s husband, widens the chasm between the women.

Eva, Sula’s grandmother, is both older and more capable of understanding the necessity of taking responsibility for oneself. Sula is rather like her in terms of exerting power, but the obstacles that Eva had to overcome are both physical as well as emotional and social. A point of contrast is that in her case, it was her husband who cheated on her, whereas Sula was the one who slept with someone else’s husband. After she loses one leg, she refuses to think of herself as “handicapped,” and provides a fierce role model; while Sula strives to match her strength, Eva’s son Plum makes such a mess or his life that his own mother tries to destroy him.

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