Chapter 7: 1937 Summary

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Ten years later, Sula—who had left the Bottom for college—returns home. Accompanying her is a horde of robins; despite the robins being a nuisance, the people of the Bottom refuse to remove them, believing that one must learn to endure frustration and evil.

Eva scolded Sula for her absence, accusing her of only reaching out when she needed something. As the argument escalated, Sula alleged that Eva had deliberately put her leg under a train to collect insurance money. Eva vehemently denied this and reminded Sula to respect her parents, but Sula retorted by saying her mother must not have honored her own parents because her life was short. 

The argument escalated further, and Eva screamed "You filthy-mouthed person! God is going to punish you!" As the discussion spiraled further, Sula demanded to know if Eva referred to the same god who watched her burn her own son. Enraged by Sula’s demeaning tone, Eva screamed that she saw Sula watch Hannah die, and Sula retorted that she would do the same to Eva if it came down to it. 

Eventually, the argument became physical; Eva barricaded herself in her room but could not prevent Sula from hurting her. After some time, men arrived with a stretcher, secured Eva to it, and then transported her to a long-term care facility.

Despite the violence and chaos of Sula’s return to the Bottom, Nel is overjoyed to have her friend back. As she and Sula reminisce about their past, she recalls the magic and excitement Sula adds to her life. They speak of their younger selves with humor, recalling their attempts to do "it" and their fear and lack of understanding about “it.” They also giggled about John L. and Shirley and their attempts at doing "it.”

Sula told Nel about the ten years she spent away from the Bottom, explaining that she went to Nashville for college. She also explains that she put Eva in a care facility because she was scared the old woman might attempt to set her on fire, as she did with Plum, which Sula reveals she witnessed. Lastly, Sula asked Nel for help in cashing Eva's checks.

When Jude came back from work, Sula was still at Nel's house. Jude shared some hurtful things that had been said to him at work, but before Nel could offer comfort, Sula started talking about how white people respected black men in various ways. Jude said that he did not want the respect that came with the cost of losing his manhood. He believed that Sula might not be able to excite a man's body, but she could stimulate his mind.

In the bedroom, Nel stumbled upon Sula and Jude kissing naked and in a kneeling position. Afterward, Jude left with Sula. Nel was devastated but found herself unable to cry. Sula had once said that Hell was eternal, but Nel realizes that her Hell is constantly changing and entirely inescapable.

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Chapter 6: 1927 Summary


Chapter 8: 1939 Summary