Sula Questions and Answers
by Toni Morrison

Start Your Free Trial

Why does Eva set Plum on fire?

Expert Answers info

Mary Sutton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write715 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Plum returns from the First World War a broken man. Toni Morrison uses the character to explore how the United States abandoned black veterans of that war, not only offering them nothing in return for their service but subjecting them to a second-class status as well as the threat of lynching. To cope with returning to a country that treats him like an enemy after fighting the country's enemies, if Americans bother...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 228 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

podunc eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write284 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


nathanielshanks | Student

Eva struggled to survive and raise her children after being left by their father, BoyBoy, with no way to feed or support them. She intimately cared for Plum as a baby by removing obstructed bowels with her own hands and sacrificing her leg for some mysterious compensation to support her children. Yet “Eva's last child, Plum, to whom she hoped to bequeath everything floated in a constant swaddle of love and affection, until 1917 when he went to war” (page 47).

Plum returns devastated from war to a racist American society and becomes depressed. He lives with Eva but unhappily, dysfunctional, and addicted to heroin. Eva sees her child dying in her own home and fears Plum will only get worse and that there is nothing more she can offer him. Eva dreams Plum is trying to get back inside of her womb as a grown man. “After all that carryin' on just gettin’ him out and keepin’ him alive he wanted to crawl back in my womb... I done everything I could to make him leave me and go on and live and be a man but he wouldn't and I had to keep him out, so I just thought of a way he could die like a man not all scrunched up inside my womb, but like a man” (page 72). Eva killed Plum because she feared that after sacrificing her life and limb for her child he had lost the will to live and she wanted to stop his pain.

abenaki1 | Student

Eva chooses to kill her son Plum by setting him on fire. I think the reason she chooses this method is related to the universal symbolism of fire as cleansing. One of my students connected the burning of Plum to the mythology of the Phoenix rising from ashes.

shanyia09 | Student

I think that Eva sets plum on fire because she knows that he is not living his life right that all he is doing is waisting away so eventually he will end up killing him self if not by sucide or just life in general would have killed him because although he was a grown man he was childlike, not wanting to esacpe the comfort of his mother and his family to really wallow in his own pity of the man he had grown to become.