What type of symbolism is in the book Sula?

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Fire is an important symbol in Sula . In arguably the two most important scenes in the story, Hannah Peace and Plum Peace are both killed in a fire. In the case of Plum's death, fire does not simply end life, it purifies the soul. Eva deliberately sets Plum on...

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Fire is an important symbol in Sula. In arguably the two most important scenes in the story, Hannah Peace and Plum Peace are both killed in a fire. In the case of Plum's death, fire does not simply end life, it purifies the soul. Eva deliberately sets Plum on fire to put an end to her son's torment over his chronic drug addiction. In doing so, she feels that she is somehow purifying a soul corrupted by sin.

Likewise, the death of Hannah can also be interpreted in much the same way. Like her brother Plum, Hannah has led a life marred by sin; in her case, it is sexual promiscuity rather than drugs that has tainted her soul. Although we never know for sure whether Eva is responsible for Hannah's death, she stands and watches her burn to death all the same. Once again, fire is used as a symbol of death and spiritual rebirth, a symbol that has enormous significance in the Christian tradition.

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A major symbol in Morrison's Sula is the birthmark that is over Sula's eye.  Shadrack says that the birthmark looks like a tadpole, and being an outcast himself in Medallion, it seems fitting that he defines Sula by different terms.  The townspeople, however, see Sula's birthmark as a sign of evil and justify their thought by citing examples of Sula's unconventional behavior.  It is possible that the novel's epigraph, an excerpt from Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo, is linked to Sula's birthmark.  In Williams's play, the protagonist Serafina has much pride and a strong character.  She says that the people do not want to see glory in anybody's heart.  The quotation suggests that people do not want to accept others who are different, preferring to shun them as outcasts rather than trying to accept them as people.  This also happens in Sula, so the birthmark symbolizes Sula's relationship with her community.

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