The Element of Death The novel Sula by Toni Morrison is one of great depth and thematic intricacies. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, it deals with some of the great issues of the time, including race, war, and independent African American society. The main characters in Sula are all African American, and mostly woman, and as such they are all profoundly affected by societies expectations of them.
Nel and Sula are the two key characters in the novel, and how they evolve and live out their lives is of critical importance to the story. As they grow up and form into members of society they have to deal time and time again with the shadow of death that follows them throughout the novel. As such, the element of complicated and symbolic death is an important issue throughout Sula, and its mysterious force engulfs all of the characters by the end of the book. Near the beginning of the Novel Nel and Sula are playing with Chicken Little, taking care of him and keeping him safe. Sula grabs Chicken Little by the hands and spins him, and as if by some terrible force she loses grip of him and he soars into the sky, landing in the nearby body of water. “The water darkened and closed quickly over the place where Chicken Little sank. The pressure of his hand and tight little fingers was still in Sula’s palms as she stood looking at the closed place in the water.
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”Watching Chicken Little as the water engulfs him profoundly effects Sula, and the quick and unexpected death overwhelms her. She is forced to take action in the face of adversity, and as Nel stands quietly aside, she goes to face the onlooker herself. “At the edge of the porch, gathering the wisps of courage that were fast leaving her, she turned once more to look at him, to ask him…had he.
..?”He was smiling a great smile, heavy with lust and time to come. He nodded his head as though asking a question, and said, in a pleasant conversational tone, a tone of cooled butter, ‘Always.’ ”Speaking with Shadrack had a profound impact on Sula. Not only did it tie him to her, it also instilled Sula with the complete inability to stay in a stasis. Until her death later on in the novel, Sula seemingly demanded constant change for herself.
Permanency was what rung through with Shadrack’s ‘Always’, and the only way Sula could escape the memory of Chicken Little was to become a shapeless form of a woman, shaping to the whims of her onlookers. When she was thought to be evil, she became evil, and thus she became analogous to the water that had engulfed Chicken Little, formless and centerless, absorbing those who fell under her spell. Although.