Sula Questions and Answers
by Toni Morrison

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What is the order and chaos in Sula?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In addition to Sagetrieb's excellent answer, I would like to point out an additional internal source of chaos for Sula.  One night, the young girl overhears her mother with friends.  Sula's mother admits that she loves her daughter, but does not "like" her.

This admission sends Sula into a tailspin of self-doubt.  She must learn to "order" her world in a way that does not include the friendship of her mother, something every daughter surely hopes for.  Love, as it turns out, (at least in the character's opinion, and perhaps Morrison's own) is not enough.  To be a person who at some level fits in with society is necessary.  If even your own mother cannot "like" you, what hope is there for a person in the wider world? 

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sagetrieb eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is a good deal of social chaos in Sula for there is a good deal of poverty, and the latter reeks havoc on those who must deal with the former.  One character cuts off her leg to raise money, rains destroy the crops, and the tunnel they had counted upon collapses.  Indeed, the fact that the community participates in –celebrates—National Suicide Day signifies the hopeless that results from the chaos of these live—a chaos born of racism and poverty. However, a passage in Henry 2 by Shakespeare says that “we are most in order when we are out of order” (IV. IV. 2 ).  Order derives from the community’s ability to understand and accept these individuals who would otherwise be “out of place,” lacking community. This ability to integrate this “chaos” is a measurement of humanity and civilization.  Integration, then, is a form of order and provides a place for chaos

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