Sula Chapter 5: 1923 Summary and Analysis
by Toni Morrison

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Chapter 5: 1923 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Iceman: delivers ice to the homes

Willy Fields: orderly who saved Eva from bleeding to death and received her curse for doing so the rest of her life

In this chapter, the second strange thing happens; Hannah brought a peck of Kentucky Wonders into Eva’s room and asked if Eva ever loved her children.

Eva reprimanded her daughter for wondering and reminded Hannah that there was no playing in 1895. Eva began to reflect on an earlier time. She remembered her husband leaving her, Plum’s constipation, and the three beets which were all she had when her husband left. Eva remarked that Hannah would have been dead if Eva had not loved her.

Hannah asked a second question: why had Eva burned Plum? Eva explained to Hannah that she burned Plum because he tried to return to her womb through his drugs and because she wanted him to die like a man.

The wind was the first strange thing that happened that day. The people welcomed the wind, however, because they thought that it meant rain.

Hannah lay down for a while after washing the beans and dreamed of a wedding in a red dress. She mentioned this dream to her mother at breakfast; she had brought her mother scrambled eggs without the whites to bring them good luck on their number choice. Neither she nor her mother bothered to look the dream number up because they both knew the dream number was 522. Eva said she would place bets on that number when Mr. Buckland Reed came. This was the third strange thing.

Hannah went into the yard and kneeled to light the yard fire for canning. Eva watched her from her window. When Eva returned to the window after searching for her lost comb, she saw that Hannah was on fire; this strange thing was the fourth strange
happening—or fifth, depending on whether the reader counts Sula’s craziness in watching Hannah burn.

Eva threw herself through the window and tried to place her own body over the flaming body of Hannah. Hannah moved about in the flame, and Eva could not reach her in time. Mr. and Mrs. Suggs poured the tub of hot water, with the tomatoes still in it, on Hannah. It was too late. Hannah died—probably on the way to the hospital with her bleeding mother beside her in the ambulance.

Eva would have bled to death at the hospital had it not been for the orderly Willy Fields. Everyone seemed to have forgotten Eva, and Willy reminded them that there was another patient there. Eva, however, was not grateful for the rescue and cursed Willy every day for 37 years until she was 90; Eva would have cursed him longer, but she became forgetful.

Eva decided the red in the dream Hannah had before her death symbolized fire and that the wedding meant death. She also recalled and told others that she had seen Sula looking as Hannah burned.

Morrison entices the reader to continue reading from the first sentence of the chapter. Morrison mentions “the second strange thing that happened.” The sentence makes the reader want to read on and to find out about the first strange thing which happened. This sequence keeps one turning the pages. To cause even further curiosity in the reader, in the same sentence is a reference to Kentucky Wonders; most readers will not know what these are. There is, therefore, at least one problem with no immediate solution to keep the reader engaged in reading Sula for a while longer.

The chapter is not in chronological order. There are flashbacks, a stylistic device that Morrison employs frequently. For instance, Eva reflects on an earlier time when she sat in the cold outhouse with the baby, Plum. Morrison also uses foreshadowing—a glimpse into or a hint about the future. She tells the reader that Eva lives a long time. The chapter title “1923,” then, is not a chronological chapter as its title might lead one to suspect.

Morrison makes use of imagery to give the reader a clear picture of the action of finding Eva after Hannah’s burning. For instance, she writes:

“…They found her on her stomach by the forsythia...

(The entire section is 1,386 words.)