Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses Essay

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Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula

Tradition loses its value in Toni Morrison's novel, Sula with the exploration of inversion with three generations of women. While women are generally seen as maternal caregivers for the family and men are seen as loving protectors, the opposite is portrayed in the novel. The roles of women are reversed in Sula, exposing the trap that typical social constraints can cause for individuals that are simply not meant to live the typical life. Sula learns from her mother that she does not have to bend to the will of others and she learns on her own that she might just be better off when she lives to please herself. Hannah is partially responsible for Sula's development because she is not the typical mother. In addition, Eva is not typical in that while she does what she must for her family, she is not the caring, maternal figure that many might think she should be. Inversion is significant in Sula because Morrison reveals how the typical family structure is not so typical anymore and this type of behavior has been going on for some time. Paula Eckard observes that in the novel, Morrison "subjects maternal experience and the body of the mother to further inversions. Depicted as a negative, destructive force, the maternal functions more as the anitmaternal" (Eckard 51). She goes on to say, "maternal experience is associated with silence and psychological disconnection that affects not only individuals but family and community as well" (Eckard 51). Through role reversal and inversion, Morrison demonstrates that Hannah, Sula, and Eva represent how parenthood is not for everyone.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses Assignment

We must begin with Sula, as she is the result of two generations of the type of role inversion worth exploring in the novel. Sula is much like her mother in that she is not afraid to explore her sexuality regardless of what others might be saying about her. She is not living by the accepted roles for women because she teaches Sula that "sex was pleasant and frequent, but otherwise unremarkable" (Morrison 44). Brown-Guillory maintains that Sula "registers a radically different desire" (Brown-Guillory 233) when developing a role for herself. Sula "emerges as an imaginative, independent, self-assured creature who does not feel compelled to please anybody else" (233). It is interesting that Brown-Guillory should use the word "creature' to describe Sula's character. We find that this term is in accordance with what most of the town thinks of her. There can be no doubt, however, of Sula's self-reliance. In terms of others, she can take them or leave them. The same can be said for the traditional values to which Sula is expected to adhere. Mohit Ray believes that Sula is unique in that she has a "textured experience" (Ray 51). John Reed maintains that that Sula is "quintessentially black, metaphysically black, if you will, which is not melanin and certainly not unquestioning fidelity to the tribe" (Ray 261). In short, we can say that she has no desire to fit into any particular group. All she knows is that she wants to be happy, if possible. Ray continues, "She is new world black and new world woman extracting choice from choicelessness, responding inventively to found things. Improvisational. Daring, disruptive, imaginative, modern, out-of-the-house, outlawed, unpolicing, uncontained, and uncontainable. And dangerously female" (Ray 261). These words describe Sula perfectly and she is the epitome of role reversal for a black woman in the early twentieth century.

Hannah is sandwiched between the generations that look into the inversion of roles in the novel. Hannah is the most important figure in Sula's life and she demonstrates the power of parental influence. We also know that Hannah "exasperated the women in the town -- the 'good' women, who said, 'One thing I can't stand is a nasty woman'" (Morrison 44). Hannah is even resented by the whores in the town because she "seemed too unlike them, having no passion attached to her relationships and being wholly incapable of jealousy" (44). Because of her reputation, she has very few relationships with women and even newcomers to the town who might have been friendly with her "soon learned what a hazard she was" (44). It is interesting to note that Hannah does not particularly like her daughter. Brown-Guillory notes that Hannah's "inability to like her daughter may be linked with her own mother's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses.  (2009, April 16).  Retrieved May 26, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses."  16 April 2009.  Web.  26 May 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Inversion Explored in Morrison's Sula Tradition Loses."  April 16, 2009.  Accessed May 26, 2020.