Chapter 3: 1921 Summary

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Sula’s home was designed according to her grandmother’s strict suggestions. Over the course of five long years, Eva built new additions to the house and regularly changed the décor; however, as the project went on, her preferences and requirements changed too. As a result, some rooms had three doors; others had only one. Some rooms had doors that allowed access to the porch; others lacked interior entrances entirely. The Peace household was a chaotic place of absurd architecture and strange structures, but it felt comfortable and more like home to Nel than her own home, with her strict mother and often-absent father. 

The house’s architecture conjures memories of its owner’s past. Eva was once married to BoyBoy, with whom she had three children: Hannah, Sula’s mother; Eva, also known as Pearl; and Ralph, often referred to as Plum. BoyBoy soon proved to be an awful man and a worse husband, engaging in immoral behaviors, such as womanizing and mistreating his wife. He slowly spiraled into alcoholism. After five years of an unhappy marriage, he left Eva, abandoning her and their three children with five eggs, three beets, and $1.65.

To survive, Eva relied on neighbors such as the Suggs and Jacksons for food and other necessities. Once, Eva left the children with the Suggs family "for a day." Eighteen months later, she returned with one leg, two crutches, a new, full purse, and incredible stories detailing the loss of her leg. In exchange for the months of childcare, Eva gave Mrs. Suggs ten dollars. 

Afterward, Eva began to build a house near the cabin where she and BoyBoy used to live. She rented out the cabin, which now had an outhouse, though it lacked one during their first year of residency.

When Plum was three, BoyBoy returned for a visit. Eva served him lemonade but felt only hatred towards him. They talked briefly, but BoyBoy soon left to return to his life in the city. Stunned by the visit, Eva retreated to her room; in the entirety of 1910, she left only once, starting a fire that left the smell of smoke and anger in her hair for months.

In 1921, Eva saw three children lingering below her balcony; she welcomed them into her home and gave them all the same name: Dewey. The trio soon became inseparable. Later, she met a man named Tar Baby, who, like her ex-husband, struggled with alcoholism. Tar Baby and the three Deweys were the first to participate in Shadrack's celebration of National Suicide Day.

As time went on, the family went their separate ways. At fourteen years old, Pearl married and moved to Flint, Michigan. Hannah married Rekus, Sula’s father, who died when his daughter was three. After her husband’s death, Hannah begins to entertain men. Sula often sees her mother enter the pantry with these men, learning that sex is a pleasant, frequent, and unremarkable part of life. 

The youngest child, Plum, went to war in 1917. When he returned in 1919, he was a changed man, exhibiting peculiar behavior such as speaking little, sleeping excessively, stealing from his family, and losing weight. Eventually, Hannah discovered a bent, blackened spoon, which she recognizes as a symbol of her brother’s drug use. 

One night, Eva visited her son in his room In the darkness, she embraced him and rocked him to sleep. She left, collected some items from the kitchen, then returned to Plum’s bedroom, where she covered him with kerosene and set him ablaze.

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Chapter 2: 1920 Summary

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Chapter 4: 1922 Summary