The Male and Female Dynamics in Sula

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The male and female dynamics in the novel Sula, by Toni Morrison, form the basis for the plot and the maturation of the characters. The main characters are defined by their relationships or the lack thereof with members of the opposite sex. The stronger female protagonists, Eva, Hannah, and the title character Sula, all have undeveloped personal associations with men.


Helene Sabat, taken from her prostitute mother after she was born out-of-wedlock, is reared by an overtly religious grandmother, who "counseled her to be constantly on guard for any sign of her mother's wild blood" (Morrison, 17). When Helene is of age, she and her grandmother apply pressure to a smitten cousin that results in a marriage proposal. Helene then moves from being socially outcast to social acceptance. She moves into a quaint house with "real" lace curtains with her new husband. She joins a conservative church and produces a daughter after nine years of marriage. She is complete and happy with her life, "She loved her house and enjoyed manipulating her daughter and her husband. She would sigh just before falling asleep, thinking that she had indeed come far enough away from the Sundown House" (18). Helene and her husband Wiley are happy together in their domestic environment.
The second male and female confrontation is Helene's encounter with the white train conductor and the black soldiers and her shameful and obsequious reaction. When Helene is chastised and embarrassed for boarding in an all-white rail car, she smiles a beautiful smile (while inwardly seething) to the conductor. He slams the car door in her face, and the black soldiers in the railcar ignore her; they think her smile was foolish (22). ...
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